Hong Kong retailers have been encouraged to use online social media to lure more visitors from the mainland's second- and third-tier cities.
The advice is taken from the latest Mainland Chinese Visitor study by Nielsen, a leading global marketing consultancy.
Released yesterday, the Nielsen survey found that the number of visitors from places other than the three tier-one cities - Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou - had increased by 43 per cent last year, compared with 2010.
They made up about two-thirds of the 8.88 million mainland visitors who stayed at least one night last year, and each spent an average of HK$22,000 per visit - roughly 61 per cent of the amount spent by those from tier-one cities.
Nielsen's study also found that shopping remained the main reason for mainlanders to visit Hong Kong, with 90 per cent of survey respondents citing it.
Visitors from top-tier cities valued a retailer's reputation and trustworthiness, while those from other cities placed more emphasis on customer service, price and promotions.
Like their counterparts from tier-one cities, those from second- and third-tier cities also rely heavily on word of mouth as their main source of information, especially online.
Nielsen Hong Kong managing director Oliver Rust said: "With the speed of urbanisation in mainland China, the number of visitors from non-tier-one cities will increase significantly.
"It is important to target your communication strategies, messages and platforms to best capture these opportunities, with social media such as Weibo and Renren and search engines like Baidu being key touch-points for visitors prior to their trip."
Despite the dim economic outlook, Nielsen said there were signs of opportunities for retail businesses to achieve growth.