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Amid university shutdowns, JD Digits forges ahead with campus-focused social app

The app also has a local service function.

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JD.com’s fintech arm, JD Digits, has launched a round of promotion to increase users and engagement on its new campus social appm Liwo, all the while universities remain shut down in China due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Between April 8 and April 21, students are encouraged to share photos from their lives on Liwo to gain likes from other users, according to information posted on the app. The top five students by likes will win RMB 10,000 (USD 1,418) each, while other participants can get awards such as a hair-dryers or water bottles.

The promotion comes one month after JD Digits upgraded the Liwowo app, which was being tested last September, as KrASIA reported, into its current iteration, Liwo, on March 6.

The original Liwowo aimed to help college students make friends and, as it was in testing, was only open to Android users by invitation only. The new Liwo app, which has already been launched for all smartphone users, includes functions like earning small amounts of cash for certain tasks, like completing surveys, news and official university announcements, students-only discounts, and other campus-related features.

JD Digits also allows companies and individuals who run businesses tailored to students to open online stores on Liwo.

The roll-out of the app comes at a curious time—when most students are not going to school due to the coronavirus. However, even without the public health crisis, analysts predict Liwo faces an uphill battle in a highly competitive market.

“It is too late for JD Digits and its parent company JD.com to gain a market share in the local life service sector, as Meituan and Alibaba’s Ele.me have already dominated it,” Cecilia Xu, an analyst with 36Kr Research, told KrASIA on Tuesday.

“It is also very difficult for social apps to take off in China,” Xu added, pointing to ByteDance’s multiple attempts to challenge the dominance of Tencent’s WeChat. ByteDance last year launched video-based social app Duoshan and interest groups-based social app Feiliao, but neither has taken off.

“If JD Digits wants to promote the app, then [Liwo] will need to rely heavily on promotions,” she added.

JD.com isn’t the only giant to launch an app directed at university students. Alibaba quietly launched Real Ruwo in February 2019, designed for university students to make friends, KrASIA reported last September. However, this app has yet to gain any significant traction among its target users.

36Kr is KrASIA’s parent company