SHANGHAI/BRUSSELS: Nearly half (48%) of marketers in China believe mobile is poised to become a cross-purpose marketing and sales channel, according to a new survey from the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA).

Working with Shanghai-based CollabCentral Consulting, the WFA polled 20 major marketers in China that represent brands with a collective global marketing budget of about $30bn.

Although four-fifths (82%) said they currently focus on using mobile as a brand awareness channel, instead of ecommerce or driving offline sales, only 26% expected mobile to continue to be used solely for awareness in a year's time.

"Clear vision leads to action and this shift in recent months amongst the marketing community of China to leverage mobile as a business driver, beyond marketing and communication, is a great signal to start acting upon," said Nishta Mehta, founder of CollabCentral Consulting.

With marketers increasingly giving thought as to how best to leverage online to offline (O2O) sales, the survey respondents pointed to a number of barriers standing in their way, including insufficient technical know-how.

Roughly a third (32%) described themselves as "low" in terms of O2O technical sophistication while more than half (52%) said their skills were at a "mid" level.

Almost three-quarters (74%) identified a lack of integration between departments as a key barrier while 68% cited the failure of some retailers to integrate mobile technology into the offline world.

"Closer and faster collaboration between retailers, marketers and companies such as Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent is needed," advised Matt Green, WFA's senior global marketing manager.

In another key finding, the study revealed that Chinese marketers are increasingly using popular mobile messaging apps in their campaigns.

Their use of apps like WeChat has grown 305% since 2014 while 85% have used mobile messaging as their key marketing communication platform over the past 12 months, up from just 21% in 2014.

Data sourced from World Federation of Advertisers; additional content by Warc staff