Dianping: the evolutions of China’s location-based reviews giant

11 Jun 2013



Ranking and review based sites entered the Chinese digital scenario at a reasonable early period, but current trends show that they’re gradually turning into different business models, offering more integrated opportunities for brands that are willing to jump on board. Two good examples are Douban and Dianping; in this post we will talk about the latter.


The (long) story and the (big) numbers

Dianping (full name as Dazhong Dianping) was launched in April, 2003. As its name says (a fair translation could be comments for everyone), it was born to collect feedbacks on restaurant services and sharing reviews with consumers community.

Dianping is another example that proves the China-copycat stereotype is wrong, it is the first third-part review site on local consumption service in China, also among the first ones in the world: it was launched half a year earlier than American site Yelp, and right now it is the biggest and the most used search portal on local and personal consumption service.

Until Q1 2013, Dianping got 60 million active users monthly, more than 25 million individual reviews have been collected, more than 2,6 million restaurants and shops were covered. Dianping launched the mobile application in 2009, till Q1 2013, more than 64 million users got Dianping’s service through their mobile devices, which is about 70% of Dianping’s users all around China (source:

The company has been able to gather several rounds of investments in recent times – last one being a $60M round in August 2012, as reported by Tech in Asia.

Dianping’s headquarters are in Shanghai, where its original service got started. Due to its LBS service feature, currently Dianping’s database has covered nearly all tier two and tier three cities in China, and branch offices are located in more than thirty cities all across the country.

As the leading UGC (User Generated Content) platform on local and personal consumption service, Dianping always focused on consumption experience and personal communication. As Dianping’s co-founder Zhangtao said to iResearch, the mobile-internet service has been divided in 4 innovative categories:

  • The relation between users and information, such as Baidu.
  • The relation between users, such as Tencent and SNS.
  • The relation between users and commodities, such as Alibaba and e-business.
  • The relation between users and services, the area Dianping stands out for.


Dianping homepage


Having been run for ten years, UGC-based review is still the main service Dianping providers to the mass users. Dianping’s database covers basically every urban leisure location and consumption service. Last year, Dianping launched internal smart system to evaluate the quality of reviews and filter spam informations. Also, mobile users’ reviews have a certain priority in being considered and recommended.


Yelp + Groupon + Foursquare service model

Dianping has combined the major advantages of Web 2.0 platform and offers an integrated marketing solution. Group purchasing and Coupon promotion are the most used services – which also brought the biggest profit for Dianping.

For example, the company offers a range of related products that piggyback on its users’ love for dining out. Through participating on the site, users can earn VIP cards to get discounts at certain restaurants. It also offers a range of gifts that users can earn. The company also publishes free reports on trends in dining, based on its user data that shows popular cuisines, dishes and areas of a city. Which is also a way for restaurants themselves to understand what’s going on in the industry.

With its good reputation on consumer’s ranking and review, Dianping is also the most popular keywords search site on local consumption service. Having embedded LBS check-in function – a bit like Foursquare on Facebook – unique users’ visits got multi-exposures on the most used Chinese SNS, such as Sina Weibo and Tencent microblog.


From a review site to a mobile service

As we have mentioned above, right now more than 70% users got access to Dianping by mobile app. It is believed that in the short future, this number will grow to 80% or even 90%. Dianping is definitely turning its focus into mobile-internet service.


Dianping strategy


That’s why they launched two new mobile services: making reservation through mobile app and digital VIP card. Also, Dianping tends to put bigger effort on an online-to-offline function, to enhance Group purchase and Coupon promotion service.

Dianping has recently launched a series on-line promotion and integrated marketing service for companies, such as a keyword search to enhance company’s exposure and match with consumer’s interests, promote group purchasing event and coupon to gain company’s reputation. They also launched Dianping VIP membership card to help company to manage customer relationship.


Dianping location based


By collecting millions of users’ reviews online – also through offline channels – Dianping collaborated with a wide range of consumption service companies. And probably the most relevant case histories are restaurants.


Marketing via Dianping: Doulao’s case study




Doulaofang (豆捞坊), is one of the most well known hot-pot restaurants chains in China, especially popular in tier-one cities like Shanghai, especially for young urban “white-collars”. It also has a huge number of fans on Dianping – here’s the profile of a location in Shanghai’s Changning District:




In order to explore new markets and attract new consumers in Beijing – and big tier-two cities Nanjing and Chengdu – Doulaofang had launched a series of offline events on Dianping in November 2012.

3 days after releasing online group purchasing campaigns in Nanjing and Chengdu, Doulaofang got 150,000 unique visits, and 6,000 consumers made on-line purchase (you can find more on this here).

The popularity of LBS check-ins helped Doulaofang to gain more fans and real-time customers. Doulaofang also launched lunch time coupon in Shanghai, every coupon got more than 40,000 visits, with 2,000-10,000 prints and downloading records.

For consumption service companies like Doulaofang, common knowledge says that within 100 new consumers, 20 consumers will turn to regular consumers, and 80% profit comes from the 20% regular consumers. Through the marketing promotion and collaboration with Dianping, companies can get bigger exposure in the market, and also provide new customer experiences to attract new consumers.

Needless to say that the success of a Dianping campaign can be widely duplicated in all Chinese cities.

Nannan Li

Nannan Li

Originally from China, after a Art Design BA degree and one year in a Shanghai Ad agency, she moved to Italy and got a MA degree in Product Service System Design. She keeps her eyes open on the digital world and on user-centered design.


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