Apple Inc. ’s iPhone sale in China was already under questions, and now Baidu released its first indexes tracking the state of economy and consumers of China, indicating an increase in unemployment and predicting a drop in sales for the Cupertino-based giant. Wu Haishan, a senior data scientist, said the Beijing-based firm would begin selling granular data capable of tracking the performance of specific industries, cities, and even brands like Apple, says Bloomberg.
A massive data to work with
Baidu’s indicators employ the positions of users, the Wi-Fi hotspots they log into across the country and the 25 billion location requests they seek based on mapping query data from China’s biggest search engine. Baidu manages around 70-80% of all online searches in China, and its mapping service has around 700 million users.
The Beijing-based firm, from this month, will release employment and consumer indexes. In comparison to 2014, both the indexes have shown a decline. At the start of each month, the indicators will be released. Haishan said that such analysis should be very useful for the likes of investors, managers at companies or hedge funds. Haishan added that they will charge based on the volume of the data that the user is interested in, for instance, how many firms, provinces, cities the user is interested in.
The methodology of Chinese government-issued statistics have been questioned by analysts and investors, and this is one reason why some economy-watchers turn to indexes compiled by private sources like payments network UnionPay and e-commerce leader Alibaba Group.
Baidu can project Apple sales in the region
Baidu, in a report demonstrating the potential of the research, compared the revenue of Apple Inc. across Greater China, which includes Hong Kong and Taiwan, with the number of people searching its maps for specific Apple stores in Mainland China. Baidu’s research shows that assuming mainland consumers behave in much the same way as in the other two locales, they can project Apple sales in the region.
Sales for Greater China dropped by 26% when searches fell 24.5% in the March quarter. “Based on our analysis of latest data, we project that the Apple’s revenue of second quarter 2016 may be down around 20 percent on a year-over year basis,” it said. Apple Inc. is expected to report its financial results on July 26, and the Greater China region is the largest market of the iPhone maker outside the US.
A similar practice at Foursquare Labs Inc. was cited in Baidu’s report. Foursquare Labs Inc. used check-in data to predict a 30% decline in same-store sales at Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. following an E. coli outbreak. Baidu’s data could even be used to accurately track the number of people watching movies in theaters, said Wu. This could assist in battling box-office fraud as movie producers sometimes buy out shows to boost their ticket totals.
On Wednesday, Apple shares closed up 0.09% at $99.96. Year to date, the stock is down almost 7%.