The curious Chinese consumer has many facets, with wary mothers distinctive among them. Motherhood in China is steeped in culture and tradition, high digital engagement, ingrained family structures and an excessive lack of trust. This ensures this consumer group is unique amongst its foreign counterparts, but one worth learning about. Mother and baby products grew 256% from 2010 to 2015 according to Mintel, and are expected to grow 15% a year until 2020.
However it shouldn’t just be infant formula and diaper brands taking notice. With the lucrative and free spending Millennials now entering the child rearing age, new families are driving growth across many categories.
The tradition that new mothers do not leave the house for 30 days after childbirth means they spend a considerable amount of time on their mobiles. Because of this, online sources of information, influencers, and WeChat groups are incredibly powerful in their ability to sway purchase decisions.
It’s well known that China’s 4-2-1 family structure (four grandparents, two parents, and one child) means that the child is pampered by six doting adults who are becoming more affluent by the day. This structure allows the mother to return back to work soon after birth, with grandparents or an ayi (aunty/nanny) assuming much of the caregiving responsibilities. It has contributed to just 27.8% of Chinese mothers still breastfeeding when their child is 6-months old, versus the global average of 38%. It has also reduced gender income disparity seeing parents have a higher income overall.
Mothers returning to work early means they are more impacted by colleagues and friends without children than if they were to return later. Influenced through both personal interactions and their smartphones, they are hearing about inspiring holiday destinations, new food, health issues, alternative education and even fashion.
We only need to look at fashion, where children’s apparel is one of the fastest growing segments, or tourism which is seeing explosive growth in family holidays. Recent Alibaba research found online shoppers with babies spend significantly more on fresh fruit and veges online, driving fresh food to be the fastest growing ecommerce category.
With only one child, Chinese consumers take no risks with their precious tot, particularly with the wounds of the 2008 Melamine scandal still raw. They do even more research than the average 7-10 touchpoints Chinese consumers engage with before making a purchase. That lack of trust, coupled with busy lives is driving mothers to shop online, particularly from abroad. Baby care accounts for around 15% of all cross border products and, more importantly, 66.5% of China cross border eCommerce shoppers have children – a big contributor to overseas online purchases which grew 86% last year.
In short, young families can be one of the most lucrative segments in China for imported goods if brands understand their customer journey and drivers. Go to Page 2 to see this week’s China news and highlights.