Jenny Chan 陳詠欣
Sep 13, 2017

At work versus at play, Hongkongers are different animals, digitally speaking

Google-sponsored research revealed disparities between perception and practice among both consumers and corporations.

At work versus at play, Hongkongers are different animals, digitally speaking

It is critical for marketers to understand that individuals at work in Hong Kong exhibit a conservative attitude, but become more open once the workplace has been left behind for the day, according to a report by Google Hong Kong and Nielsen that looks at the state of the city's digitisation.

For both environments, appropriate marketing strategies should be used, both based on building trust, according to the report. Digital campaigns targeting the workplace should centre on safety and security, while those for non-work environments should emphasise the convenient and fun aspects of digital utilisation. Once this dichotomy in attitude is grasped, marketers will have more success in building up consumer engagement levels, according to the whitepaper's recommendations.

The aim of the report from Google Hong Kong and Nielsen is to explore opportunities to accelerate the city’s digitisation. The report includes analyses of four key business verticals: retail, travel, finance and living, which collectively contribute almost half of Hong Kong’s GDP. 

The whitepaper revealed disparities between perception and practice among both consumers and corporations.

Hong Kong consumers are not as digitally savvy as they think they are, as they have largely used digital channels for communication, free entertainment and information searches. The whitepaper defined higher levels of digital savviness to include activities such as online collaboration, mobile banking, e-business, and VR or AR immersive experiences. More advanced smartphone users in Hong Kong do stuff like book travel, utilise translation tools, order food, transfer money, or integrate wearables and fitness gadgets with their devices.

For corporations, despite Hong Kong’s standing as an international business and financial hub, when it comes to online presence and technology adoption, they lag behind their counterparts in Asia. Most brands are currently spending on digital marketing, website and content development, e-commerce, and CRM. But these investments represent just digital basics, according to the whitepaper. More forward-looking investments are in machine learning and big data analysis, as well as improvements in user trust and UI, considered by Google to be essential for brands to boost their digital capabilities.

Why? In a similar explanation put forward by HKDMA and PwC last week, Hong Kong has a corporate culture in which trust and conservatism dictate behaviour. Often, in such a conservative culture, dynamic change and transformation might be met with skepticism, caution and a “wait and see” attitude. In fact, Hong Kong's reliance on the financial and real estate industries focuses on transactions rather than innovation.

"Consumers adopt new technologies and move faster than many CEOs," pointed out Ricky Wong, chairman of HKTV and HKTVmall, who was quoted in the whitepaper.

Key takeaways for the travel and finance verticals:


  • Travel agents are no longer the main factors in the purchase process, and consequently, prices have dropped yielding reduced margins. In response, hotels and airlines must differentiate themselves from aggregators who bundle air, hotel, cars, and other services.
  • Today, nearly every traveler utilizes online research to save time, cost, and hassle. Online research also places the power and control of choice, planning and purchasing into the hands of the consumer. Higher levels of digital engagement translates into proactive travel support. When a traveler arrives at their destination, pop-up recommendations for destinations of interest will drive further interest and action. If a traveler arrives at a restaurant, food reviews can be delivered to help tired travelers order quickly. Ultimately, smarter travel brands will deploy 'intimate personal assistants' to help travelers.
  • Different behavior and results from computer versus smartphone users is mainly due to user-interface friendliness. There is much higher conversion rate (94%) when consumers are booking via computers, as compared to smartphones (59 percent).
  • However, that is contradictory to the high usage and time spent on smartphones. Brands in the travel sector must capture the missed opportunities on mobile with easy-to-use UI that will translate into better conversion rates.


  • As the financial capital of Asia, Hong Kong should be leading in finance-related digital integration, however, the slow adoption rates of mobile banking is holding up progress. Hong Kong’s population hold banks and banking in high regard (and most have bank accounts), so there is plenty of opportunity ahead. To improve utilisation, banks can better educate and promote the conveniences and security of the mobile banking experience. For example, insurance claims for car accidents backed by on-site smartphone pictures with embedded geolocation can breath new life into the industry.
  • To build trust with Hong Kong customers, a well-executed, simple and straightforward UI focused on delivering a safe and secure user experience, bolstered with transparency of personal information usage is advised.
Campaign China

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