What is the true about Chinese shoppers?

Chinese people are used to make their purchasing decision among various brands instead of being loyal to a unique brand when they buy products. Chinese consumers represent a real opportunity and challenge for the marketers in this type of environment. But, it is important for them to understand well the different behavior of these consumers. This is the key success. When they are in the point of sales, they don’t really do what they tell. This is the aim of this article.

Bain & Company partnered with Kantar World panel had the idea to study the shopping habits of 40 000 Chinese households. This study helped us to know how shoppers make purchases in 26 major consumer goods categories.


The results

• In various situations, as shoppers buy more frequently in a category, they are also used to buy more brands in that category. We call this tendency to choose different brands for the same opportunity or need behaviour repertoire (repertoire being the set of brands purchased by a consumer or shopper within a given category). The fact that they want to buy a variety of brands is just as true for heavy shoppers in a category. Those who are the top 20 % of the most frequent purchasers in a category -as it is for average shoppers.

• It appears that it is not a problem of being unimportant brands to shoppers thesis. As we have already work with customers in China, we know that the major purchasing criterion for Chinese consumer is the brand. The importance of brands has been established by Bain Earlier studies including buyers in several food and non-food categories in China. These studies showed that more than 60% of shoppers listed brand among the top considerations in the purchase process. While Chinese shoppers think about brands, our latest study found that they do not generally think about any unique brand when they buy products.


There are a few product categories where shoppers are loyal. They often buy just one brand for a specific need or occasion. Those categories include infant formula, baby diapers, beer, milk, carbonated soft drinks and chewing gum. For these products, the increase in buying frequency does not translate into purchasing more brands.

 2 factors that contribute to the loyalty of these shoppers.

–       Brand concentration: Some Chinese shoppers  have a specific number of brand choices when they buy beer, milk, carbonated soft drinks and chewing gum.

–       Routine consumption: People who consume the product on a regular basis are used to be more loyal. Buying the brand becomes a habit.

More informations about Chinese shoppers

The importance of brands for Chinese shoppers even if they don’t think about one brand frequently.

There are 2 crucial decision moments for marketers :

to make sure your brand is part of the shoppers’ repertoire.

– to ensure that there’s enough in-store marketing to recruit shoppers each time they’re selecting a brand and making a purchase.

Your brand’s heavy shoppers can represent your competitors’ heavy shoppers.

You shouldn’t focus on trying to win these type of shoppers’ loyalty because that’s not how they shop in the category.

It’s not about what shoppers think about your brand, it’s about making them think about you in the first place

We found that category leaders don’t have all the time a higher rate of repeat purchases or get existing shoppers to spend more on their brand.

Complement “below-the-line” marketing with “above-the-line,” linking your brand with specific occasions and needs

Above-the-line: marketing initiatives (TV commercials) are used to promote a brand or convey a specific offer. The marketing raises shopper awareness and helps them to think about the brand when they buy for a specific occasion or need.

Below-the-line: marketing typically involves in-store sales promotions to create an incentive to purchase.

Focus on building scale in priority regions

Brands need to focus first on successfully developing local or regional scale in a large and diverse market like China.

Asking shoppers what they want won’t help you win them over

Focus your efforts on understanding their actual shopping behavior and what your competitors are doing to win them over.