Whither goes China, there go we? Mobile content popularity and buying soaring.

Chinese mobile phone users now comprise 94.5% of their population, and they are more enthusiastic "mobile shoppers" than anyone else. What does this mean for retailers everywhere?
Chinese mobile phone users now comprise 94.5% of their population, and they are more enthusiastic “mobile shoppers” than anyone else. What does this mean for retailers everywhere?


Regular readers will know that we have a special interest in the China market as you can read here regarding their insatiable appetite for luxury goods, and here for their insatiable appetite for visiting Australia.

Our special interest in China is that we have long practical experience of working with Chinese businesses, especially in the tourism space and with the building industry, and also because we happen to believe that they are an excellent indicator of trends for the rest of the world.

Now research reveals that China should be of particular interest to retailers everywhere.

After all, China is already the largest retail e-commerce market in the world, an observation reinforced by a new survey which reveals the extent to which Chinese consumers now rely on social media and new technology when purchasing.

Far more than the global average, it emerges that Chinese consumers are strongly influenced by content-led experiences, such as celebrity endorsements, and are particularly receptive of relevant and personalised ads.

These are some of the key findings in PwC’s latest Total Retail Survey, a global study which includes analysis of the shopping behaviour of some 945 Chinese consumers.

The professional services firm revealed that 29% of Chinese consumers, compared to a global average of just 13%, use social media to check what brands or product key opinion leaders and celebrities endorse.

Known as “Wang Hongs”, these key opinion leaders interact directly with consumers, raising awareness and building brand image, while “providing a new, direct marketing channel”.

The PwC survey also found that more than half (52%) of Chinese consumers shop while using their mobile or smartphone on a weekly or daily basis – compared to only 14% globally – while 41% use social platforms as a way to receive promotional offers (versus 34% globally).

It further revealed that personalised digital marketing is particularly effective in China, where consumers are almost twice as likely (31%) as their global counterparts (16%) to click on an ad that is relevant to them.

And when it comes to buying groceries, Chinese consumers are almost three times as likely (62%) to use the online option as the global average (22%).

“It is almost impossible to distinguish between e-commerce and social media in China today. The context is characterised by a strong orientation to mobile technology and social commerce, underpinned by ubiquitous digital payment infrastructures,” commented Kevin Wang, retail and consumer leader at PwC China.

“In this hyper-competitive environment, we recommend that brands and retailers enhance their cooperation with third parties to upgrade the data marketing ecosystem,” he added. “Exploring more direct and faster innovation models will be crucial for future development.”

MOPWise words, we feel. But here at MOP, we don’t wish to add to the “switch all your effort to online and social media” hysteria that is sweeping the world of advertising and marketing despite some push back. We are in print as arguing that “traditional” media like TV ads are far from past their use by date.

And we note that far from being an automatic Shangri La, there are some real problems with online advertising and its cost-effectiveness. Up to half your online ad spend may be being wasted due to sophisticated ad blocking. And sophisticated consumers are now “zapping” their way past online ads with the same enthusiasm that they learned to do with TV advertising.

The debate rolls on. Magnum Opus Partners are actively investigating the liaison and competition between online, mobile and traditional media, and will have more to say on the topic very soon.

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Data sourced from PwC; additional content by WARC staff and Magnum Opus Partners staff.

Author: Stephen Yolland

Director of Creative Strategy and Partner @ Magnum Opus Partners.

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