Baidu App Unveils New Strategy as it Hits 560 Million Monthly Active Users

Baidu Senior Vice President Shen Dou speaking at the 2021 Wanxiang Conference on Monday. (Source: Baidu)

Baidu said on Monday its flagship Baidu App has reached 558 million monthly active users (MAU) in March, with more than 75% of users logging onto the platform every day, as the search giant and AI company unveiled a brand-new strategy that will help the company diversify its revenue.

With a new slogan – “Baidu for a Better Life” – the company aims to expand the business model of its app from offering simple search to comprehensive one-stop services, Baidu Vice President and Baidu App General Manager Ping Xiaoli said at the 2021 Wanxiang Conference.

The Wanxiang Conference is held annually for the company’s Mobile Ecosystem Group (MEG), which consolidates Baidu’s search, feed, and mobile businesses.

According to Ping, Baidu App will continue expanding the platform’s scope of search. It will rely on three main strategies this year to transition from knowledge and information to services and transactions: integrating video with content, developing a human-centered approach to search optimization, and servitization of information — meaning they will provide product-centric services for users.

Compared with rival WeChat’s search function, Baidu’s search results are more relevant to user needs, Ping told reporters during a Q&A session following the event. She added that user experience on Baidu’s platform is rather different compared with WeChat’s.

“As Internet infrastructure continues to be perfected, information flow in society is constantly improving, leading to demands for faster, closed-loop services from users,” said Baidu Senior Vice President Shen Dou, who oversees the company’s MEG business.

“Based on this trend, Baidu is implementing a strategy of ‘humanization’ and ‘servitization’ which will allow users more immediate access to the information and services they need. Especially for key industries like healthcare, live streaming, short video, and education, Baidu will construct its own closed-loop mobile experiences,” Shen said, adding that Baidu’s smart programs — the only open-source platform of its kind in the industry — has 416 million MAUs.

At the event, Baidu also announced a new feature on its short video app, Haokan, as well as a new video editing tool, Duka, as it eyes a slice of the short video market. The company also has a 56.2% stake in video streaming platform iQiyi.

Song Jian, head of Baidu’s short video ecosystem platform, introducing a new feature on Baidu’s Haokan app. (Source: Baidu)

“We believe there is still great growth potential in the short video market, especially from the perspective of content creators,” said Song Jian, head of Baidu’s short video ecosystem platform.

On Haokan, users are now able to use a feature called “knowledge mark” to label key information points such as people, locations and objects on a specific frame of a video.

“This enables a single video to include diversified information channels and formats such as text, pictures, search and e-commerce. We hope this new format will help build a stronger connection between viewers and creators,” Song said.

“In the next three to five years, we believe knowledge-based themes will dominate short video content (versus entertainment-based). Baidu has always taken the role of information dissemination and connecting people and service providers. At the same time, we have accumulated deep experience in technology development, user data and product capabilities,” he said.

“We’re trying to expand the meaning and the amount of information delivered in each video, regardless of its length. Behind each frame, we believe there is much more information to be delivered and explored by users and creators. This year, we aim to focus on connecting the meaning behind each frame with our users and creators,” he added.

Duka will launch in two months, allowing users to import production materials from Baidu Web Drive, its cloud storage service. It also boasts advanced AI-powered functions such as speech and image recognition and translation.

“Duka will help creators be more efficient in information management and processing,” Song said. Right now, more than 300,000 content creators produce videos on a monthly basis on Haokan.

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At the same time, Baidu is also doubling down on its efforts in e-commerce and healthcare. Its Baidu Health app, despite facing fierce competition from Alibaba Health, Tencent-backed WeDoctor and JD Health, processes 200 million health-related queries every day and 850,000 online consultations.

Besides online consultations from doctors and medical professionals, it offers other services such as appointment and delivery of medicines, registration of doctors’ appointments as well as livestream sessions.