SHANGHAI: Chinese consumers consider search a first port of call when making purchase decisions, but only 19% of search activity in the country is for brands or products, according to a new study by OMD China.

The study tracked the search behaviours of 150 Chinese searchers in depth, alongside a survey of 750 searchers in the automotive, travel and skincare categories, and found that search makes a critical difference to purchase decisions in China. (For more details, read WARC’s report: Think beyond brands for effective search advertising in China.)

In skincare, travel and auto categories, more than 30% of respondents admitted to being ‘very influenced’ and over 60% ‘quite influenced’ by search. Almost none of those surveyed considered search to be completely uninfluential.

Search is the second largest area of digital media investment behind e-commerce in China, with spend reaching around RMB 96.3bn (US$14.7bn) in 2017. But, despite the important of the medium for brands, marketers in the country are not being as strategic as they could be with search advertising, believes Bhasker Jaiswal, Managing Partner of OMD China.“Many marketers are on auto-pilot mode and because search is big, they tend to park money on it,” he said. “Also it is used inefficiently and as default, because they lack big budget for other mass media activities.”

According to Jaiswal, Chinese consumers are focused on ‘life issues’ rather than brands when they opt to search; and they already have a brand/product in mind.

And the less they know, the more Chinese search. Unlike their counterparts in Western markets, almost 90% of Chinese consumers will go beyond the first page of results. In China, consumers will go through an average 2.49 pages of results per search.

“Given that search remains a pull media, it's important to have a reality-check: only 19% of total search is for a specific brand/product. People are mostly looking for basic life necessities and topics – the bulk of the search is beyond brands,” Jaiswal revealed.

Sourced from WARC