BEIJING: Advertisers which adopt a diverse online strategy can quickly gain a "competitive edge" in China, data from McKinsey suggest.

The consultancy predicted the Chinese web population - currently 420m people - would rise to 750m by 2015, due both to increased urbanisation and rising internet usage in the countryside.

Overall PC penetration will reach 66% in metropolitan centres in five years time, compared with 30% in rural regions.

Separate surveys of 15,000 households and 5,000 adults found the net was increasingly important as an everyday tool.

"For a growing number of Chinese consumers, spending time on the internet has become an important, even routine, part of making a purchase," Yuval Atsmon, an associate principal at McKinsey, said.

"Marketers that can craft a compelling online experience for their customers, on their own websites as well as other sites that offer video sharing, social networking, online forums and industry reviews, can acquire a competitive edge in this influential and rapidly growing market."

Only one third of participants in McKinsey's survey had bought goods and services through the internet thus far, halving the US score.

Younger contributors displayed higher uptake in this area, with well educated and wealthier individuals similarly showing a greater interest.

More broadly, information obtained via the web is regarded as reliable by 55% of Chinese shoppers, a total that has grown from 25% two years ago.

"This is especially true for big-ticket items such as cars," said Vinay Dixit, senior director, McKinsey's Asia consumer center.

"About 45% of consumers in the McKinsey survey said they will conduct online research before purchasing a new automobile."

Communications specialists in the country must respond to these trends by enhancing their digital knowledge and exploiting technological advances.

"Keeping up with - and indeed, staying ahead of - the rapid changes in online behavior requires speed, flexibility, as well as new skills on the part of today's marketers in China," said Dixit.

"Successful marketers rapidly collect and synthesize consumer intelligence, coordinate their online and offline presence, and engage consumers as activists for the brand."

However, television remains the most trusted medium among those polled, and also boasts the greatest reach on 85%, declining to 24% for the web.

Data sourced from China Daily; additional content by Warc staff