Youdao Dictionary – China’s 500 Million E-learners’ Destination Of Choice
In a globalized world, knowledge of languages is paramount in facilitating cultural exchanges, economic and social activities. As China is increasingly integrated into the global system, the world has witnessed an influx of Chinese people studying, working, and doing business abroad. At home, over two million Chinese students are learning a second language, making them the largest language study group in the world.
It comes as no surprise that Youdao Dictionary, a multi-platform online learning and translation service owned by Chinese Internet giant NetEast, has grown sustainably over the past decade and become the most popular translation application in China. Youdao Dictionary, along with other Youdao online learning services, has attracted more than 100 million monthly active users (MAUs) as of the first half of 2019.
The success drove Youdao Inc., the online education technology company of NetEast, to go public in the U.S. equality market last October, raising a total of US$95.2 million. As Youdao Inc. continues to raise funds and increase its market share, its signature application Youdao Dictionary has become one of the most popular e-learning services among Chinese students and well-educated, high-income online learners.
Image: Major services offered by NetEast’s Youdao Inc. (Source: Youdao IPO Prospectus)
What Is Youdao Dictionary?
Launched in 2007 as a desktop translation software, Youdao Dictionary has expanded to browser extensions and mobile applications. Statistics show that Youdao Dictionary took up about 80 per cent of the Chinese market. This figure promises Youdao Dictionary great potentials for growth as China’s mobile translation service is expected to attract 500 million users by 2020. With a massive user base of over 700 million desktop and mobile users, Youdao Dictionary was listed as “APP with most commercial value” by QuestMobile.
Don’ t Be Fooled By Its Name! It’s Not Just A Dictionary
In contrast to other platforms that focus solely on e-learning or translation, Youdao Dictionary offers a unique blend of translation, language learning, and massive open online courses (MOOC) through just a few clicks on users’ mobile devices.
First and foremost, Youdao Dictionary supports the translation of 108 languages, a feature user can instantly access when they launch the app. Powered by machine learning and other advanced technologies, the app offers a translation of real-time dialogues, texts in augmented reality and in full documents.
Also on the homepage, users can browse a variety of user-generated content on language learning tips, inspiring quotes in foreign languages, and trending learning materials such as the most popular TV dramas and movies.
The MOOC content and additional language learning resources are where Youdao Dictionary truly stands out. Reports suggest that China’s online learning popularity has reached nearly 150 million and it is still growing rapidly. In line with these trends, Youdao Dictionary offers free and paid online courses via its Boutique Course feature. For instance, users can buy exercises and courses focusing on TOEFL/ILETS languages tests seamlessly through the app.
According to Youdao, twenty million users registered for its courses in 2018 alone, with the fastest growth concentrating on the K12 education sector. That same year, Youdao announced that it would apply AI technologies to integrate online learning and teacher-student exchanges into its mobile application.
Moreover, these resources are personalized as users launch the app for the first time, they can choose to identify themselves as language learners at various levels or as parents. This means that users can not only make the best use of resources from the app but also target specific groups of audiences as content creators and businesses.
The Only Education App That Made It To The Top 10 Apps Among Younger Users
If you are looking for young Chinese Internet users, you will typically find them in mobile games, video-streaming platforms, and social media sites, which is why it was surprising and encouraging when Youdao Dictionary was ranked as the Top 10 Favorite App among users under 24-year-old in 2017. In fact, Youdao Dictionary was the only education app that made it to the list.
Who Else Is Using Youdao Dictionary?
In addition to having a distinctively young user base, Youdao Dictionary’s users have a higher education background and higher income compared to the general Chinese Internet population. With the majority of its users based in developed provinces along the east coast, Youdao Dictionary’s users predominantly have a Bachelor’s degree or higher, making over 5000 Yuan (US$718). In 2018, the monthly income of Chinese urban residents’ averages at around 3200 Yuan (US$ 460).
Chart: Distribution of Youdao Dictionary’s user by age, data source: iResearch
In short, Youdao Dictionary’s users are predominately well-educated college students and high-income white collars. Both groups are known to have high purchasing potentials and that they are willing to invest in their personal growth which is why the app was ranked as having the most commercial value in 2018.
What’s In It For Brands And Marketers?
Youdao Dictionary provides the option of native advertising, where advertisements are designed to match the form, appearance, and function of the app. In other words, advertisements in the app are displayed along with user-generated content.
Image: Example of Native Advertising on Youdao APP, Source: Youdao Inc.
This setup is especially beneficial for brands which offer services that match the needs of the app’s users. Although the phrase “content is king” has become a platitude, it is still the golden rule—perhaps more so than ever—when both marketers and consumers are glutted with different products in the market.
Since Youdao Dictionary has already curated content for different groups of users, brands have a higher chance of reaching out to their targeted audience with personalized messages in the form of native advertising.