The Oban Blog

Shanghai Pudong waterfront

The global digital marketing weekly: Friday 16 January 2015

In this week’s edition of Oban’s regular summary of the international digital marketing news that affects your bottom line: China’s 2014 performance headlined and critiqued; why tablet PCs aren’t as popular in South Korea; Spain feels the effects of the Google News exit; Russia’s major media outlets detailed; and tips for breaking into China.

China year-end figures and a warning of false prosperity

In a series of reports over at, we have year-end figures that reveal the impressive scale of spending in the Chinese market – and a caution that sometimes, the impressive figures include unusually high volumes of consumers simply swept up in the hysteria. First up, news that November 2014’s total retail sales reached 2,347.5 billion yuan ($381.7 billion US dollars). This November figure, inclusive of the period in which the Double 11 (“Single’s Day”) event falls, means growth of 11.7% year on year.

This contributes to a year-end ecommerce estimation of over 12 trillion yuan ($1.95 trillion US dollars), an increase of 20% YoY. Infrastructure is driving revenue, with 70 million households served by fiber-optic networks, 90 million 4G subscribers and 38.9% of all connections 8 meg and over.

Nonetheless, notes that these figures are undermined somewhat by the large scale refunds that follow in the wake of major sales events. They report that for some top brands, Double 11 saw refund rates (by sales value) climb as high as 64%.

emarketer South Korea tablet graph

South Korea remains slow market for tablets

Tablet PCs are now firmly entrenched as a popular consumer device, their presence being factored into every competent modern-web build and regularly catered for by bespoke ads. Their popularity isn’t absolute around the world, however – eMarketer’s look at tablet ownership in Asia-Pacific notes that while over 45% of the Australian population use a tablet at least once a month, just 22.1% of South Koreans do the same. Its neighbours are similarly unenthusiastic – research suggests that 24.1% of Chinese users and 23.3% of Japanese users have tablets.

One of the key reasons for this is the popularity of the phablet in Korea and other Asian markets. These devices hit a sweet-spot for functionality that isn’t quite as well understood in the west – it has been suggested that the average consumer in Asia is likely to have a longer commute so the appeal of a full range of large-screen apps without the need to have a second device is greater.

Google Espana offices

An analysis of the impact of Google News’ exit from Spain

Last year, the Spanish government implemented what was reported as a “Google Tax” asking the search giant to pay for aggregating news results via Google News. The argument was that by taking the information for free, Google was breaching copyright law – though in practice, critics pointed out that the newspapers were the ones likely to gain the most from the long-entrenched feature. As many predicted, the law resulted not in Google’s compliance, but its removal of Google News in Spain – likely to demonstrate the benefit it’s bringing to the industry via the feature.

While Spain’s news publishers demand that their government forces Google to reopen Google News so that they can earn some money off of it (yes, really), has decided to analyse the impact of Google News’ exit.

Estimating that 3% of all visits to Newspapers came via Google News prior to the shutdown – a substantial volume, when total visits are measured in hundreds of millions per month – the article names some of the biggest losers. may have lost as many as 800k visits a month, 7.72% of its search traffic. A general downward decrease in traffic from organic search in the last four to six months has simultaneously been witnessed.

Russia’s largest media outlets in 2014 has an article revealing Russia’s most popular TV channels, radio stations, online media, newspapers and magazines. Compiling stats from TNS Russia and, the article is an interesting starting place for any business looking at a wider marketing picture in a nation where online is not yet dominant – TV advertising still retains the highest reach. Unsurprisingly, the biggest online properties are Yandex, and VK.

Shanghai garden portal

Breaking into China

A mixture of beginner basics (popular sites and headline figures) mixed in with some interesting insight from marketers with first-hand experience of doing business in China, Econsultancy have a guide to marketing in China that is certainly worth taking a closer look at. A sample of key points include:

– Targeting the younger consumers of China’s second to sixth tier cities may be considerably more successful than rushing straight into the crowded markets of Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Shenzhen
– Just as a site like Taobao looks far too cluttered to western eyes, a site like Amazon looks far too empty to Chinese consumers
– There is currently no market for middle-tier brands in China – go ‘luxury’ rather than ‘aspirational’
– Ecommerce itself is a leisure activity in China – receiving goods via mail is seen as far more of a treat

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Image credits

‘Shanghai Nights’ photo by Flickr user SF Brit

‘En Google’ photo by Flickr user Enrique Dans

‘DSC01153’ photo by Flickr user Lyn Gateley

All other images reproduced from articles linked in text.