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January 19, 2014
As China faces a continual onslaught of rapid transformation, understanding fundamental changes in consumer behaviour is vital for business success. Thomas Nolsoee, Chief Strategy Officer, MEC China, explains, “As China is getting more and more established, brands will be forced to move from distribution strategies to consumer value strategies. In this environment there are real opportunities for existing and new companies to capitalize on the consumer trends in China. If you don’t, someone else will.”
The report integrates input from over 60 trend and marketing specialists as well as analysis from syndicated databases on Chinese consumers. The top Chinese consumption trends for 2014 are:
People are bringing out their inner geek and now, the ‘Geek’ movement has become mainstream. As high technology fanatics, they use all things digital to fuel their passions, dictating how they live and behave. They know more, experience more and create more. In 2012, 31% of consumers said they are high-tech trend setters within their communities, up by 35% since 2010. Most importantly, they choose to broadcast their geek passions, using it as social currency to differentiate and give themselves an edge.
Implication: Geeks can be your most important advocate, support centre and brand educator. Think about how your brand can help them to broadcast and feel recognized.Buying Balance
People are buying the concept of a balanced lifestyle. As the Chinese population becomes more affluent, they face ever growing pressures, from competition at work to food scandals and pollution. As a result, the Chinese want to rebalance. They look to spirituality. They aim to contribute back to society. They attempt to be more environmentally friendly. Consumers are challenging this back into their buying habits, for example the growth in yoga uptake, juice diets and gym memberships.
Implication: Think about how your brand can contribute to the concept of a balanced lifestyle – both in a functional and emotional way.Experiential Consumption
Chinese consumers want to be inspired. They are increasingly looking at factors beyond the physical product when making consumption decisions. Throughout the entire purchase journey, they expect absorbing experiences to stimulate, educate and provoke. 84% of consumers stated that they would like to shop in an amiable environment, up 47% since 2010. So think beyond the product, bring the brand story to life and tantalize the senses.
Implication: How can you move from selling products to selling experiences? Brands which excel at building superior experiences will enjoy a more loyal and active consumer base.Wake Up the Night
In China, when night falls, the city wakes. As the pace of life gets faster and faster, a 24 hour day is no longer enough. Night consumption prevails. For example, the number of consumers who took into account the extended business hours when choosing a supermarket tripled in 3 years. Taobao/ Tmall achieved 6.7 billion RMB in sales from 12:00am to 1:00am on the Chinese holiday of November 11th. Consumers are extending their ‘night life’ and brands are considering platforms specific to this type of user.
Implication: Brands can achieve incremental sales by making themselves available outside normal business hours. Growth can be further accelerated by using mechanics such as limited editions and promotions.More Transparency, Please!
Now more than ever, Chinese consumers have been empowered to make choices. And with this comes growing demands. With digitalisation, consumers are able to get more information pre-purchase. They aim to know what exactly they are paying for and are eager for complete transparency. Half of consumers said that they want to check the contents before they make their purchase decision, up 14% from 2010. Transparent consumption not only means consumers’ have a right to know but also implies companies’ have the social responsibility to tell.
Implication: Act less as a brand and more as a friend.New Fashion of Chinese Brands
Historically, if you ask consumers why they bought Chinese brands, they probably would have mentioned low price and high availability. However, as China grows in economic dominance and social influence, Chinese brands are becoming trend setters. Chinese quality is fuelling national pride. According to Alibaba, during the Tmall double eleven activity, eight out of every ten sales were for Chinese brands. This equated to 1.5 billion RMB in sales.
Implication: Upon a strong foundation of quality, a focus on Chinese heritage, craftsmanship and innovation can be strong business driver.