China’s Wired Women And The Future Of Global Consumption
Savvy brands that understand China’s Wired Women are set to take advantage of one of the biggest opportunities.
Women are fast becoming one of the largest economic forces in the world. It’s estimated that women control $20 trillion in annual consumer spending, a figure that could climb to $28 trillion by 2020.
Within this group is a growing percentage of highly influential, digitally empowered women shaping trends for online behavior. We call them “Wired Women.” And nowhere are these women more digitally savvy than in China, where a staggering 15% said they would rather give up seeing their families for a month than their mobile phones.
The Chinese Wired Woman embodies a growing female demographic who is educated, financially independent, successful, connected, opinionated, and sociable. She is “deeply digital” and the new arbiter of cool and influence. On the other hand, she is also profoundly involved in the management of familial matters and turns to digital platforms for the benefit of others as much as she does for personal purposes.
China’s Wired Women comprise 18% of the female Chinese population: That’s about 115 million women who are at the forefront of digital adaptation, evolution, and trendsetting for the rest of China, according to Warc. Social media has given them the ability to stay connected with their friends, family, and colleagues on a daily basis, all while tapping into the collective intelligence of the broader online population. The country’s tech scene is hastily trying to meet their voracious digital appetites, and the size of the market means that where Chinese Wired Women go, so does Chinese innovation.
According to research done by Microsoft, Chinese Wired Women are early tech adopters and more comfortable sharing information online than any other nationality. Consequently, the rest of the world will be playing digital catch-up if it doesn’t pay attention. Savvy brands that understand China’s Wired Women are set to take advantage of one of the biggest opportunities.
For example, Alibaba, China’s largest e-commerce company, made sales worth $9.3 billion in 24 hours on Singles Day, the world’s biggest online discount shopping event, in 2014. To put that into perspective, American consumers spent a total of $2.9 billion over Black Friday and Cyber Monday’s two-day online sales bonanzas–-roughly what China spent in eight hours. Jack Ma, Alibaba’s chairman, went on national television the next day to personally thank Chinese women for their patronage. “I haven’t looked at the data yet, but I can guarantee that many women [made] purchases for their children, husbands, and dads and moms,” he said.
With so much spending power, how can brands access China’s Wired Women?
The Chinese Wired Woman cares about her family, the community, and how the rest of the world sees her. She wants to be beautiful, financially successful, and independent, and a good daughter, wife, and mother. And the Internet has become an important–-perhaps the most important–-way for her to achieve this.
Brands that want to find success with China’s Wired Women need to understand what it is this audience is looking for. To start, we’ve identified three of its key consumer behaviors: self-education, demonstration, and management.
China’s Wired Women want it all, and that requires a lot of input, from goods and services to the provision of advice. The Internet has become the most important channel for them to self-educate. More than half (57%) will compare products and prices on social media before they buy (a percentage that soars even higher for highly involved categories), and 60% of Chinese women consult online reviews at least once a month. For example, the biggest beauty Internet Word of Mouth (iWOM) platform in China, kimiss.com, has 2.2 billion views and 95 million users.
The beauty industry and the Internet seem to go hand-in-hand, and Chinese Wired Women are especially review-hungry: Sixty percent will consult a beauty review each month. Furthermore, two-thirds of Chinese Wired Women rely on online recommendations to purchase a beauty product, compared to just 40% in America.
That means China is now the largest online beauty market in the world, with a record number of sales on mobile devices. Mobile now accounts for 49% of beauty brand term searches on Baidu, and Estée Lauder reported that more than 70% of its online sales in China come from cities with no brick-and-mortar distribution.
E-commerce and mobile-optimized sites, therefore, are a must for brands wishing to capture this enormous opportunity and extend their reach to tier 3 and 4 cities across China.
But it’s more than just choosing what to buy. China’s Wired Women also use the Internet to modify their behaviors.
• 56% consult health tips through the Internet.
• 63% change their beauty routines at least every two months based on information online.
• 69% of mothers take parenting advice from parents and experts online.
Brands must therefore recognize Wired Women’s desire for knowledge and help curate the conversation online. By encouraging their customers to honestly discuss experiences and results on impartial social media and third-party beauty sites, brands can earn more credibility than they do with paid celebrity endorsements.
Indeed, brands that have been able to engage with the real concerns of Chinese Wired Women have found great success. For example, the effects of pollution on one’s health and skin is a real concern for Chinese women. Dior recognized this and built a campaign site that gave product recommendations based on the pollution index. In just two months, the site received 200 million impressions and 4 million clicks.
Similarly, Lancôme created an extremely successful social forum for its fragrance, Rosebeauty. With 4 million users, the platform allows for self-education about the brand’s products through a mix of conversation, virtual testing, and professional advice. Both Lancôme and Dior prove that if you can adapt and customize your information, then Wired Women will follow.
China’s Wired Women are keen to portray idealized versions of themselves online, so don’t be surprised if you see a woman in a coffee shop arrange herself and her food for the perfect picture before eating. And that photo’s need for retouching before being uploaded probably explains the 100 million users on the country’s most popular photo-editing app, Meitu-xiuxiu, and the subsequent 600,000 retouched photos shared online each day.
This demonstrative, “best self” trend extends far beyond selfies. Management consultants Bain & Company report that female shoppers now make up over half of all Chinese luxury buyers, representing an enormous growth from 1995 when 90% of luxury buyers were male.
The luxury e-commerce site, Vipshop, reports that more than 80% of its customers are female, accounting for 90% of sales. And 60% of those purchases are made on mobile devices. Even the choice of mobile is an important statement: According to the newest results of Hurun Report’s “Chinese Luxury Consumer Survey,” the gift of an iPhone or iPad is now preferable to a Louis Vuitton bag or Hermès belt for wealthy Chinese women.
Recognizing this desire for self-demonstration, Burberry has brought its VIP customization service to China through a partnership with mobile platform, WeChat. By allowing customers to watch fashion shows in real time and buy items through their mobile devices, Burberry proves that integration can fully engage and satisfy Wired Women’s always-on needs.
Chinese Wired Women may have it all, but having it all often means doing it all. Professional, wife, mother, elderly caretaker, friend, unique individual–-a Wired Woman has to maintain multiple personalities both on- and offline. That makes her smartphone her most valuable asset, with apps and additional functionalities popping up to give her access to the goods, services, and information she needs most. Is it any wonder that the productivity apps flooding the Chinese market are also some of the most prolific advertisers?
Wired Women are constantly multitasking, and brands can make this easier by offering experiences and tools that simplify these women’s lives. Apps, such as WeChat, have recognized the opportunity this provides. WeChat is far more than just a messaging app, now allowing users to video call, share files, shop, find friends, split bills, and book appointments from one digital location. In some ways, WeChat has become its own operating system, combining Facebook, chat, Apple Pay, Twitter, credit card payments, and more into one app.
Apps targeted to women, such as Meet You or Dayima (which have more than 100 million downloads between them), are treading on a similar path. Originally just cycle trackers, they now provide an abundance of health information and have become full biology trackers.
In addition, LMBang (which literally means “hot mom”) started as a social networking site for moms, but has expanded into fashion, health, and lifestyle tips to keep Wired Women engaged past the baby conversations. O2O, on the other hand, lets them browse beauty photos for makeup, nails, and other services; read reviews; and book appointments all within the app. While that keeps them perfectly coiffed, Shao Fan Fan connects them to personal chefs who come to their homes to cook for them–-no time in the kitchen necessary.
As these examples show, the opportunity for brands goes beyond beckoning Wired Women to “buy, buy, buy!” By presenting these women with real value, making their lives easier, and saving them time, brands are reaping the devotion and patronage of an ever-expanding market.
There’s little doubt that China’s Wired Women are among the world’s most important digital consumers. And their numbers are growing, with 115 million women accounting for online spending in the region of $2.2 trillion, according to Warc.
Wired Women are increasingly sophisticated and demand more than just a tactical sale. Brands must tap into their key desires, acting as conversation curators, self-demonstration facilitators, and time management enablers. And, while Chinese women stand at the forefront of these trends, they are far from alone.
Wired Women can be found all over the world, with their desires further shaping the way the Internet works. While entering the Chinese market is an intricate step in terms of management and supply, multinational and international brands alike can apply these learnings from China’s Wired Women to their strategies in preparation for the future.
Globally, the potential rewards are huge, but to take advantage of this enormous opportunity, brands must understand Chinese Wired Women first. Is your organization ready to transform digitally in response to the Chinese Wired Woman and others to come?