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Mobile Phones Aren't Always the First Choice in Urban China

City dwellers split online time among tablets, PCs and phones

March 6, 2017 | Advertising & Marketing | Mobile

Mobile phones increasingly dominate the online landscape of modern China. One recent government study noted that more than 95% of internet users in China used a mobile device to access the internet in 2016. But mobile phones aren’t always the first device consumers grab in China, and users in urban and rural areas often demonstrate key differences in their usage habits. In fact, the country’s urban consumers tend to split their online time among mobile phones, desktop PCs, laptops and tablets.

Urban Consumers in China Who Accessed the Internet via Desktop/Laptop, Mobile Phone and Tablet, Dec 2016 (% of respondents)

A December 2016 study from CTR Market Research noted that while mobile phones were still the preferred internet access device for urban consumers in China, other means of access were not far behind. More than 53% of urban consumers in China used a desktop or laptop to access the internet. A much smaller percentage, 16.8%, used a tablet.

A July 2016 survey by CTR Market Research demonstrated that the device of choice among urban internet users in China was highly dependent on the time of day and environment. For example, 27.2% of respondents defaulted to their desktop or laptop during breaks at the office, compared with just 23.0% who went for a mobile phone. Tablets came in a close second (31.0%) to mobile devices (34.6%) when those polled were relaxing in their living room.

Devices Used by Internet Users in China to Access the Internet, 2015 & 2016 (% of respondents)

Earlier research from the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) found that interest in devices like tablets and connected TVs was stable or increasing. For example, 25.0% of internet users in China said they used a connected TV to access the web in 2016, up more than 7 percentage points from the 17.9% who did so in 2015.

The temptation for marketers interested in China is to focus most of their digital attention and advertising on mobile activity. However, as these results suggest, there’s still plenty of marketing opportunities to reach urban consumers using other digital devices as well.

Jeremy Kressmann

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