China's three leading internet players are dominating user engagement on mobile platforms, consuming "a disproportionate share" of time spent on devices.
Apps associated with Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent -- commonly known as BAT -- accounted for close to 60 percent of time spent on mobile devices in the country, where consumers in the metro areas spent more than half of their online time on Tencent's messaging app, WeChat.
According to Forrester Research, Chinese consumers spent 18.2 hours a week on mobile internet activities, of which 9.2 hours were dedicated to WeChat.
The research firm said the BAT each dominated key categories, with Baidu leading search, while Alibaba excelled in e-commerce, and Tencent in social media. These market players built out their offerings through acquisitions as well as organic growth, leading in various segments including instant messaging, mobile wallets, and social media.
It noted that strong players in the Chinese mobile market measured their presence by the recurrence of moments based on monthly or daily active users as well as insights they had on each consumer. Forrester added that even the investors of these three players put more emphasis on the number of recurring moments and associated insights than on the revenue they generated.
While the BAT dominated across key segments, independent markets players typically led standalone categories. For instance, MeituPic stood out as the photo editor of choice, while mobile users opted for MoWeather to access information on the weather and Ctrip for trip-related data. Chunyu Yisheng was the app users usually tapped for medical information.
These apps, however, mostly failed to expand their dominance beyond their niche areas, Forrester noted, but added that single-category leaders made valuable partners for their ability to deliver unique audience segments, such as young females in MeituPic's case. It further pointed to YouKu and Tudou, which were strong in video, and Kuguo's leadership in the music category.
Moving forward, Forrester said Alibaba and Tencent would remain fierce competitors as each expanded their gameplay into the other's traditional markets. Tencent, for instance, now offered e-commerce, while Alibaba introduced video services. Both companies had capabilities in several key mobile categories, including payments and mapping, and continued to look at filling in other gaps in their offerings.
The research firm added that while Baidu was the undisputed leader in mobile search, its overall presence on mobile was not as dominant as Tencent and Alibaba.