The Chinese Q&A platform Zhihu put up a pop-up shop this week at Beijing’s fashion and shopping hub Sanlitun, attracting the city’s knowledge lovers as well as brands looking to tap into the platform’s well-educated, wealthy user base. Named the “Don’t Know Clinic” (our translation of 不知道诊所), the offline installation featured six “hospital departments” with booths themed around popular questions asked on Zhihu.

Over the past six years, the Beijing-based startup has risen to become the go-to website and app for knowledge sharing and searching. According to research firm iResearch (in Chinese), 80.1% of Zhihu users have a bachelor degree or above (in Chinese), and 76% of the users are in the middle- and upper-income tiers. In September the platform reached 100 million registered users (in Chinese) who spend an average of one hour per day, the company said.

Despite Zhihu’s steady growth and positive reputation among Chinese elites, industry observers have been questioning its money-making capacity. So far the company hasn’t revealed much about its financials but this week’s pop-up shop sheds some light on its commercial possibilities.

Zhihu’s pop-up shop in Beijing this week attracted a lineup of brands (Image credit: @Kelly涵宝宝 on Weibo)

Divided into “surgery”, “dental”, “psychology”, “ENT” (eyes, nose, throat), “radiology”, and “internal medicine”, the offline store partnered with brands and key opinion leaders who acted as answer contributors. For the question “What are some of classic sneakers?” for example, Nike placed its line of signature shoes in rows of glass display boxes. The question “What perfume smells like mist in a forest?” hosted perfume brand Aro Mag’s “Reading Lab” that let attendees test shelves of scents.

Like Weibo and WeChat, Zhihu allows organizations and companies to set up their own official, verified accounts to connect with customers. As of September, the knowledge platform has attracted over 3,000 enterprises, media, government organs, research institutes (in Chinese), NGOs and the likes, the company says. Some of Zhihu’s current revenue streams are organic advertising, online live Q&A events, and e-publishing. It also recently became a darling to Chinese recruiters. The company achieved unicorn status in January as it completed a $100 million Series D round.

Rita Liao

Telling the uncommon China stories through tech. I can be reached at ritacyliao [at] gmail [dot] com.

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