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What’s Next for China’s Connected Consumers – A Roadmap for Driving Digital Demand

5 minute read | January 2018

The internet has fundamentally changed Chinese consumption habits. The digital revolution is primed to accelerate and connected devices are a core purchase driver in China. New innovations will further transform buyer behaviors and offer new routes for brands to reach and engage their target audiences. But marketers must rethink their approach if they are to win over a new wave of digitally connected consumers. Nielsen sets out a three-point plan for success. 

Global leading information and measurement company Nielsen has released a white paper, What’s Next for China’s Connected Consumers – A Roadmap for Driving Digital Demand, which reveals how connected devices and digital platforms have led to a consumption boom in China. It shows that 84% of consumers used their mobile phone to shop in 2017 – up from 71% in 2015. In line with this trend, online sales grew 28% in 2017, while the proportion of consumers that shop on overseas websites has increased from 34% in 2015 to 64% in 2017.

China’s digital revolution is also driving consumer demand for new tech-enabled products and services. Nielsen reveals that 54% of Tier One consumers now invest in online financial products. A further 38% say they will increase their spending on these solutions over the next 12 months.

At the same time, Nielsen’s report reveals that today’s connected consumers are more open to digital advertising than ever before. Nielsen research shows that between 2016 and 2017, confidence in mobile advertising increased from 20% to 23%. Trust in PC adverts also increased from 18% to 24% over the same period. 

Consumers are also growing receptive to brand messages they receive on their connected devices. Nielsen research shows that 38% of consumers consciously watch the adverts they see on their mobile. A further 30% consciously watch the adverts they see on their PC.

 “In recent years, Chinese consumers have shown an insatiable appetite to integrate digital technology into their lives. Connected devices, social media, e-commerce, online payments and digital advertising are now firmly woven into the fabric of society. Looking ahead, China’s digital ecosystem will only expand, with emerging innovations like robotics, virtual reality and machine learning creating further disruption to consumers’ habits and behaviors,” said Vishal Bali, Managing Director of Nielsen China.

China’s digital revolution will accelerate, further disrupting consumption habits.

New digital innovations have begun to emerge that will further transform consumption in China. What’s Next for China’s Connected Consumers shows how existing digital trends will intensify as more rural households come online over the next 10 years. At the same time, machine learning, robotics, virtual and augmented reality, frictionless payments and big data and analytics are poised for mass adoption. These developments will cause further disruption to consumers’ habits and behaviors.

Nielsen’s white paper shows a future where robotics, drones and autonomous vehicles will shrink delivery times and unlock new consumer markets, allowing brands to grow faster than ever before. Meanwhile, VR will create new routes for engagement, helping marketers make deeper and longer-lasting connections.

“As China’s digital economy accelerates, marketers face myriad options to engage consumers. But, as audiences fragment and the path to purchase explodes, digital returns will become even harder to achieve. Brand owners will need a new approach if they are to engage China’s growing wave of connected consumers. Measurement and real-time optimization has become a new force in marketing to Chinese consumers,” explained Bali.

Winning in connected China: a three-point plan for success  

While China’s digital revolution offers brand owners significant opportunities, it also creates significant challenges. By collaborating with JD.com and analyzing real consumer shopping data in a specific homecare category, Nielsen found consumers now often face more than 10,000 possible online paths to purchase.

Nielsen’s report sets out a three-point plan for success in an omnichannel world. It shows that by analyzing more accurately, targeting across platforms and optimizing in real-time, brands will be able to reach the right people, in the right place, with the right message. Measurement has become fundamental to achieving true digital ROI. 

What’s Next for China’s Connected Consumers shows demographics have a big influence on advertising and media preferences. The report shows 65% of digital advertising impressions seen by women are on mobile. Conversely, 62% of digital advertising impressions seen by men are on PC.  

At the same time, Nielsen reveals women aged 25 to 29, with low-to-mid income, and without children, prefer historical dramas. But women aged 25 to 34, with high income, and without children, prefer reality shows. Marketers need to understand these differences if they are to successfully build awareness among their target audiences and drive sales.

The white paper also shows that Chinese households have an average of four internet-enabled devices. To reach consumers in the right place, marketers need tools to evaluate channel effectiveness and optimize across platforms and devices. For example, when a brand owner only invested in PC advertising or smartphone advertising, sales increased by 0.6% and 5.5% respectively. But when it targeted both devices, sales increased by 7.1%.

Likewise, brands owners only have a few seconds to engage today’s buyers. Nielsen research shows that 52% of consumers prefer advertising that runs for less than 15 seconds. In comparison, just 11% prefer ads that are 30 seconds or longer. To reach consumers with the right message, brands need to understand how consumers react and engage with content in real-time.

 “Against a backdrop of digitalization in China, consumers are becoming increasingly comfortable with digital advertising. Executed well, it can help uplift brand awareness and sales. But many brand owners are failing to harness the right measurement solutions to evaluate which investments deliver the best ROI and which are wasted. Without this, communication activity will remain ad hoc and brand owners will fail to realize the full potential of China’s digital revolution,” concluded Bali.

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