Consumers in China are gradually getting away from their computers and starting to become more easily targetable via mobile devices. Chinese marketers and businesses are now beginning to lay siege to these mobile users…with SMS.

Mobile Marketing in China Thriving Mainly on SMS

Marketing experts in China reckon that mobile is the best channel for creating
dialogue between a brand and its consumers, and a good number of Chinese
companies see mobile as the best way to increase sales. These are the findings of
a study carried out by consumer and marketing information specialist Experian on a
sample of 321 companies in China across a range of sectors. However, while there
are now high expectations for mobile, making investments in this communication
and sales channel is by no means a foregone conclusion. Just 36% of China-based
businesses have to-date tried out mobile to reach customers, and a mere 16% use
mobile as a regular marketing channel. The problem is largely one of a lack of incompany
expertise, plus the difficulties of adopting a multi-channel strategy.

Mobile communication dominated by SMS and MMS

While 66% of the Chinese businesses surveyed by Experian still cited email
among the methods used to reach the consumer, fully 61% mentioned SMS and
its multimedia-enabled extension MMS. It is worth pointing out here that 98%1 of
SMS texts are in fact looked at within ten minutes of being sent, which makes them
a very reliable communication channel. What is perhaps surprising however is that
Western companies doing business in China have so far been reluctant to adopt
the SMS channel, despite its obvious popularity. Part of the problem lies in the
substantial cost of a major SMS mailing. However, with the increasingly widespread
use of smartphones, businesses are now able to use SMS for notifications and take
advantage of geolocation to tailor their messages and so reduce costs. Reservations
are fast being overcome: out of all the companies polled, only 7% did not include
mobile marketing as part of their strategy.

Barriers to high usage levels

So 36% of the businesses sampled have taken the first step into mobile marketing.
The remaining two thirds are still feeling their way, overwhelmed by the profusion of
data that needs to be handled to ensure effective communication. In fact in China the
data gathered comes from fragmented sources and is often aggregated in separate
databases which really ought to have been consolidated from the outset. But at the
moment China has a shortage of experts in data segmentation. The good news is
that 54% of the firms quizzed have this year invested more in mobile, clearly a smart
move as the 61% who do use mobile as a marketing channel can expect to garner
between 11% and 50% of their sales via this channel. M-commerce has already
made as much impact on the companies who use it throughout China as it has in
Hong Kong, where more than two thirds of all firms have invested in it. Proof positive
that the Chinese population is now truly m-connected.
1 Why SMS Marketing is Still Relevant in 2012”, Last edited 12 June 2012,

By Pierre-Marie Mateo