From Trend Prediction to Trend Setter : Secrets to Meitu’s Explosive Global Growth
In China, 800 million people access the internet on a regular basis, and 95% of them do so via a mobile device. With such wide smartphone adoption, the China market has become the launch pad for many of the most innovative and fast-growing mobile brands the world has ever seen. Meitu is one of them.
Founded in 2008, Meitu is a leading AI-driven photo/video editing and sharing company headquartered in China. With a slew of apps under its umbrella (with names like BeautyPlus, BeautyCam, and SelfieCity), the company boasts 450 million monthly active users worldwide, generating more than 6 billion photos and videos each month. According to an article on the New Yorker, it is estimated that more than 50% of all the selfies uploaded on Chinese social media have been edited using one or more of their products.
Publicly listed in Hong Kong starting in 2016, Meitu ended its first day of trading valued at US $4.6 billion — which was the city’s largest tech IPO since Alibaba, almost a decade prior. Now fast forward to the summer of 2018, Meitu’s founder and CEO Wu Xinhong was invited to give a talk at the RISE conference, the largest tech conference in Asia. On behalf of the Mobile Growth online community, I’ve had the great pleasure and opportunity to ask Mr. Wu about this thoughts and learnings on how emerging startups can learn from their growth trajectory. You can read about the interview below.
Mobile Growth Community: What is the secret to Meitu’s success?
Meitu: From a business perspective, Meitu has always stayed focused on its mission, which is to “inspire more people to express their beauty” and strive to create an ecosystem around it.
From a product perspective, Meitu always makes a point of keeping up with the latest trends and listening to users’ needs. This could take the form of a generic user need, or the anticipation of future needs and data analysis is needed to proving that these needs are extensive and widespread. Meitu’s products are fashion products and their users always favor trendy products. The team at Meitu always keeps one question in mind: “what young people are going to like tomorrow?” In this way they are constantly evolving and stay trendy.
The essence of evolution is all about predicting the future. Meitu stays away from fixed thinking patterns to maintain the sensitivity of future trends. The fact that the Meitu app started as a photo editing utility app and has evolved to become more of a social media platform is just one example of this.
From a technological standpoint, Meitu’s primary goal is to stay innovative. Meitu founded its core research & development team — MTlab in 2010. MTlab is devoted to research and development in areas that include Computer Vision, Deep Learning, and Computer Graphics: all of these combine to make Meitu one of the most advanced AI companies in today’s global market.
Mobile Growth Community: Any lessons learned when it comes to growth in the early days versus now？
Meitu: Predict the trends and plan early. Trends are quite easy to predict: you just need to observe your users. Many niche trends can become mainstream over time. Meitu also pays very close attention to timing: there are often gaps in time between where a trend starts and when it hits other markets.
In the past, Meitu has relied on the benefits of socio-economic changes like the mass adoption of smartphones and the spread of social networks. At this stage, mobile internet is no longer a blue sea and the team cannot simply rely on past experiences.
Meitu’s way is to fine tune strategies and products in order to expand into international markets, as well as China’s tier 3, 4, and 5 cities to expand their domestic user base.
Mobile Growth Community: What does Meitu think about global expansion?
Meitu: Meitu’s overseas user base and global influence have been growing steadily. Meitu has successfully expanded its presence abroad, with over 500 million overseas users as of February 2018. The company has accumulated over 10 million users in the Brazilian, Indian, Indonesian, Japanese, Malaysian, Filipino, South Korean, Thai, US, and Vietnamese markets. To be more specific, they have acquired 10 million users in each of those countries. Meitu’s anime-like ‘Hand Drawn’ filters have become an overnight sensation on social media and have been shared by celebrities like Jimmy Fallon, Brie Larson, Kate Beckinsale, James Corden and Cosplay star Jessica Nigri.
Meitu repeatedly ranked among the top in terms of downloads in overseas markets. The most recent example is South Korea: this month, the company’s photo enhancement app Meitu was ranked the most popular mobile app by number of downloads for both iOS and Android users.
The team at Meitu work very closely with local Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs), who contribute a lot to their growth internationally. For example, earlier this month, they started to work with some influential Korean bloggers: the growth in new users from market was almost immediate.
Geographically, Meitu focuses on countries and regions with a high rate of growth in mobile phones users. Emerging markets like India and Brazil are good examples of this.
Localization is an important part of the overall globalization strategy. Meitu has established local operations and launched localized apps in countries like India, Brazil, the US, Singapore, Japan, etc. The team stay in touch with what’s trending in different markets and will continue to execute their localization strategies in new countries, launch relevant features, and create interactive campaigns that have been historically well received by their overseas users. Another focus is ensuring that this localized content helps the community to connect with one another and bring their favorite virtual looks into the real world.
Culturally, Meitu has built its brand around the concept of beauty and the team understand that people from different countries have a different concept of what that is. They continue to learn and are committed to becoming more inclusive in our mission to inspire more people to express their beauty.
Mobile Growth Community: Any tips or advice you can share with emerging mobile startups?
Meitu: “Don’t limit yourself to past experiences. Everything changes so rapidly these days. Therefore the best advice I can give for new entrepreneurs is to constantly need to reset yourself,” said Mr. Xinhong Wu, CEO and Founder of Meitu.