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China marketers using mobile for brand building rather than e-commerce or sales, WFA study finds

WFA Eight out of 10 bluechip marketers in China are using mobile as a brand awareness tool rather than for sales or e-commerce, according to a study by World Federation of Advertisers in collaboration with CollabCentral Consulting.

The results may come as a surprise in what is the world’s fastest growing market for e-commerce.

However just over one quarter (26 per cent) said that they expect mobile to continue to be used purely to a brand awareness tool by this time next year.

Just under one half (48 per cent) said mobile is poised to become a cross-purpose marketing and sales channel.

The proportion of companies using mobile messaging apps like WeChat has risen threefold (305 per cent) since the WFA ran a similar study last year.

In 2015, 85 per cent of marketers said they have used mobile messaging as their key marketing communication platform in the past 12 months, up from 21 per cent in 2014.

Most respondents said that the most effective way to bridge the gap between online and offline to generate sales in mobile was from loyalty, gift in-store redemptions and trial coupon redemptions.

But about a third (32 per cent) said they were ‘low’ or ‘mid’ level in terms of how sophisticated and committed they are at connecting the online world to offline sales.

Almost three quarters said that a lack of integration was a barrier, and that silos needed to be broken down for online-to-offline to flourish.

The main obstacle is the readiness of retail infrastructure to integrate mobile payments or enable coupon redemption, according to 68 per cent of respondents.

Matt Green, senior global marketing manager, WFA, said: “If stores do not carry the mobile connected technology required to make O2O work, or are not sufficiently integrated with online or offline environments, then even the best O2O techniques will struggle to get off the ground. Closer and faster collaboration between the retailers, marketers and companies such as Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent is needed.”

Finding the right partners to make online-to-offline work will be a key challenge over the next 12 months, the study found.

When asked who’s best placed to help marketers to move quicker towards mobile’s integration with retail stores, 64 per cent said they need to rely on multiple partners working together; 56 per cent said they need a mobile agency or specialist.

The study was based on the responses of 20 marketers in China representing brands spending nearly $30 billion globally on marketing.

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