Traditional Banks Are Catching Up To Third-Party Payment Platforms In China

This is the second year that Forrester has evaluated the mobile banking services in China, and we’ve just published the results in our 2016 China Mobile Banking Functionality Benchmark report. Compared with last year, we found that incumbent banks are close on the heels of top performer Alipay. Mobile banking teams can use these findings to benchmark their own mobile banking capabilities and identify areas for improvement.

To help mobile banking teams benchmark their mobile banking capabilities, identify critical mobile features, and plan for the future, we used our updated Mobile Banking Functionality Benchmark methodology to evaluate the mobile banking services of six of the largest retail banks in China, including five traditional banks — Agricultural Bank of China (ABC), Bank of China (BOC), China Construction Bank (CCB), China Merchants Bank (CMB), and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) — and one nontraditional bank: Alipay.

The Chinese mobile banking services we reviewed achieved an average score of 59 out of 100, an improvement over last year's 55. Leading traditional banks like CMB and ICBC have made many improvements over the past year and narrowed the gap with leader Alipay. Overall, we found that:

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How Are Airlines Embracing Mobile Moments?

Mobile is changing travelers’ behaviors and expectations worldwide, making mobile moments the next battleground for airlines. My Brief: Airlines Must Embrace Mobile Moments To Differentiate tells B2C marketing professionals managing airline brands how to better address airline travelers in their most relevant mobile moments.

Nobody is more mobile than an airline traveler — from buying a ticket to managing the in-transit and on-board experience to sharing that experience, mobile is an active touchpoint throughout the entire customer life cycle. Have airlines mastered all of these mobile moments? The answer is often “No” — there are still mobile moments that key airlines seldom cover (see figure).

Specifically:

  • Most airlines focus on mastering mobile moments at the buy and use stages. Smart airlines strive to provide convenient, time-saving measures that are better than those of online travel agencies (OTAs) and other airlines, such as “upgrade at the boarding gate” feature in its mobile app.
  • Some airlines serve mobile customers well at the discover and ask stages. Smart airlines help prospects and customers discover promotions beyond air tickets and travel packages, such as cross-border shopping, through multiple mobile channels.
  • Few airlines master mobile moments at the explore and engage stages. Compared with OTAs, airlines put forth far less effort creating mobile moments at the explore stage, whereas product comparisons and customer reviews are common features for OTAs.
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Decoding The Programmatic Media Buying Ecosystem In The World’s Largest Digital Market

Digital media buying is changing dramatically all over the world — traditional buying models have been displaced by new programmatic buying models. China, the world’s largest and fastest-growing digital market, started later in programmatic buying, but is catching up quickly. However, China’s ecosystem is less mature, with hundreds of players competing fiercely in different sectors. My latest report, The World’s Largest Digital Market Goes Programmatic, provides an overview of the landscape and key features of the programmatic buying market in China.

Programmatic buying is gaining momentum in China because:

  • Chinese consumers are addicted to online media. Metro Chinese online adults already spend more time on online media than offline.
  • Spending on online display ads is increasing rapidly. As a result of skyrocketing online media consumption, China is now the second-largest online advertising market in the world. Metro Chinese online adults are also more open to online display ads than online adults in the US.
  • Advertisers are eager to improve buying effectiveness. China’s digital advertising market is more fragmented than those in Western countries, and it’s more challenging for Chinese marketers to achieve a positive return on their digital investments.
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Benchmarking Social Marketing Efforts In China In 2015

The Chinese social media landscape is unique and evolving rapidly. Since the publication of our first report on benchmarking social marketing in China, marketers have continued to invest in social marketing. My latest report, Benchmarking Social Marketing Efforts In China In 2015, tells how their social marketing efforts now stack up against the competition.

The key findings are:

  • WeChat is marketers’ social darling; LinkedIn is stepping into a market dominated by local players. WeChat has replaced Weibo and dominates both marketers’ adoption and satisfaction: A whopping 92% of the marketers we surveyed use WeChat, and two-thirds report being satisfied or very satisfied with it. And for the first time, a Western social platform is gaining popularity in China; LinkedIn has become an essential platform for social marketers there.
  • Effort and satisfaction vary among four types of social tactics and platforms. Based on marketers’ adoption and satisfaction ratings, we have categorized the social tactics and platforms into four groups: essential, optional, undervalued, and overvalued (see the figure). Focus your efforts on essential ones, such as WeChat, and undervalued ones, such as placing ads in online communities.
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Smart Banks Tap Into Customers' Mobile Moments

Mobile banking continues to gather momentum worldwide and is also developing rapidly in China. Nearly half of metro Chinese consumers pay bills at least monthly on a mobile phone. While consumers are rapidly embracing mobile moments, most banks have yet to follow them. My recent published Brief: Smart Banks Tap Into Customers’ Mobile Moments tells B2C marketing professionals working at banks how to better address customers in their most relevant mobile moments throughout the customer journey.

Forrester sees the following key trends in China:

  • Banks are embracing mobile channels to serve mobile-mind-shifted customers. Top retail banks, including China Construction Bank and China Merchants Bank, have already adopted a mobile-first strategy.
  • Bank customers’ mobile moments occur throughout the customer journey . . . Leading digital banking teams are addressing customer needs in mobile moments throughout the customer life cycle across a range of mobile platforms, including WeChat.
  •   . . . but most banks don’t always serve customers in all moments. Most banks’ mobile presence primarily focuses on the buy, use, and ask stages and less on the discover, explore, and engage stages (see figure).
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Half Of Metropolitan Chinese Online Consumers Are Social Stars, But How Can You Reach Them?

Marketers in China are increasingly investing in social marketing: Three-quarters of the marketers we surveyed in 2015 plan to increase their social marketing budget in 2016. However, they struggle to determine the best social marketing strategies and tactics to engage with their target audience. My report, Take Three Steps Toward Social Success, introduces Forrester’s Social Technographics® model to help them.

  • Step 1: Use the Social Technographics Score to evaluate how important social media is to your marketing plan. Based on how much social media matters to consumers’ interactions with companies (from high to low), your audience falls into one of four groups: Social Stars, Social Savvies, Social Snackers, and Social Skippers. As the majority of metro Chinese consumers are Social Stars or Social Savvies, social marketing is an urgent priority for marketers in China.
  • Step 2: Use the Social Technographics Life-Cycle Rankings to craft the right social strategy. These reveal the stages of the customer life cycle — discover, explore, buy, use, ask, or engage — in which your customers are most likely to use social media. Metro Chinese consumers use social media the most when they’re considering products. So to succeed, marketers in China should leverage social marketing more in the explore stage of the customer life cycle.
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Alipay Tops Forrester’s Review Of Chinese Banks' Mobile Services

Mobile banking is gaining momentum all over the world, and China is no exception. In August 2015, for the first time, Forrester evaluated the mobile banking offerings of five of China’s largest retail banks plus Alipay; we’ve just published the results in our 2015 China Mobile Banking Functionality Benchmark report.

To help mobile banking teams benchmark their mobile banking capabilities, identify critical mobile features, and plan for the future, we used our Mobile Banking Functionality Benchmark methodology to evaluate the mobile banking services of six of the largest retail banks in China, including five traditional banks — Agricultural Bank of China (ABC), Bank of China (BOC), China Construction Bank (CCB), China Merchants Bank (CMB), and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) — and one nontraditional bank: Alipay.

The Chinese mobile banking services we reviewed achieved an average score of 55 out of 100; while this is slightly better than banks in Singapore and the UK, many Chinese banks still lag behind their peers in Australia, Europe, and North America. The headlines:

  • Alipay outperforms the five traditional banks. Alipay started as a third-party online payment platform but now fulfills the same functions as a bank. The only nontraditional bank in our review, Alipay not only earned the best overall score of 67, but also scored highest in four of the seven categories in our benchmark: account and money management, transactional features, service features, and marketing and sales. Alipay excels with many mobile features that none of the major traditional banks currently provide. For example, it allows customers to easily find a past transaction using sorting, filtering, and natural language keyword search.
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Join Forrester's 2015 China Social Marketing Online Survey

Forrester’s 2015 online survey for social marketing in China is now open. If you’re a marketing leader who is involved in social marketing in China, please take this opportunity to provide your perspective.

Based on the survey results, we will update the Benchmarking Social Marketing Efforts In China report published in November 2013. The updated report will help marketers check if their social marketing efforts are keeping pace with those of their peers.

Why is your input important? This survey will help us:

  • Understand your key focuses in social marketing. Marketing leaders in China put a lot of faith in social marketing and adopt various social platforms and tactics. This data will help you benchmark your key focus for social marketing.
  • Outline your pain points in achieving your social marketing goals. Marketing leaders in China are increasingly investing in social media and expect positive returns, but face internal and external challenges to achieving their business goals.

We will use the results to help marketing leaders in China:

  • Understand key trends to prioritize social marketing efforts. We will highlight the most important social platforms and tactics that you need to focus on and help you prioritize your social marketing efforts effectively.
  • Overcome key social marketing challenges. We will analyze the main challenges that social marketers face in China and help you plan and evaluate your social marketing strategies better.
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A Successful Case Of Positive Social Marketing ROI

Marketing leaders face the challenge of achieving a positive ROI —in fact, it is the top challenge for the digital marketers we surveyed in China earlier this year. Fortunately, a few marketers have managed to achieve this, and Spring Airlines is one of them. My recently published report, Case Study: Spring Airlines' Digital Business Takes Off With Social Marketing, tells its success story. From it, B2C marketers can learn how to achieve positive returns on their investments in social marketing initiatives and support their transition to a digital business.

As a private airline and the first budget carrier in China, Spring Airlines is performing well despite fierce competition from much larger state-owned competitors with more resources. Since the airline’s launch a decade ago, Spring’s B2C marketing professionals have focused on making the airline's business operations as digital as possible in order to:

  • Keep operating costs low.Unlike its main competitors, Spring receives no financial support from the government. To keep operating costs low, Spring bypasses travel agents, selling tickets exclusively via its official website and some designated ticket offices.
  • Support its challenger status and catalyze customer obsession. To compensate for its smaller scale and resources, Spring successfully differentiated its brand as an early adopter of digital, mobile, and social and built an extremely close relationship with its customers.
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Digital Marketers Are Increasingly Taking Responsibility For eCommerce Initiatives In China

In my previous report, Overcome Top Digital Challenges In 2015, we found that digital marketers’ top challenge is meeting increased pressure to deliver business outcomes. In fact, they’re gradually taking on more responsibilities directly related to business outcomes, such as eCommerce. My latest brief, Digital Marketers Are Embracing eCommerce, And China Is Leading The Way, helps B2C marketers understand this emerging trend and embrace the opportunity to deliver consistent digital experiences to customers.

One-third of the digital marketers in China who responded to our survey indicated that eCommerce is one of their job responsibilities (see the figure). Forrester sees this trend developing in China as well as in Western markets. For example, in the US, Gap redesigned its global CMO role by merging eCommerce and digital marketing in a single executive position earlier this year.

However, the fusion of digital marketing and eCommerce teams is happening more extensively in China because:

  • Social and commerce are more closely intertwined in China than anywhere else. The bond between social media and eCommerce is extremely close in China, exemplified by the strategic partnerships between WeChat and JD.com and between Alibaba and Weibo.
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