Alternative Data in China: making ‘outside of the box’ data-driven decisions

Over the past ten years, data has been generated every minute on the Internet, opening up a new field of possibilities for brands and investors: alternative data in China. Thanks to its technical knowledge, technological tools, and creative problem solving, Daxue Consulting, market research and consulting firm in China, is able to collect and analyze all types of data to provide your business with an informational advantage.

Why work with alternative data in China?

Alternative data, the future of data starts today

Alternative data is unstructured, raw data from non-traditional sources. Alternative data depends on the industry in which you find it and its use. It means that alternative data in China does not come from official company reports or publications, archives, sales histories or press releases, but from other types of sources whose primary purpose is not to provide marketing data.

The use of alternative data and their analysis will allow your business in China to obtain unique insights that can be important competitive differentiators.

Alternative data are usually classified into three types, satellite data, sensor data, and web data. It is mainly thanks to web alternative data that we can obtain the most unpublished information, quickly and securely.

Working with alternative data in China means looking for alternative and reliable sources to obtain the most original and relevant insights. Daxue Consulting has established a non-exhaustive list of the most interesting sources:

Alternative data in China
[Alternative data in China – Source: Daxue Consulting]

Advantages of working with alternative data for your business in China

Having access to and understanding alternative data in China has many advantages, such as :

Daxue Consulting, a key partner to work with alternative data in China

Daxue Consulting has gathered all the necessary skills to work quickly and efficiently with alternative data in China:

alternative data in China
[Process to work on Alternative data in China with Daxue Consulting]

The power of scraping software

Daxue Consulting has experience working with web scraping tools that enable us to collect data automatically. These softwares are essential to work with alternative data in China because we don’t have to go on every website every month to gather data. Scraping software is particularly used by start-ups. The idea is to extract data from a site via a program, script or automatic software. These tools allow us to have quick access to hundreds of sources and to combine and cross-check data easily and quickly.

We collect content from sites in order to transform and reuse it in the development of strategic recommendations or to respond to a specific customer request.

We restructure data before analyzing and reusing it.

Judiciary data, Public Government Data, the new eldorado to collect alternative insights

Court decision lists

Court decision lists, visa distribution or license distribution figures are free and unstructured data that can easily be used for marketing purposes. For example, one can assess the political and economic relations between two countries, the attractiveness of a certain country for China, or draw demographic criteria from an alternative source for current and future car buyers.

Legal data on court decisions, administrative, civil and criminal judgments are also available. Daxue Consulting is able to scrap this data automatically and to obtain precise information on cases, trial procedure, type of instrument, year etc. A good way for investment funds to secure investments.

scraping in China
[Court decision list in China – Source: China judgements online]

Blacklist decisions

If we also look at blacklist decisions this can give us valuable information about the power of an economy and allows us to know, in advance, which sectors are in good or bad shape.

legal data in China
[Source: – New list of diesel cars blacklisted in Beijing]

Credit distribution and requirements

The information that can be obtained from credit lists can be useful to know the state of the economy and the banking system in a given region, investment projects in a given industry, the financial health of a particular group, or strategic information on banks in China (investment sectors, competition, etc.).

alternative data in China
[Source: – Credit information]

Visa distribution and many more…

When studying Chinese outbound travel trends, visa distribution data published by the government every month can also be very useful. We can see how many visas were rejected, accepted or asked. This can give us precious information about what destinations Chinese tourists want to go to, for what destination it is becoming harder and harder and even why Chinese people want to go there (business, tourism, work, family, etc).

Daxue Consulting has established a list of judicial data sources to work with alternative data in China. Many other examples are conceivable, such as data directly from road safety and sanction lists. We can find how many traffic accidents occur per month per region which can be very good information for the auto insurance industry for example.

Other examples of alternative data in China by Daxue Consulting

Geolocation Tracking to analyze changes for economic activity over time and space

Geolocation can be an excellent source of alternative data if you know how to use it. In China, we can work on manufacturing activity measurement index based on millions of photos taken by satellites in thousands of industrial areas in the country. With the help of artificial intelligence tools, we can analyze, for example, which cities are gaining dynamism through the construction of road networks, which cultivations are expanding and where, and which industries are losing ground.

Combined with the analysis of GPS data from mobile phones, this can provide unique insights into the economic activity of, for example, supermarkets: by combining statistics on the number of cars in car parks with satellite statistics on the expansion and establishment of new subsidiaries. Moreover, Chinese users are used to planning a route on Baidu Maps, which means that we an aggregate all the queries to estimate, in advance, which areas in a city will be crowded.

geolocation in China
[Alternative data in China – Geolocation on Baidu Maps]

Social media to mass analyze thousands of messages

On social media, we can use tools and algorithms to analyze thousands of messages, comments or reactions at the same time. This is called automated natural language processing. This makes it possible to have direct consumer feedback, without filters and to have a sample of consumers surveyed that is closer to reality and more diverse. Social media indexes can be leveraged as well.

use wechat index China
[Wechat Index, 90-days search index history on Aldi]

Alternative data on Chinese social media also includes official sources that can be used for marketing purposes, an example can be to understand potential sources of consumer concern. Messages from police or regional agencies can, therefore, be collected, segmented and analyzed using the same tools.

Scraping in China
[Chinese police messages and reactions on Weibo]

E-commerce platforms to track the queries and dynamics of transactions

Consumer activity can be directly measured on e-commerce sites such as Tmall, Taobao or, by searching directly in search results to draw major trends or validate insights. For years, Daxue Consulting has been working with indexes and tools that track the dynamics of transactions for a wide set of products to know exactly what and when consumers type in the search engine of these e-commerce sites.

This is the case of the tool taoshuju we use a lot, especially to develop indexes calculated on a monthly basis.

taobao statistics China
[Example of alternative data in China get through]

Job opportunities to measure economic developments or trends among competitors in different industries

Online job portals are effective data sources for evaluating market developments or analyzing the competition. For example, this could make it possible to assess an industry’s appetite for artificial intelligence based on the number of offers posted in this field. For example, if we want to know which programming language is trendy in China, looking at developers’ job offers is a good indicator. It can also help to identify periods of stress in the job market. 

It also provides clues about a country’s economic development or the arrival of a certain type of applicant on the market, especially through the CIER Employment Index, developed in collaboration with the recruitment platform Zhaopin and the China Institute for Employment Research (CIER).

Zhaopin app
[Source: Zhaopin – Chinese online job platform, Python job offers in Shanghai]

Corporate sites/ websites structures to compare with the competition

Brands’ websites are full of more or less hidden information. Everything can be analyzed in mass, like a benchmark, to obtain additional information. This is the case, for example, of the “built with” attribute which allows us to have information about what websites use as a hosting platform, or to have other information from the structure of their site.

Baidu to measure short-term shifts in consumers attitudes

Baidu has developed the Baidu Index, which measures the number of times consumers have typed a certain keyword. This helps to measure, on a monthly or annual basis, the interest of consumers in a particular product. Daxue Consulting has been working for years with the Baidu Index in all its research and knows how to validate marketing insights by cross-checking data from traditional research. We are able to know what your consumers are looking for, when, what they think and what they are looking for accordingly.

use baidu index China
[Source: Baidu Index – Alternative data on New energy vehicles]

Culture – Entertainment to validate trends

Podcast platforms in China can also provide excellent data if you know where to look. It works in the way for the box office analysis. By comparing the yearly box office over several years, we can understand changes in the attitude of Chinese film buffs or if an actor is particularly trendy and why. In the context of a collaboration with an influencer for an ad, this makes it possible to validate the choice of the actor for example.

alternative data in China
[Source: Ximalaya – Podcast platform in China]

Weather and environmental data to predict economic activity in specific sectors

In the same way as satellite data, weather or environmental data can be useful for making strategic economic decisions. Weather influences the agriculture and transport sectors in particular. It is now possible to measure the level of precipitation, pressure, temperature, etc. This makes it possible to analyze which agricultural productions can be expected from certain regions and thus to predict changes in the prices of goods for retailers, or to predict the availability of means of transport in the country.

In addition, since 2010, the Ministry of the Environment has published a real-time air pollution index which can also be used for marketing purposes.

alternative data in China
[Source: – Pollution index as alternative data in China]

Directories to identify trends

Online directories in China are numerous and an inexhaustible source of alternative data.

For example, on (a review web, where Chinese locals rate local businesses and share their reviews) it is possible to group and analyze hundreds of comments per second with good artificial intelligence tools. This allows us to have qualitative feedback but also indications on trendy leisure activities by group of age. In the alcohol industry, for example, it is possible to determine what kind of bar sells what kind of alcohol, what are the trendy bars in Shanghai, at what times they are crowded and therefore to have information about the competition in a safe and fast way.

dianping app China
[Source: – Alternative data in China]

Air and maritime traffic to seize market opportunities

By analyzing data on air and maritime traffic, we can have two major types of information: on tourist power but also economic power, particularly in terms of imports and exports.

Thus, it is possible to analyze the type of goods imported and exported from one country to another. This can be used to identify market opportunities for investors or entrepreneurs. For example, if we realize that China imports a certain type of good, it may mean that no major players in the field have emerged and that there are opportunities in the market. It may also mean that the Chinese prefer foreign brands for this product and that there is no investment potential in the country.

Crowdfunding platforms to assess the innovative power of a region, industry or country

China’s crowdfunding platforms have been very popular over the past five years. Chinese people are early adopters, who give us, without necessarily knowing it, very interesting data to seize market opportunities. In 2014, JD’s crowdfunding platform was launched and has already raised $670 million, about one-fifth of what the American giant Kickstarter has raised since 2009. By analyzing in mass the data from this site, and from all the other crowdfunding platforms in China (more than 400!) we can evaluate the innovation appetite of a country, a region or an industry. Investment decisions can also be validated or invalidated. Finally, with backers data, reports on target audiences in different industries can be produced with, for example, specific demographic data.

alternative data in China
[Source: Coufenzi, crowdfunding platform by JD]

The advent of alternative data in China and new AI analysis tools is a real game-changer for investors, brands, and entrepreneurs. Daxue Consulting has gathered all the skills and savoir-faire to create new opportunities with data collection for your business in China. Feel free to contact us for more information.

Want to know more about alternative data in China? Contact us directly!