Web habits change in China

15 July 2011

BEIJING: Consumers in China are engaging in an increasingly diverse range of digital activities, a study has shown.

Microsoft Advertising, a specialist unit of the IT giant, has assessed the emerging behaviours of web users in the world's most populous nation.

"The internet is changing how people live their lives," Hailin Deng, deputy GM, sales, at MSN China, said.

The company reported 41% of the time netizens spend online is dedicated to communications such as instant messaging and email.

Another 30% goes towards information, be it about matters of personal interest or concerning goods and services.

The same total was registered by accessing and enjoying entertainment content, such as playing games, watching video or listening to music.

Commercial activities, like making purchases and paying bills, posted 12% on the same measure, Microsoft Advertising found.

This came in ahead of the 10% recorded by creating content on "digital spaces", from entering status updates on social networks to writing blogs.

More broadly, web users are increasingly pre-planning what they plan to achieve online, rather than taking a spontaneous approach.

Overall, 84% of online minutage spent reading the news or tracking down useful information now fits this pattern.

Figures hit 80% regarding communications, 76% for gaming, streaming programming and other such tasks, and 50% for creating and uploading material like video and photos.

"We know that consumer online behaviour in China is changing," said Deng. "Seemingly, Chinese consumers are becoming more efficient online as well. Rather than random surfing, they're actually planning their online visits."

Among the additional insights uncovered by the analysis was that 37% of the Chinese panel utilise smartphones instead of laptops while looking for information on the move.

By contrast, 43% deploy laptops for communications, with smartphones on 38%, standing at 30% and 15% when it came to entertainment.

Exactly 10% of participants turned to laptops and 5% employed smartphones for creative acts, numbers reaching 13% and 4% in turn for ecommerce.

"Brands must understand their target audience's surfing habit and patterns, and realise where, how and when is the ideal time to best engage with their consumers," said Deng.

"As the research shows that transactions are not the primary motivating factor of internet usage, brands should look to avoid allocating substantial budgets towards developing content close to the point of sale."

Precise media placement and developing "owned" media for popular platforms were also important objectives, he added.

"We need to work harder and smarter to get the attention of Chinese consumers in the digital space," Deng said.

"Given this, it is crucial for advertisers to understand where and how consumers spend their time online, to ensure they get their messages across to their target audience."

Data sourced from Microsoft Advertising; additional content by Warc staff