Almost half of consumers in China discuss brands on a daily basis, both online and off

Media usage and ad literacy are growing among consumers in the emerging tiers in China, and ads are growing in importance, but word-of-mouth remains the top source of information about new products and services.

According to Forrester Research’s “Asia Pacific Technographics Benchmark Survey,” 44% of urban internet users in China trusted recommendations from friends and family, followed by email from friends, ratings and review sites, and friends’ social network profiles. The good news for brands is that they are already part of users’ conversations, both online and off.

Starcom MediaVest Group’s “China Yangtze Study” asked consumers in China whether they talked about brands. Almost half of respondents (44.6%) said that they had spoken with someone offline in the past day about a brand they liked. This figure was highest in China’s tier 2 cities, at 57.6%, where many multinational brands have been expanding. These cities are often the logical next step for brands after tier 1 megacities like Beijing and Shanghai, which had the lowest percentage of respondents (40.2%) talking about brands offline.

A smaller portion of total respondents, 12.3%, talked to others about brands online. Interestingly, tier 1 respondents were the most likely to have talked to others online, at 15.8%. This is most likely due to higher internet user penetration in tier 1 cities compared to the other tiers. The study also found that respondents who did talk to others about brands online, while a smaller overall group, did so for as much or more time than offline.

Internet users in China are fervent communicators and instant messaging (IM) is one of their most popular online activities. A Q2 2011 study by enovate found 89% of 23- to 30-year-old internet users in urban areas of China used IM, a rate higher than those using text messaging. Among providers, Tencent boasts nearly 800 million users of its IM service, QQ, although users are not required to provide anything other than an email address to sign up.

Drilling down into Starcom’s data by device, IM users in China spent an average of 1.35 hours per day chatting online through any device, while mobile IM users spent approximately 1 hour per day on mobile IM alone.

Mobile usage was highest among tier 1 cities, while users in tiers 2, 3, 4 and 5 spent more time on IM overall.

Tier 1 cities have proven to be a bellwether of behavior in China, as lower tiers follow the lead of megacities in media usage. Marketers and brands in China are excited over the rising star that is weibo, China’s answer to Twitter, but should not overlook the popularity of IM.

As time spent with IM, especially on mobile devices, continues to increase, opportunities for advertising and online word-of-mouth will as well. Compelling, trendsetting online ads and content can encourage instant sharing across IM platforms in China.

Source:eMarketer

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