Shop till you drop in China
They are every retailer’s dream. Nowadays, you can find them at the front door of emporiums in every major city on earth - London, Dubai, New York.
Wealthy Chinese shoppers with wads of cash to spend and little time to lose.
According to a study by the American Chamber of Commerce, Chinese consumers can afford to splash out more on higher quality products - but also expect better value for money than in the past.
At home, China’s consumer market is forecast to become the second largest in the world behind the US by 2015.
But according to the report, both Chinese and foreign companies are struggling to keep up as the market evolves.
“There is no doubt that the Chinese marketplace is maturing,” said Joni Bessler, a partner with consultancy Booz & Co in Shanghai, who helped compile the report.
The past divide between luxury or premium products and affordable ones is blurring as the middle class grows - with most consumers expecting good value and wide choices - even for less expensive goods.
“The race is on to see who really captures this buyer segment,” Bessler said. That means tailoring products to suit local tastes while leveraging the company's global brand name.
In China, big branding campaigns often play on typical local stereotypes, such as where “cookie guys” include a pernickety female character meant to epitomise feminine but tough Shanghainese ladies - and an indecisive “chewy” guy who is her Shanghainese male counterpart, and follows her dutifully about the shops while she looks and looks and spends and spends.
“Without a knowledge of who our customers are and what their needs are, branding is not easy to do,” Wang said.
The consumer market strategies report outlines major trends as reported by dozens of companies in various industries - including everything from consumer goods to autos and financial services. It says Chinese are increasingly concerned with health and quality of life.
As growing numbers travel abroad, they are becoming more familiar with foreign brands and the variety and quality of goods available overseas - and expect the same at home.
Chinese living in the biggest cities, such as Shanghai and Beijing, are more focused on value but are able and willing to pay more.
“Value consumers are not spendthrifts,” the report says. “Although they are willing to spend for value, they want to be certain they are actually getting what they pay for.”
And those with lower incomes have a much wider selection of products to choose from when they buy - making the markets increasingly competitive for both foreign and local companies.