China represents a huge opportunity for most organizations — the nation has a population of 1.35 billion people, consumer spend has gone up progressively in the past few years, and Forrester expects 268 million Chinese consumers to buy online by 2014. And, we are committed to providing our clients with the data and analysis required to be successful in the country. In fact, as part of our Technographics product, we have been investigating the impact of technology on consumer behavior in the Asia Pacific region since 2006.1
Recently, I collaborated with my colleague Sam Yanling Jaddou on a report called “Understanding China: The Opportunities And Challenges” that will help marketing and strategy professionals understand the uniqueness of the Chinese market, as well as key consumer trends.
Some highlights from the report, which is based on a survey of more than 3,600 metropolitan Chinese consumers2:
Chinese consumers are very receptive to new trends. They not only show high interest in new technologies like cloud services, Internet-connected TV, and tablets, but the uptake of these devices is already higher in China than in the US and Europe. However, because of their relative high price, new technologies are mainly bought by high-income Chinese.
Recently, my colleague Olesia Klevchuk published a report about the behaviors of consumers in India, China, Japan, South Korea, and Australia, called 'Understanding The Changing Needs Of Online Consumers In Asia Pacific'. Forrester has been tracking consumer online behavior in Asia Pacific for six years now. In 2011, we polled Asia Pacific consumers in two separate surveys to find out about their use of the Internet for media, entertainment, shopping, communications, and social computing.
This year's Asia Pacific data shows continuous growth in the amount of time consumers spend with online media, including widespread adoption of social activities, as well as growing importance of the mobile phone. For consumers in Asia Pacific, PCs at home and high-speed Internet connections are becoming the norm.
In metropolitan China and Japan, at least nine in 10 adults have access to a computer at home, and almost eight in 10 are already online. In metropolitan India, the numbers are much lower, with only 27% regularly going online. But India is a populous country, and there are currently around 100 million online users, which puts it in third place after China and the US.
While it is no news that China leads the world’s online population, hitting 477 million users as of March 2011, it is interesting to look at the uptake of mobile Internet in urban China and see how that compares with other regions. Forrester’s Technographics® data shows that urban China is chasing Japan closely, with 43% of mobile phone users reporting they access the mobile Internet at least monthly. This number doubles that of the US (although the US number represents all Americans, rural and urban), which ranked as the third market in this study. While my gut feeling tells me that urban China’s mobile Internet adoption is comparable to that of the developed markets, this result is still striking because the smartphone market in China did not kick off officially until the end of 2009.
Just last month, China Mobile, the dominant mobile service provider with 60% national market share, announced its plan to lower rates for both calls and data plans by an average of at least 15%. And on Monday, China Daily reported that the number of China’s microbloggers was forecast to reach 100 million this year and will increase to 253 million by 2013.*
The booming popularity of microblogging in China, coupled with the fact that mobile Internet is becoming more affordable, means that urban Chinese will not forgo the convenience that mobile Internet provides. We know another wave of growth is approaching. It is just the matter of how high the wave can reach.
Q3 is always a very exciting quarter for the market research team at Forrester. Not only do we analyze, write and publish our annual State Of Consumers And Technology Benchmark report (which my colleague Jackie Anderson is very busy with at the moment), but we also start analyzing our annual reports looking specifically at consumers' online behavior. In Q3 we will first publish the US version of the document, followed by European, Asia Pacific, and LATAM versions later in the year. These reports are internally referenced as “the Deep Dive” reports, not only for the level of detail these reports contain but also because of the depth of analysis included. What really makes these reports unique is that they're similar in setup, making it possible to compare online consumer behavior across regions and within regions.
For example, our 2009 APAC Deep Dive report shows that Asia Pacific consumers are active Internet users compared with North American and European consumers but that their interests and activities varied greatly. And within Asia Pacific it's definitely not one-size-fits-all: The following graphic shows for example how the different countries vary in their uptake of media and entertainment activities: