A 2013 study conducted on China’s consumers by AVANTI, TrendForce's research division, reveals Xiaomi to be close behind the country's two most recognizable smartphone brands--Apple and Samsung. HTC and Nokia's brand image performance, by comparison, is weakening in the country, and is gradually losing to that of China's domestic companies.
Even after shortening its gap with Samsung following the implementation of its China market strategy in 4Q13, Apple's ranking in AVANTI's "Future Purchase Consideration" category is still behind that of the Korean giant, which has managed to sustain its popularity in the Chinese regions due to the increased consumer attention towards its hardware's performance. With the help of effective brand marketing and improved sales, Xiaomi managed to beat some of its domestic rivals in 2H13, and was revealed by AVANTI's market study to be the third most popular smartphone brand in the “future purchase” category. One major issue with Xiaomi, despite its impressive brand ranking, is its relatively constrained supply chain, an impediment which allowed its smartphones to account for only 5% of the country's entire handset shipments and put it behind domestic brands such as Huawei, Coolpad, and ZTE. For the entire 2014, Xiaomi needs to find ways to improve its supply chain in order to take full advantage of its brand momentum as well as boost its overall shipment performances.
Looking at the category of "Brand Loyalty," the top three companies in China are once again Apple, Samsung, and Xiaomi. Nokia, by contrast, is in a distant fourth place. According to AVANTI's survey data, the smartphone brand that Coolpad users want to switch to the most is Samsung, whereas Xiaomi users are generally more interested in switching over to ZTE. Interestingly, even though Xiaomi is continuing to use Apple's iPhone as a model of reference, the proportion of Xiaomi users wanting to switch to Samsung is relatively higher than those who wish to change to Apple. Compared to all the other smartphone consumers, iPhone users tend to be the most loyal to their brand, as evidenced in the fact that during 4Q13, 53.4% of the surveyed Apple users in China claimed they wouldn't want to switch to any other company. Samsung has a relatively lower brand loyalty compared to Apple, whereas Xiaomi’s is observed to be decreasing on a quarterly basis.
Based on their rankings in the "Brand Image," "Future Purchase Consideration," and "Brand Loyalty" categories, it is safe to say that Apple, Samsung, and Xiaomi are all performing remarkably well within the China market. Xiaomi, in particular, is a noteworthy case given the success it has in penetrating the saturated high-end market, its ability to seize mid-end market opportunities, and the attention it gained through its smartphones’ “iPhone” similarities. In addition to its existing advantages, the company’s efforts in creating a user-centric interface and attention to its fans also helped improve its consumer popularity and brand image. In 2014, Xiaomi is expected to continue impacting the market with its low cost devices; How its brand loyalty will change, along with whether the company can properly maintain its low price and software advantage, remains to be seen.
**AVANTI’s China consumer market survey was conducted in various different Chinese regions from November 27 to December 2, 2013; A sample of 3000 Chinese consumers were studied at a confidence interval of 95% and a margin of error of +/-1.8%.