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Women in China: the next emerging market for brands


MEC research decodes untapped 542 ‘Lower Tier Cities’ for brands

SHANGHAI - MEC, a media agency ( today released new research revealing a new way on how brands can segment women in ‘Lower Tier Markets’, the first time such a comprehensive study has been undertaken in the country.

While the limelight has mostly shined on key cities and provincial capitals of China, the next wave of market extension is beyond these cities. Buoyed by the government’s Rmb 4 trillion stimulus package, markets in lower tier cities are developing quickly.

The emergence of women as a consumption force is a tremendous shift. BCG estimates that women control some US$12 trillion of the world’s US$18.4 trillion in annual consumer spending. This percentage will likely rise as a new segment of young, upwardly mobile female professionals overtakes their male peers in wealth and status. In China, 57% of women in Tier 1 and 2 cities and 59% of women in lower tier markets identify themselves as the principal purchaser of groceries in their households. And many also make the purchase decisions on behalf of their extended families. Brands that manage to cater to this emergent female market in China will enjoy growth and gain market share.

MEC’s research wanted to understand the consumption patterns and media habits of women in lower tier markets. Progressive-conservative, aspirational-pragmatic and aggressive-affiliative were the three dimensions used for segmentation. Out of these, five segments emerged to represent motivations behind the attitude, behaviour, and media consumption of women in lower tier markets:

- The Pressure Cooker. She wants it all. While she is willing to do everything she can for her kid and family, she also wants to achieve great success in her job. In addition to all these, she wants to retain her own identity as a woman.
- The Traditional. Her family is the centre of her life and she is willing to sacrifice herself for the benefit of her family.
- The Practical. She takes a practical view towards things. She lives by Deng Xiao Peng’s adage that ‘be it a black cat or a white cat, a cat that catches mice is a good cat.’
- The Achiever. She wants to excel in whatever she does. She is open-minded and willing to try new things. She keeps up-to-date with fashion and technology.
- The Undecided. She is a bit unsure of and distant from all the social and economic changes that are going on around her.

94% of all respondents said they have watched TV within the last 24 hours. TV remains the prerequisite medium to reach female consumers in lower tier markets. The web is a distant second, with an average of 36% of respondents having accessed it within the last 24 hours. However, while TV consumption is similar across all consumer segments, access to the Internet is drastically different between segments. The Achievers (58%), the Practicals (48%) and the Undecideds (35%) accessed the Internet significantly more than the Pressure Cookers (20%) and the Traditionals (5%).

For the Achievers, Practicals and Undecideds, the Internet is a good secondary medium to extend reach or build frequency. For the Traditionals and Pressure Cookers, traditional media are still more effective. Out-of-home consumed within a week is around 29% and is an effective supporting channel to TV for these two segments. Newspapers, with a penetration of 31% and 28% respectively, is another supporting channel that can reach the Practicals and the Undecideds.

Michelle Ko, President of MEC China, said: “Both female consumers and lower tier markets are the new frontiers for expansion in the China market. Yet most marketers and communication professionals do not know enough about these consumers and these markets. This is the first time that such an extensive and comprehensive piece of research has been undertaken, providing much needed consumer insights that can be used all the way from new product development to integrated communications planning.”

Theresa Loo, Strategic Planning, Analytics and Insight Director, MEC China said: “This segmentation exercise provides marketers glimpses into the psychographics of 5 segments of women in lower tier markets. The different needs and motivations of each of these segments inform what type of products and positioning will appeal to these women. The Pressure Cooker will be interested in products that provide a shortcut to getting things done, or help them to navigate their hectic life. The Achievers will want products that can help them progress in their careers. Women in lower tier markets, as is true across China, are heavy consumers of TV, but interestingly there is a high usage of the Internet, which is an untapped area to communicate in, for 3 out of the 5 consumer segments. All these insights allow MEC to design effective market entry strategies and integrated communication plans for clients.”

About MEC
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About the Study - Methodolgy

Quantitative Phase:
- Sample size 3821
- Respondents: Female; 15-45 years old
- Coverage: 542 cities in 27 provinces
o 70 prefectural-level cities (25% coverage of prefectural-level cities)
o 180 country-level cities (50% coverage of county-level cities)
o 292 countries (20% coverage of countries)
- Fieldwork: Quarter 4, 2009

Qualitative Phase:
- In-home face-to-face interviews in cities in Jiangsu and Zhejiang
- Fieldwork February 2010


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