It wasn’t long ago when many decisions on China strategy and marketing were fuelled by those who were yet to set foot in the Middle Kingdom. As the country’s importance has swelled, so too has the desire of brand owners to see in person what makes the country tick. Nowadays there is rising awareness of how unique China is, yet it often remains limited to Shanghai or Beijing.
The temptation of these two cities is understandable; direct flights, hotels serving a homely western breakfast, English-speaking distributors, and demonstrably wealthy, sophisticated consumers with a seemingly insatiable hunger for foreign wares. Yet the reality is often not so dreamy. The competition in these two cities is fierce and they house some of the most discerning consumers on the planet. There have been a number of successful brands such as Bestseller and Proya that have found mouth-watering success by honing their focus to China’s less glamourous cities.
There’s no disputing that China’s first tier cities remain full of opportunities, but there are plenty of other cities that should be on the radar. Nanjing and Qingdao recently joined Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Tianjin, Chongqing, Suzhou, Wuhan, Chengdu and Hangzhou, to take China’s count to a dozen cities with GDP topping ¥1 trillion ($145 billion). To give some perspective, economic output of each of those cities is more than Myanmar, Cambodia, Uganda and Estonia combined.
The sheer size of China’s individual cities or clusters of cities often justifies localised tactics for different locations. This accounts for variances in climate, lifestyle, taste, culture, retail and even online habits – just as you’d localise for smaller markets such as Myanmar or Cambodia.
China Skinny has worked on numerous city-specific projects and typically finds notable variances between consumers and markets in different cities. For example, working with IHG on new hotel plans, food & beverage, lifestyle and even decor preferences between cities like Chongqing and Shenzhen shows that they might as well be different countries.
There are already over 40 international airports in China. This is not just making it easier to do business with these cities, but it also means the consumers are travelling more and getting exposure and affinities to more foreign goods. Some goods still aren’t overly relevant for lower tier cities, but in many cases it pays to consider them. Go to Page 2 to see this week’s China news and highlights.