Infographic: American Companies That Failed in China
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American Companies That Failed in China

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American Companies That Failed in China

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American Companies That Failed in China

For decades, China has been a top priority for American companies looking to expand.

This is because the country’s middle class is simply enormous, growing from 3.1% to 50.8% of the country’s total population between the years 2000 and 2018. According to Brookings, there are now at least 700 million people in China’s middle class, and this group has never had more disposable income to spend on consumer goods and services.

Despite the size and potential of the market, China is not an easy place for foreign businesses to enter. As this infographic shows, many of America’s biggest names eventually admitted defeat.

Companies by Tenure

The following table lists the tenures of every company included in the graphic.

It’s worth noting that Google’s parent company, Alphabet, still maintains a physical presence in China. Google’s services were banned by the Chinese government in 2010.

CompanyEnter DateExit DateTenure in months
eBayJuly 2003December 200641
AmazonAugust 2004July 2019178
Yahoo!September 1999November 2021266
Best BuyMay 2006March 201158
The Home DepotDecember 2006September 201269
GoogleJanuary 2006March 201050
Forever 21 (1st attempt)June 2008June 200912
Forever 21 (2nd attempt)December 2011April 201988
Forever 21 (3rd attempt)August 2021OngoingOngoing
GrouponMarch 2011June 201215
UberJuly 2014August 201625
Macy'sAugust 2015December 201840
LinkedInFebruary 2014October 202192

Dates were gathered from various media reports and sources. There may be small deviations from when a company actually entered or exited.

The reasons for why these companies withdrew are surprisingly similar, and can be broken down into two broad categories.

Retailers Fail to Adapt

Failing to adapt to the cultural differences of Chinese consumers is a common mistake. Here’s how two American retailers learned this lesson the hard way.

Best Buy

Best Buy struggled because Chinese consumers were not willing to pay a premium for brand-name electronics. Local retailers could often source similar (or counterfeit) goods for much cheaper, and undercut Best Buy’s prices.

“Why buy a Sony DVD player or Nokia phone at Best Buy when you can pay less for the exact same product at a local store?”
– Shaun Rein, China Market Research Group

Best Buy also made the mistake of bringing over its large flagship stores, which were out of reach for most consumers. Due to severe traffic congestion, locals preferred smaller shops that were closer to home.

Home Depot

The Home Depot expanded into China around the same time as Best Buy, but unfortunately it was another cultural mismatch.

Home Depot failed to acknowledge that “do it yourself” repairs are not a strong cultural match for China. Labor costs are relatively low, so rather than do the work themselves, many homeowners prefer to rather hire someone else to do it. On the other side of the equation, the American brand failed to win over contractors doing the repairs and renovations.

The Home Depot’s product offerings were also left unchanged from America, making them a poor match for local tastes. As a point of comparison, IKEA has had a presence in China since 1998, and continues to open new stores to this day.

Tech Firms Clash with Regulators

Uber’s experiences in China make a good case study on how American tech firms struggle to succeed in Asia’s biggest economy.

For starters, breaking into the Chinese market was incredibly expensive. Uber spent billions on subsidies to attract customers and drivers, and losses were quickly piling up. To make matters worse, domestic rivals like DiDi were also handing out subsidies.

On the operational side, Uber ran into several hurdles. To avoid issues with China’s data localization laws, the company needed servers on Chinese soil. Its navigation provider, Google Maps, also had limited accuracy in the country. This left Uber with no choice but to partner with Baidu, a Chinese tech company.

The final straw, however, was likely a set of impending regulations which targeted the ride-hailing industry. Under these rules, Uber risked losing control of its data, and would need both provincial and national regulatory approvals for its activities. Even further, subsidies would also no longer be allowed.

Uber realized that doing business in China was unsustainable, but its exit wasn’t exactly a failure. In 2016, Uber sold its assets to rival DiDi and took an 18.8% stake in the company. Ironically, DiDi is now embroiled in a conflict with Chinese regulators over its listing on the NYSE.

The Tech Fallout Continues

Since Uber’s departure, the Chinese government has increased their grip over the tech industry. This has driven more American firms out of the country, including Yahoo and LinkedIn, which is now owned by Microsoft.

Both firms announced their withdrawals in 2021 and were rather clear about why they made the decision. Yahoo cited its commitment to a “free and open” internet, while LinkedIn says its decision was due to a “considerably more difficult operating environment and higher regulatory requirements”.

Given the geopolitical tensions between the U.S. and China, companies that generate data (often seen as a national security concern) are likely to continue facing regulatory hurdles.

Outside of tech, China is still a massive opportunity for American businesses. By 2027, the country’s middle class is expected to reach 1.2 billion people, or one quarter of the global total.

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Real Estate

The Average Home Size in Every U.S. State in 2022

Over the last century, the average home size in the U.S. has skyrocketed. Here’s a look at which states have the biggest and smallest homes.

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average home size in every U.S. state

The Average Home Size in Every U.S. State in 2022

Over the last century, the average home size in the U.S. has skyrocketed. In 1949, the typical single-family home was just 909 square feet—by 2021, it had shot up to 2,480 square feet.

While U.S. homes are getting larger on the whole, they still vary drastically depending on the location. What areas in the U.S. have the largest homes, and which ones have the smallest?

This graphic by American Home Shield uses data from the 2022 American Home Size Index to show the average home size in every U.S. state.

The 2022 American Home Size Index

The index uses data from 474,157 listings of both houses and condos for sale on Zillow as of May 2022. After the data was compiled, it was organized by state and city, and the median home size was then calculated for each area.

According to the findings, there was a strong correlation with the average size of a home and the age of the area’s housing stock. For instance, Utah is the U.S. state with the largest average home size, with an average of 2,800 square feet. And since the state’s average home was built in 1989, it has the third-youngest home stock of any state across the country.

This trend is apparent on a city-level as well. Here’s a look at average home size across America’s top 50 most populated cities (with available data):

Average home size in 50 U.S. cities

As the graphic shows, up-and-coming tech hubs like Raleigh and Colorado Springs have some of the largest homes.

Colorado Springs in particular has seen a significant influx in employment over the last few years, which has attracted high-income tech workers to the area driven up demand for spacious single-family dwellings.

The Price of Real Estate Compared to Average Home Size

The data also showed a relationship between an area’s average price of real estate and the average home size. For instance, Hawaii has the smallest average home size of any state, as well as the most expensive at $743.86 per square foot.

comparing home prices in every U.S. state

This trend is apparent in the state of New York as well, which had the second smallest average home size. New York’s average home costs were $421.49 per square foot, the third-most expensive of any state.

Lot Size vs. Home Size

Interestingly, while average home sizes in the U.S. have gotten larger over time, the average lot size has shrunk over the years.

In 1978, the average lot size for a U.S. property was 18,760 square feet, but by 2020, this figure had dropped to a record low of 13,896 square feet.

With lot sizes shrinking, will there come a point where home size growth across the country starts to plateau, or even shrink?

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Technology

Visualizing the World’s Top Social Media and Messaging Apps

From Twitter to TikTok, this infographic compares the universe of social media and messaging platforms by number of monthly active users.

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The Social Media Universe in 2022

For a time, life in the social media universe was mostly uneventful. Consider these spicy (at the time) headlines:

In hindsight, the years leading up to 2016 were downright sleepy in comparison with what would follow. Donald Trump’s meteoric, tweet-powered rise to the presidency. The Cambridge Analytica scandal. Congressional hearings on privacy and bias. TikTok at the center of souring U.S.–China relations. Each new day brought a fresh wave of controversy the shores of once infallible social media platforms.

Today, the honeymoon phase is long over and the messiness of running a global social platform is now on full display. Nowhere is this more evident than Twitter during the current Elon Musk transitional period—but more details on that later.

For now, let’s explore the social media universe in 2022.

Mapping the Social Media and Messaging Universe

In 2022, the social universe is looking more crowded than in previous years.

The scale of Meta’s platforms still dominate thanks to their global reach, but there are a number of smaller networks fighting for market share. Here’s a look at popular platforms, organized from largest to smallest active userbase:

Visualisation showing the largest social media platforms by monthly active users

Meanwhile, here are the top 10 social media and messaging platforms by publicly-available monthly active users:

RankPlatform NameParent CompanyPrimary FunctionMonthly Active Users
#1FacebookMeta PlatformsSocial network2.9 billion
#2YouTubeAlphabetVideo content2.3 billion
#3WhatsAppMeta PlatformsMessaging2.0 billion
#4MessengerMeta PlatformsMessaging1.3 billion
#5InstagramMeta PlatformsVideo content1.2 billion
#6WeChat TencentMessaging1.2 billion
#7TikTokByteDanceVideo content732 million
#8Telegramn/aMessaging700 million
#9DouyinByteDanceVideo content600 million
#10QQTencentMessaging 595 million

YouTube is the only true competition for Meta’s scale and reach. Alphabet’s video content hub with social features boasts more than two billion monthly active users. YouTube’s embrace of the creator economy is nudging the platform further into pure social media territory with the introduction of “handles”.

As seen in the visualization above, China has its own ecosystem of large social and messaging platforms—the largest of these being WeChat.

The only platform in the top 20 that is not based in either the U.S. or China is the privacy-focused messaging app, Telegram. The Dubai-based company has a unique backstory. It was created after the founders of Russian social network VK left the country after resisting government pressure to release data on the social network’s users in Ukraine.

Today, there are also a number of smaller, special interest platforms. OnlyFans, for example, is focused on adult content creators. Parler and Truth Social appeal to users who want fewer constraints on the content they post and consume. BeReal aims to create more authentic moments by prompting users to post a photo at a random time each day.

Below, we dig into a few of these platforms into more depth.

zuckerberg meta 2022

Big Trouble in Little Metaverse

Having a figurehead CEO is a double-edged sword. When things are going well, the market rallies around the successful leader. Case in point, Mark Zuckerberg was named Time’s Person of the Year in 2010. Even as recently as 2016, Glassdoor named the Facebook founder the “most admired tech CEO”.

On the flip side, when the tide turns, it turns fast. After a series of controversies, Zuckerberg took a multi-billion-dollar gamble by renaming his entire company Meta and pivoting its focus to the burgeoning idea of a metaverse. Meta’s New Horizons platform is rumored to have plateaued at about 200,000 active users, which is underwhelming for a company that still reaches a sizable slice of humanity with its other services.

Part of Meta’s near-term success hinges on VR headsets being a hot gift this holiday season. Meta’s cheapest headset is $400, which could be a tough sell in today’s economic environment.

Chart showing falling consumer sentiment in the united states in 2022

Of course, it’s too early to know whether Zuckerberg’s gamble will pay off. As always, all is forgiven once a business unit takes off and becomes profitable.

elon musk twitter 2022

Microblogging with Macro Expectations

Twitter has a complicated history.

The company was launched in the shadow of Facebook’s massive growth, and was saddled with expectations that were tough to meet. Although Twitter has an engaged and influential audience, it hasn’t managed to monetize them at the level of Meta’s platforms (for better or worse). The introduction of Twitter Blue in 2021 did not resonate with users at the scale the company hoped, and “fleets” were essentially written off as a failed experiment.

In addition, Twitter is a magnet for criticism and debate around free speech, in part because of its central place in political discourse.

These issues are directly related to the company’s recent sale to Elon Musk. At the time of this article, Twitter finds itself in the midst of a painful, and very public, internal restructuring.

If reports of an exodus of talent and advertising dollars are to be believed, then the future of one of world’s most influential social media platforms could be at risk.

social media TikTok Douyin 2022

TikTok

Social media has always been dominated by Facebook and its related apps. When a new challenger came along, Facebook either acquired it (Instagram, WhatsApp), or “acquired” their features (Snapchat). TikTok is the first challenger to keep its momentum and growth, even as Instagram rolled out very similar features.

TikTok is also a rare case of a Chinese tech product crossing over into Western markets. The ascendancy of TikTok was not without controversy though. Suspicion over Chinese access to user data continues to be an issue both in the U.S., and in other large markets around the world. TikTok has been banned in India since 2020.

Despite these headwinds, TikTok remains wildly popular. The short-form video platform was the number one downloaded app on the planet, and it remains a favorite of the all-important Gen Z demographic.

nextdoor neighbors citizen 2022

We Shall Surveil

In recent years, neighborhood-based social networks have sprung up and gained traction. NextDoor used physical letters sent to adjacent addresses to supercharge its growth, while Neighbors piggybacked off the popularity of Ring’s doorbell cameras. Although members post about more benign topics such as lost cats and where to find a good plumber, crime is an increasingly common theme as well.

Apps like Neighbors and Citizen have a more overt focus on crime and safety. While the growth of these apps reflects an obvious interest preventing crime, critics point out that the ubiquity of personal surveillance equipment and forums built purely around public safety promote a culture of suspicion in communities.

This type of social network is still quite new, so it remains to be seen if they remain niche communities, or grow into something bigger.

Chaos and Opportunity

It was Sun Tzu who famously said, “In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity”.

This is the risk and opportunity in the social media universe today. With their massive networks and high switching costs (e.g. personalization, library of existing posts), the largest platforms have created moats that make life hard for upstart brands looking to replace established platforms. On the other hand, controversy on platforms like Twitter and Facebook may cause some users to consider new options.

The multi-billion-dollar question—is dissatisfaction with major platforms temporary, or will emerging networks like Mastodon or BeReal hit critical mass and become new staples for people connecting online. Time will tell.

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