Marketing to the Middle Classes - China - June 2013
“China’s vast area, different levels of regional development and varied cultures mean that the middle class cannot be regarded as a single segment but represents multiple segments. These multiple markets present opportunities and challenges for companies, especially multinationals. In order to understand middle class needs and aspirations, companies need to understand their behaviour, demographic and socio-economic profile, and how these impact on their lifestyles, social positions and future plans.”
– Lui Meng Chow, Research Analyst
Some questions answered in this report include:
- What are the different middle class segments, what are their priorities and what are they looking for?
- What is the best way of mixing Western and Chinese products and branding in order to target the middle class?
- How much of a role does status and conspicuous consumption play in middle class spending habits?
- How can companies target those who are belt tightening but also who would like products and services that offer a compromise with price, quality and brand?
- What are the Chinese middle classes doing to improve their living in terms of happier and healthier lives? What are their key lifestyle aspirations?
Mintel predicts that there will be 35 million middle class households in China by 2015. Building on Mintel’s Consumer Lifestyles: China’s Middle Class – China, June 2012 report, this report offers an in-depth analysis of how marketers can target this consumer group. China’s cities are already home to a huge market of increasingly affluent consumers. The market will continue to grow over the coming years, meaning that it is essential to understand China’s new middle class and the various transformations ongoing in China in terms of financial reform, global competitiveness, social development and even environmental sustainability.
China’s vast area and different levels of regional development also mean middle class consumers cannot be regarded as a single segment. Instead, they represent multiple segments that think differently depending on their socio-economic and demographic profiles. China’s Eastern coastal region for example is home to the most affluent consumers, while the Central and Western regions, which are experiencing rapid GDP growth, have a rising number of less affluent but still important middle class consumers. Many multinationals face difficulties in understanding the unique attributes of these different middle class segments.
Some Chinese middle class consumers feel financially insecure. They worry about how best to move up the career ladder, and are keen to make sure that they have enough savings put aside to provide a comfortable retirement, and to obtain the best possible medical care and education for their family. They enjoy spending but at the same time are looking for ways to safeguard their assets and to save as much as possible. Financial companies need to innovate further in terms of products offered in order to unlock the spending power of the Chinese middle classes.
Many foreign companies have set up shop in China since economic reform in the 1980s. What’s more, the influence of Western culture has been spreading even more rapidly in China as more and more students and travellers return from abroad. These digitally savvy, individualistic and sophisticated middle class consumers present opportunities and challenges for companies wanting to target them. But middle class consumers will not indiscriminately embrace any Western brand and culture. It is critical that companies balance the localisation of their brand and product values with a hint of Western elements.
Some middle class consumers are spending freely, but the feeling of financial insecurity means that others are cutting down on unnecessary purchases or replacing big brands with products and brands that balance quality and price. In order to cater to different middle class segments and penetrate lower tier and inland cities, companies will need to balance brands, price and quality. They will also need to recognise the fact that the Chinese middle class is becoming much more sophisticated in their spending and priorities. They are aware of the environmental problems that sometimes accompany economic development. At the same time, they are increasingly interested in ways to address health issues caused by heavy pollution and food scares. There are a lot of opportunities for companies to cater to these middle classes concerns, and there are risks to any marketers who make lazy assumptions about materialism and the appeal of conspicuous consumption.
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