It is well known that Hong Kong has been a shopper’s paradise. There is no local sales tax, and with the exception of liquor, tobacco and gasoline, everything is also free of duty (tax). Year on year growth of retail sales in Hong Kong averaged 9.82 percent from 2005 until 2014, reaching an all-time high of 35.8 percent in February 2010.
The availability of low-cost internet access and Hongkongers’ love of their mobile phones have led to Internet shopping becoming the new consumer pastime. Consider EZTABLE, a Taiwanese restaurant reservation service that allows people to make reservations online via its website. To drive more downloads of its mobile app, it placed mobile app ads on Facebook targeting smartphone users in Taiwan. The strategy paid off with a 9-fold increase in mobile revenue in one year on the back of 700,000 app downloads.
But it’s not just the discount which attracts bargain hunters. It is also the convenience of being able to shop at any time, especially with consumers facing increasingly hectic lifestyles. Consumers’ rising sophistication, with increased exposure to international brands, also see them turning to the Internet to purchase these products when they are not available in Hong Kong.
Thus, marketers are recognizing the opportunities and threats and are responding to the change, shifting budgets around to accommodate digital media.
With the holiday season just around the corner, and retailers stocked and prepared to greet the shopping bonanza of the year, Hong Kong retailers are expanding their marketing campaigns to include a multi-channel strategy.
Traditional print and TV advertising campaigns are being supplemented with digital media, allowing marketers to be able to reach out to specific target groups of customers. A TNS survey, commissioned by Facebook, this year revealed that social media users spend 8 percent more time on social media and less time on TV (-15 percent) or reading magazines (-21 percent).
The same survey also reveals a shift towards consuming content on mobile devices, attributable in part due to Hong Kong’s mobile penetration of 237 percent – one of the highest in the world. It also implies that Hong Kong consumers are now a moving target.
Another study, a Nielsen 2014 survey, which identified the top three items that consumers will shop and purchase online for the next six months, suggests that consumers are going online to make purchasing decisions, rather than for research purposes only. The categories include airline tickets, hotel reservations and event tickets.
For marketers, the proliferation of mobile has evolved into a story about video powered by mobile to drive higher efficiency through enhanced discovery, personalization and ROI. Advertisers are turning to video as a primary call-to-action to engage with customers in an authentic, more personal way. Platforms like Facebook offer retailers a means to engage consumers throughout the customer lifecycle. By regularly connecting with customers, marketers can achieve their marketing goals while reinforcing their brand message.
Nike Hong Kong took this route when it wanted to associate the brand with the global soccer movement and target Hong Kong football fans by engaging in a highly targeted video promotional campaign on Facebook using mobile. Nike launched its Risk Everything soccer campaign in Hong Kong, and used Facebook to reach 2.4 million Hongkongers with an internet connection in just one day.
Why video? For one thing, people retain more with a combined visual and auditory message according to a Forrester Study. Video is now more searchable by search engines and has a higher potential to be shared and go viral.
The TNS survey highlights the business opportunities of a combined video-mobile on social media. Up to 40 percent of Facebook users have discovered a new brand, product, service or destination on Facebook. More than 58 percent of Hongkongers on Facebook have watched videos on Facebook; 42 percent have posted videos or links to videos. An independent survey by Internet Retailer revealed that 52 percent of consumers say that watching product videos makes them more confident in their online purchase decisions.
Hong Kong has one of the longest shopping seasons in the world typically from Christmas to Chinese New Year. The holiday season has two benefits to retailers – it is an opportunity to cash in on the traditional gift-giving frenzy offline or online; and also an opportunity to capture brand loyalty particularly for Hongkongers in love with their mobile devices. It is certain that video on mobile will be a significant medium for capturing the festive spirit and beyond.
Nicole Chou is e-commerce head for Facebook in Hong Kong.
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