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The Chinese market is growingly rapidly. By the end of 2009, its population was at 1,334.74 million. This was an increase of 6.72 million people from the previous year. The income of urban households rose from RMB 10,493 to RMB 17,175 between 2008 and 2009.the expenditure on clothing among the urban households increased from RMB 801 to RMB 1,284 between 2005 and 2009. Therefore China is ranked as the world’s largest fibre consumer. Figure 1 below shows statistics of the country’s expenditure on clothing (Gu 2011).This growth is attracting many luxury brands to penetrate the market. By 2015, it is estimated that this market will have grown in value to a tune of €18.3 billion. If this happens, then China will have qualified into the largest luxury market in the world. This means that it would represent 20% of the world’s luxury consumption. However, there is a challenge in entering this market. This is because Chinese people still have a problem accepting western luxury brands because they lack knowledge about the brands’ existence and importance. Additionally, the Chinese consumers will only accept or buy brands that reinstate their social status. However, the western brands have a problem showing this aspect and this affects their market entry (Dan 2011, p. 10). It is important for marketers to gain more understanding about the practices, behaviours and values of the Chinese people. The country is very complex with a large coastline. This coastal region is a major gateway to the western market through imports and exports. On the other hand, the inland region concentrates on agricultural and industrial activities. Therefore, the residents’ commercial activities have little outward orientation. The coastal residents are more individualistic, open minded and innovative as opposed to the inland residents who are more conservative and satisfied with their way of living (Chai 2009). These differences reflect different consumer behavior. Knowledge about different shopping patterns affecting the Chinese people can help western marketers to develop effective marketing methodologies (Zhou et al. 2010).
Source: (Gu 2011)
The top three desirable brands in China are Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Chanel. Some groups such as the LVMH have successfully established a place in the Chinese market. This has been realized after many years of research of the industry before they made entry in 2001. It took LVMH 5 years to gain familiarity in China. This is because they have made it clear that their luxury brands can add status to the Chinese people (KPMG 2007). Geographical segmentation studies conducted in 1994 reveal that the urban Chinese population is more likely to pay attention to advertisements. 41 per cent of the residents would also buy a leading brand commodity irrespective of its price. (Hung 2006) Therefore, city residents have more appreciation of foreign brands. Demographic segmentation studies reveal that women aged between 30 and 45 years are more appreciative of product value and convenience. Men that belong to the same age bracket shop utilities. Therefore, they only buy what they need or what their families request them to buy. Consumers aged below 30 years and who reside in Shanghai shop for inspiration and leisure (Schmitt 1997). Young female shoppers on the other hand, are the least concerned about product pricing. The young Chinese generation born after the 1980s is said to have outspent the urban generation by approximately 18 percent. This is because the young have gone through less trouble to acquire money as compared to the older generation (Shemwell & Aun 2010). They also have few responsibilities and many of them have acquired good jobs in local and foreign enterprises. Figure 2 below shows statistics of young Chinese generation expenditure on fashion (Lui et al. 2011). Western marketers need to study these segmentations before establishing their products in the Chinese market.
Source: (Lui et al. 2011)
- Problem focus
Penetrating the Chinese luxury market offers many opportunities. However, there are many consequences encountered when doing so. Some brands such as Mark & Spencer have failed to enter this market. One of the reasons why it failed was because the brand did not understand the needs of the consumers and they lacked sufficient knowledge of the target market. Additionally, in order to formally enter the Chinese market, various environmental analysis and observations need to be done. This is because Chinese people buy items in a different manner and they have different priorities from the western people. Therefore, brand designers that aim at entering the Chinese market need to send people to live and test the environment before making entry. This would enable the owners of the western brands to see the needs and habits of the Chinese people.
Chinese consumers practice product evaluation as a measure of consumer behavior (Ewing et al. 2010). Product evaluation is a practice whereby consumers assess product attributes, evaluate their importance and make buying decisions. Some of the features that the buyers look out for during product evaluation are product colour, comfort, fabric and fibre content among others. While a segment of the Chinese consumers value the earlier product features, another segment values product price and brand. Therefore, it is challenging for foreign apparels to be able to market and sell their products in China. Western product designers need to understand both market segments and how consumers conduct product evaluation (Dickson et al. 2004).
Western brand designers have a challenge when meeting consumption values of Chinese consumers. This is because these values powerfully shape consumer behavior. Social and cultural values are related to individual consumer behavior during and after taking part in market transactions. These values affect a consumer’s motivation to buy a given product. Functional value refers to perceived attributes of product performance price and durability. Emotional value, on the other hand refers to a consumer’s affective response towards a given product. Epistemic value is realized when a consumer acquires a product in order to satisfy his or her curiosity, knowledge and novelty. This value is also realized when a consumer wants to achieve social value in order to associate himself or herself with a given social group. Both individualistic and collectivist Chinese cultures have positive relationship with the consumption values. Therefore, Western brand designers need to produce brands that are in line with the consumption values (Xiao & Kim 2009).
Western brand designers and marketers should be aware of a new barrier to entry to the Chinese markets. Recently, the Chinese consumer has become interested in Chinese fashion brands. For example, the Chinese first lady was seen wearing a Chinese outfit in an event. This aroused a topic and many people started to consider their own Chinese brands and the current Chinese fashion brands have also gained much more fame. Therefore, western designers should be aware of the Chinese-grown brands that have established themselves within China. For example, manufacturers of electronics such as Lenovo has captured both Chinese and foreign buyers. Statistics also reveal that there is a high belief in rise of homegrown brands; 25% of Chinese companies strongly agree with this study. Figure 3 below shows percentages of how Chinese brands perform against the global brands within China (Anonymous 2011).
Source: (Anonymous 2011)
Western designers also need to be aware of the dimensions of national culture because they affect consumer behavior. The five dimensions of national culture by Hofstede are “Power Distance (PDI), Individualism/Collectivism (IDV), Masculinity/Femininity (MAS), Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI) and Long-Term versus Short- Term Orientation (LTO)” (Mooij & Hofstede 2002, p. 63). Power distance is the level to which the people who are less powerful in the society appreciate that power is unequally distributed. Therefore, cultures with large power distance have respect for one another’s position in the society. Old people are respected and people with high status can freely show off their power. On the other hand, in cultures with small power distance, powerful people try to act like less powerful people. Many Chinese consumers such as the ones in the inland region tend to practice large power distance which means that they spend more time with their families (Clifford 2003). Therefore, they tend to spend more time and money on food than on branded items such as designers clothes. On the other hand, coastal Chinese consumers tend to practice small power distance. This means they spend a lot of time in leisurely activities which require them to dress in well designed and branded attires. Therefore, Western brand designers should learn these regional cultural practices before establishing their brands in China (Mooij & Hofstede 2002). People in individualistic cultures only look after themselves and close family members. Such people are more outspoken and expressive. People in collectivist cultures look after everyone in their social grouping in exchange for loyalty. Most European countries practice individualism. Chinese inland residents tend to practice collectivism which means that they spend less time and money on leisurely activities; they live on what they can afford (Wu, Ardley & Floyd 2011). On the other hand, the coastal residents practice individualism which means that they do not value social affiliation. They also tend to have more time for leisurely activities. Therefore, western brand designers and marketers should understand cultural dimension before establishing their products in Chinese markets (Mooij & Hofstede 2002). People in masculine cultures practice dominance, achievement and success values even if it is at the expense of others. On the other hand, people in feminine cultures practice care for other people’s welfare and they value life. Therefore, status is of less important in this kind of culture (Zhang 2006). Chinese consumers in the inland region practice femininity because they have close family ties as opposed to their coastal counterparts. This means that the coastal residents tend to maintain a high social status and dominance. This requires them to dress in expensive and designer wears. This is another element that western marketers should observe before establishing their brands in Chinese markets (Mooij & Hofstede 2002). Uncertainty avoidance is the level to which people fear uncertain and ambiguous activities. Cultures that practice high levels of uncertainty avoidance have established rules and formal structures to govern operations. People in weak uncertainty avoidance cultures are more entrepreneurial and innovative. Chinese culture embraces and encourages high levels of uncertainty avoidance (Cayla & Eckhardt 2008). The consumers have little trust for foreign products. Therefore, western markets and designers should take more time to establish and build trust with the consumers in order to reduce chances of business failure (Mooij & Hofstede 2002). Long term orientation refers to the level to which a society takes up a future-oriented approach towards achieving its objectives. For example, cultures in East Asia value perseverance, peaceful and patient ways of doing things. Short term orientation is found in Western cultures because they value short term or conventional historic ways of doing things. Therefore, Chinese consumers tend to be cautious and patient whenever they make purchase decisions. This means that western marketers should practice patience with Chinese buyers. They should expect slow but gradual market growth (Mooij & Hofstede 2002).
Western marketers and designers should also be aware of another framework of cultural dimension. This is referred to as the K & S framework. According to this approach, there are five dimensions of cultural values: “(a) man–nature orientation; (b) man–himself orientation; (c) relational orientation; (d) past-time orientation; and (e) activity orientation” (Chan 2001, p. 392). The man-nature orientation places more emphasis on peaceful and harmonious coexistence between the Chinese and nature. This orientation has affected the way of thinking of Chinese consumers as well. For example, Chinese people belief that they should live by way of nature, not try to master or destroy it without a good reason. Therefore, consumers are more wary of products that are made out of destruction of natural resources. Western marketers should be aware of this cultural orientation before marketing brands made from leather or animal skin in Chinese markets (Chan 2001). Rational orientation places more emphases on recognition of social groupings. Chinese people tend to conform more with the norms and practices of their social groups. This is the same as collectivism. Therefore, before marketing western made brands, marketers should learn this cultural orientation (Chan 2001).
There are various types of consumer needs that require satisfaction. These are functional, social and experiential needs. These are needs that are related to Chinese female shoppers. Studies show that Chinese shoppers value functional needs most while social needs are ranked second highest after functional needs. Experiential needs are ranked as the least important among Chinese shoppers (Lupton et al. 2010). Social needs are relatively high because Chinese female consumers regard clothing as means of expressing one’s social status (Kim et al. 2002). This means that western marketers have a task of studying the social needs of the Chinese female consumers in order to determine and market the best clothing that can suit their culture.
- Research questions
This report will be based on research that surrounds the advertising strategy in China. Although Chinese consumers are still in the “show off” stage”, the entering brands need to come up with means of proving that they deserve Chinese consumer attention. The market is still growing and with time, it will get mature enough to want more distinctive brands. As people travel, they start to experience and appreciate the western culture as they come into contact with different brands, this can help them to place more value on style, design and concept than on product logo. Some of the questions that new Chinese brand market entrants need to understand are:
What key consumer segments and needs to be identified? (Lui et al. 2011).
How possible it is for a Luxury Brand to become recognized and receive appreciation in the growing industry?
Which are the most attractive market joints in the next five or ten years on the basis of demographics, emotions and pricing? (Lui et al. 2011).
What are the buying behaviours of Chinese buyers/ consumers?
Do you have the appropriate business model and abilities to implement and to market products seamlessly across many cities and transaction channels?
How can new comers position themselves and advertise in a manner that can gain the attention of Chinese consumers even before making entry?
How should new market entrants recruit and maintain high quality talent in their locations when the competitors are growing rapidly as well? (Lui et al. 2011).
What are the goals and objectives of establishing the luxury brands in the market?
How can the new entrants appear and pursue the consumers?
What study and research should be conducted about the behavior and needs of Chinese consumers?
What guidance is necessary in developing a mature fashion industry?
What can luxury brands that would want to enter the Chinese market be recommended to do?
What are the main ways of achieving success in this market?
Where should the new entrants start from and what responses should they expect?
The aim of this paper is to assist western brands to gain entry in to the Chinese market. There are many barriers towards achieving this goal. These barriers and consequences need to be addressed before making entry. This research will create an understanding of the Chinese market; a market that is very unfamiliar to many people. The readers of this paper will want to successfully enter the Chinese market.
This report is based on research conducted from reading literatures about marketing and consumer behaviour, and also journals and articles from China to provide insight about that country. This research method is qualitative in nature. The reason why this kind of research was used is because it offers very objective feedback. This means that as opposed to other research methods such as use of questionnaires, this research method is more reliable because it is based on research and facts. These facts are important in knowing the true state of the Chinese consumers. This research is designed in to three parts:
The first part has discussed and analyzed the background of Chinese clothing consumers. This background information was obtained from (Gu 2011). This source has analyzed the changes in China’s population between 2008 and 2009. It has also analyzed how increase in Chinese population size has led to increased level of clothing consumers. This is important in determining the level of consumers that the western designers should target. (Dan 2011, p. 10) reveals that Chinese consumers like brands that reinstate their social status. This article is important because it enables western designers and marketers to understand the tastes of Chinese consumers. The journal article by (Chai 2009) was used in this section because it shows the difference between the tastes and values of the costal Chinese residents and the inland residents. This would help western designers to know the regions that they should invest in. journal articles by (Schmitt 1997) and (Lui et al. 2011) have been used in order to explain how geographic and demographic segmentation affects Chinese consumer behavior. Journal article by (Shemwell & Aun 2010) was used in order to show the behavior of young Chinese consumers. These segmentations are important for foreign designers to know which sections of the market to target as well as age groups.
The second part focus on the main problem discussed by this paper. That is, how to market western brand in the Chinese market. The journal article by (Ewing et al. 2010) is used in this part because it explains why foreign designers to study and understand the Chinese market before making entry. The article by (Dickson et al. 2004) is used in this report because it explains the element of product evaluation among Chinese consumers and how this can help foreign marketers to decide the brand features to incorporate in their designs. Journal article by (Xiao & Kim 2009) is used in this report because it explains consumption values such as functional, emotional and epistemic values and how they affect costume consumption in China. This would help western marketers to design products that meet these consumption values. Journal article by (Anonymous 2011) is used in this report because it explains the threat that Chinese brands are posing to foreign market entrants. This information can help foreign designers to know the kind of challenges to expect. Articles by (Mooij & Hofstede 2002), (Cayla & Eckhardt 2008), (Zhang 2006) and (Wu, Ardley & Floyd 2011) have been used to explain how the five dimensions of national culture by Hofstede affect Chinese consumer behavior. This would help foreign designers to understand Chinese consumer. Article by (Chan 2001, p. 392) has been used because it explains the five dimensions of cultural values: “(a) man–nature orientation; (b) man–himself orientation; (c) relational orientation; (d) past-time orientation; and (e) activity orientation. These values are also important to foreign designers to understand the product needs of Chinese buyers.
The third part has research questions. These have been used to set the paper’s objectives. Journal article by (Lui et al. 2011) has several research questions that foreign marketers can use to evaluate their options before entering the Chinese market.
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