20 JUL. 2012

New CNNIC Report Shows Mobile Web Booming and Web Habits Becoming More Sophisticated in China

On July 19th, 2012, the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) released its latest report on web usage in the middle kingdom. Findings point towards an increasingly important role for mobile and a rise in the sophistication of web habits.

The total number of Chinese netizens has reached 538 million, 27.1% of whom are considered rural. The penetration rate of the internet access in China stands at 39.9%, a 1.6 percentage point increase from December 2011.

Without a doubt the most important figure in the report is: for the first time, the number of Chinese mobile netizens now surpasses that of desktop netizens (388 million vs. 380 million). For many Chinese people, including migrant workers and poorer populations in the countryside, mobile is the main, if not the only, point of access to the internet and offers more convenience at a lower price. This rise of the mobile web is no doubt due in large part to the introduction of low-end, locally produced smartphones that are putting a quality mobile web experience within the reach of the masses.

With regard to the profile of Chinese netizens, CNNIC’s data shows that Chinese netizens arestill concentrated in younger age groups (together the 10-19 and 20-29 age groups account for over 55% of the total) but we are seeing a gradual increase in the number of netizens beyond the age of 40. The rise of older netizens will surely be one of the major trends to watch in the years to come and will have major consequences on web content and web-based brand strategies.

With regard to usages, the 5 main usages of the web in general are instant messaging, search, music streaming, online news and blogging. Usages that have seen the biggest increase during the first half of 2012 are, in that order, online banking, payments, blogging, micro blogging and e-shopping.

On mobile, main usages are instant messaging, search, online news, music streaming and micro blogging. Usages with the strongest growth momentum are music streaming, micro-blogging, shopping, payment and video watching. The rise of mobile video is especially noteworthy with 43.9% of mobile netizens using the mobile web to watch online videos.



So what do these new figures and trends mean for brands?


Build all-mobile journeys: we have long maintained that mobile’s importance in web habits calls for brands to move it to the center of their China strategies. This new set of data confirms this assertion. Most importantly, brands must not see mobile merely as a side effort that complements their regular web presence. The use of the mobile web in China is high-engagement and for many consumers mobile is the main point of access to the web. Brands must thus start thinking in terms of mobile-only journeys.

Ecommerce and M-commerce is key: e-commerce has been one of the major stories of 2011 in China and the trend shows no sign of abating. Payment and e-commerce are consistently showed to be the web usages showing the highest growth. Most importantly, m-commerce is booming and is expected to reach $11.5 billion in 2012. Here again, brands must stop considering e-commerce as something peripheral to their strategy and acknowledge the fact that for many customer segments in many product categories, most shopping happens online.

From web presence to web content: the increasing penetration of online video (and now mobile video) is the expression of a key characteristic of Chinese web habits: Chinese netizens use the web to consumer content on a scale that is far greater than what we see in western markets. With television and print increasingly fading into irrelevance, the web is seen as the central source for all types of content (entertaining, educative etc.). This characteristic opens up new possibilities for innovative web-content that can go way beyond what is done in other markets. Brands must seize these opportunities to create and promote engaging, China-specific digital content if they want their online presence to have a real impact.

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