Upwardly mobile: Alibaba to gobble up 50 per cent of mobile internet ad spending in China, again

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 March, 2016, 4:55pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 March, 2016, 8:37pm

E-commerce powerhouse Alibaba Group is forecast to corner the largest share of mobile internet advertising spending in mainland China for the second consecutive year, pulling ahead of online search giant Baidu.

That new milestone would further underpin the aggressive shift of China’s advertising market to digital and mobile platforms from traditional media, according to research firm eMarketer.

It predicted total digital and mobile advertising expenditure in China will grow 30 per cent to US$40.42 billion this year, up from US$31.09 billion last year, despite the lingering economic slowdown.

That would make up more than half of the estimated overall media spending of US$78.35 billion on the mainland this year, advancing 13 per cent from US$69.33 billion last year.

“This is driven by a growing share of young internet-savvy consumers who are spending more than the older generation,” eMarketer forecasting analyst Shelleen Shum said.

“The slower economic growth [on the mainland] has also caused advertisers to look more closely at ad budgets, with some preferring to spend more on targeted digital formats.”

Data from eMarketer showed that total television advertising spending this year is projected to decline 3.51 per cent to US$18.92 billion, down from US$19.61 billion last year.

READ MORE: Alibaba knocks Baidu off top spot following aggressive expansion into mobile advertising

Total expenditure on print campaigns, covering both newspapers and magazines, is expected to remain essentially flat at US$5.50 billion, compared with last year’s US$5.96 billion.

Shum pointed out that consumer media habits in mainland China have increasingly shifted toward mobile, which is where digital advertising campaigns are expected to see steady growth.

New York-traded Alibaba has a big advantage in capturing more mobile advertising spending since it operates the largest business-to-consumer and consumer-to-consumer online shopping platforms in the country.

Alibaba is expected to see a 54.82 per cent increase in mobile internet advertising revenue to US$9.15 billion, up from US$5.91 billion last year, according to eMarketer.

READ MORE: Digital and mobile advertising budgets in Hong Kong tipped to hit record high this year

In a report, BNP Paribas analyst Ling Vey-sern said Alibaba’s position as “the top online destination for buyers and sellers in China” was supported by its “rich ecosystem of payment, financing and

marketing solutions”.

Alibaba said its number of annual active buyers reached a record 407 million at the end of December.

Shum said mobile video will likely be a significant growth driver for advertising this year, accounting for an estimated US$3.09 billion of the overall market.

That is a trend favouring Alibaba after its US$3.67 billion deal in November to take over Youku Tudou, the leading online video service in China.

Baidu is estimated to post a 55 per cent rise in mobile internet advertising revenue this year, taking the total to US$7.09 billion from US$4.57 billion last year.

Tencent Holdings, operator of popular mobile-messaging service WeChat, is projected to record a 93 per cent gain in mobile internet advertising sales to US$2.76 billion, from last year’s US$1.43 billion.

Shum estimated that Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent combined would corner about 73 per cent of mainland China’s mobile internet advertising market this year.

The number of people who access the internet through mobile devices on the mainland soared past 620 million as of December 31, according to the China Internet Network Information Centre.

In December, Alibaba agreed to buy the South China Morning Post and all other media assets from the SCMP Group.