NEWS3 March 2010

Online sampling ‘increasingly viable’ in China, study suggests

Asia Pacific Features News

CHINA— A study comparing results of online and CATI surveys in China has concluded that online is an ‘increasingly viable’ sampling method despite the country’s relatively low internet penetration rate.

The survey, conducted by sample provider SSI and research agency Ipsos, used online and CATI methodologies to look at aided and unaided brand awareness, brand usage and purchase intent across five product categories.

Differences between results from the two methods were mostly confined to questions on unaided brand awareness – an area where telephone studies typically record higher levels of awareness because the interviewer can keep prompting the respondent to name more brands.

Smaller differences were found in the results for brand usage and purchase intent for financial services and automobiles (products that China’s relatively affluent online population are more likely to buy or be aware of), but SSI said these differences were slim enough and consistent enough to be accounted for.

In the beverages and daily necessities categories, the study found “almost zero difference” for aided brand awareness, brand usage and purchase intent. In the mobile and IT category, there was “almost zero difference” across all four brand attributes.

Bill Zuo (pictured), managing director of SSI North Asia, said the results confirm that online sampling is “an increasingly viable research option” in China.

“Enormous opportunities exist for market researchers in China to enjoy the cost efficiency, shorter turnaround times, and audio/video options of online research,” he said.

However, the low cost of labour in China means that the savings that can be made by switching to online are more modest than in other markets, said Zuo.

“In other countries CATI is declining a lot and people are moving to online, but in China it’s not the case,” said Zuo. “I see CATI still growing and at a relatively fast speed. A lot of research companies are trying to establish or extend their CATI capabilities. Also in 2009 the Chinese government introduced 3G connections for mobile phones, so mobile internet connections will boom this year – that’s happening already.”

Overall internet penetration continues to rise in China, and is already far higher in the biggest cities (where many companies’ target customers live) than in the country as a whole, where the penetration rate is estimated at around 27%. Zuo said: “In the long term there’s no doubt that online will be dominant, that’s for sure.”