SHANGHAI: Coca-Cola, Samsung and Nike have emerged as the most engaging brands for Chinese users of online services, according to an ongoing study by marketing consultancy R3.

A new online campaign based around sharing helped Coca-Cola take the top spot on the rankings in the second quarter of 2013, pushing Samsung and Nike into second and third place respectively.

"Coca-Cola have built continuous learning and tracking into their digital work, and are now starting to truly integrate offline and online elements," said Bella Teng, senior researcher at R3.

R3's research covers respondents in China's top ten cities every three months, with online users aged 15-40 asked a range of questions on brands with their responses scored in terms of digital awareness and digital engagement to create an overall digital index.

"We are trying to look beyond Brand Recall and instead look to Brand Love – if a consumer has a strong engagement to a brand or media, there's a clearer linkage to purchase intent," explained Teng.

For example, while internet users were quick to recall seeing Nike online – it had a digital awareness index of 100 – they were much less likely to interact with the brand – its digital engagement index was just 57.3, giving it an overall score of 80.5.

Coca-Cola, however, scored more evenly across these metrics, with an awareness index of 85.9 and an engagement index of 100, resulting in an overall figure of 92.9.

"Coke have invested in a true 24-7 social team that is building fresh content that their target audience is sharing and getting involved with – they are a strong case study of what to do right with digital in China," stated Teng.

Lenovo and Xiaomi were the only Chinese brands to appear in R3's top ten engaging brands online. Apple, Johnson & Johnson, adidas, L'Oréal and Pepsi made up the rest, with scores ranging from 46.6 down to 39.4.

R3's study also measured consumer behaviour online and found that Chinese consumers are making on average 8.2 purchases a month via digital portals, compared to 5.2 in the US and 4.3 in the UK.

One outcome of this trend is that bricks and mortar stores are closing at an ever faster rate as businesses move online, with e-commerce site Tmall emerging as a leading location.

"The best companies already have a strong Tmall presence, but those that don't will fall behind faster than they realize," observed Teng.

Data sourced from R3; additional content by Warc staff