After many months of hard work — setting criteria, selecting the eight most significant digital agencies in the market, conducting in-depth briefings and customer references, and countless hours of analysis and evaluation — I am pleased to announce that The Forrester Wave™: China Digital Agencies In China — Strategy And Execution, Q1 2015 is now live.

Why is this report so important to marketing leaders in China right now? To reach China’s 670 million online consumers (a number that continues to grow rapidly) and engage with them, marketers in China need more digital marketing support from their agencies. As such, digital agencies play a more important role than ever, as they:

  • Manage a rapidly growing digital marketing budget. As online ad spending in China has almost doubled over the past two years, leading agencies in China are seeing an increasing shift of ad budgets from traditional media to digital — so these agencies must support more complex digital marketing plans and campaigns.
  • Expand to a broader spectrum of digital services. With the rapidly evolving digital landscape in China, digital agencies are constantly adding new digital services — including social marketing, mobile marketing, customer experience strategy, CRM, and eCommerce — that go far beyond web development and online advertising campaigns.
  • Get more involved in shaping clients’ business strategy. Digital is core to the future of virtually all businesses, and China is no exception. Digital agencies help accelerate their clients’ transformation into digital businesses by providing business consulting services and perspectives on ideas, business challenges, and emerging technologies.

So the key challenge for marketing leaders in China is how to select the right digital agency to be their strategic partner in digital marketing. Forrester selected eight agencies — BlueDigital, Isobar, OgilvyOne, Possible, Proximity, Razorfish, VML IM2.0, and Wunderman — for our evaluation because each:

  • Offers a full range of digital services. To qualify as a full-service digital agency that does marketing and strategy, agencies had to have at least seven of the following nine services: digital strategy, web development, technology architecture and support, creative (advertising) services, email/CRM, analytics, media planning and buying, search marketing, and emerging media.
  • Understands the Chinese market. To determine which agencies understand China’s ever-changing digital landscape and complicated consumer market and the unique needs of local clients, we only selected agencies that have been operating in mainland China for three years or more.
  • Excels in both client retention and acquisition. To ensure that we included agencies with positive momentum, we only selected those with a client retention rate above 70% and for which 20% of their clients were newly acquired in 2013.

We evaluated the strengths and weaknesses of eight agencies across 30 criteria, grouped into three high-level buckets: current offering, strategy, and market presence. Forrester clients who would like to see how the agencies scored can check out the complete report here. And like all Forrester Wave evaluations, there’s a downloadable tool that you can use to customize the weightings to your own needs.