SHANGHAI: Multinational brands are losing the loyalty of Chinese consumers as shoppers turn to local competitors, according to new research revealing the country’s top 50 brands.

Consultancy firm Prophet’s 2018 China Brand Relevance Index found that a full 60% of the country’s most beloved brands in 2018 – 30 of the top 50 slots – were home-grown Chinese brands, up from 18 Chinese brands in the top 50 just two years ago.

The research asked 13,000 Chinese consumers to rank brands, local or international, that they perceived to be innovative, practical, customer-focused and inspirational in the China market.

Mobile payments platform Alipay – with its ubiquitous presence in Chinese cities – came out in the top spot, reflecting the rapid uptake of mobile payments in China as smartphone penetration booms and the country moves away from its traditional cash-based economy.

Alipay is owned by Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant, which has branched into other areas of China’s fast-growing digital economy.

While international brands have long-held ‘status’ in China’s biggest cities, this is beginning to change. Chinese consumers are now less motivated by price, with more Chinese brands moving up the ranking based on their product innovation.

After Alipay, the top ten brands for 2018 were mobile phone platform Android, Chinese utility app WeChat, Chinese telecom brand Huawei, computer brand Microsoft, Chinese e-commerce platform Taobao, tech company Intel, Chinese food delivery service Meituan and Chinese instant messenger QQ. Rounding out the top ten was Tmall, another Alibaba platform focused on cross-border e-commerce.

“Consumers are getting more sophisticated,” said Benoit Garbe, a Prophet senior partner in Shanghai, in comments reported by Bloomberg. “We are seeing local brands – the good ones – popping up as more relevant.”

Some well-known international brands toppled from the top ten in the most recent rankings, with Nike dropping to 44th place and automotive giant BMW to 46th place.

Estee Lauder remained the most powerful brand in China’s cosmetics market, but dropped to 22nd place, while Swedish retailer Ikea, which was fourth on last year’s list, didn’t make it to the top 30 this year.

For more on Prophet’s insights into the competitive Chinese market, read WARC’s report from last year’s Mumbrella360 conference: Three golden rules to crack China’s consumer culture.

Sourced from Prophet, Bloomberg; additional content by WARC staff