Understanding China: The Opportunities And Challenges

China represents a huge opportunity for most organizations — the nation has a population of 1.35 billion people, consumer spend has gone up progressively in the past few years, and Forrester expects 268 million Chinese consumers to buy online by 2014. And, we are committed to providing our clients with the data and analysis required to be successful in the country. In fact, as part of our Technographics product, we have been investigating the impact of technology on consumer behavior in the Asia Pacific region since 2006.1

Recently, I collaborated with my colleague Sam Yanling Jaddou on a report called “Understanding China: The Opportunities And Challenges” that will help marketing and strategy professionals understand the uniqueness of the Chinese market, as well as key consumer trends.

Some highlights from the report, which is based on a survey of more than 3,600 metropolitan Chinese consumers2:

  • Chinese consumers are very receptive to new trends. They not only show high interest in new technologies like cloud services, Internet-connected TV, and tablets, but the uptake of these devices is already higher in China than in the US and Europe. However, because of their relative high price, new technologies are mainly bought by high-income Chinese.
  • The Chinese market is very much in flux. What is big today can be gone tomorrow.  Because of their history, many Chinese are embracing the concept of choice. And they now have the opportunity — as an example there are now approximately 130 different mobile phone brands available for purchase.
  • Chinese consumers like Western products.The middle class has grown rapidly in the past two decades, and they like showing others that they’re climbing the social ladder. Chinese consumers feel that Western brands are better designed and mark their owners as successful. Brands like BMW have done very well, for example, despite the high sales tax.

But there’s no time to waste. Companies thinking about investing in China have to realize that there’s no perfect moment. China marches to the beat of its own drum and plays by its own rules. Developments go fast and consumer behaviors and attitudes change just as quickly. In such a fast-changing environment, companies have to realize that whatever their strategy, it will always be out of date. Waiting for the right moment, however, means that you miss your window of opportunity.

If you’re interested in further discussion, or need help with your own marketing and strategy efforts in China, please reach out to either Sam Jaddou (sjaddou@forrester.com) or our VP Asia Pacific Andrew Stockwell (astockwell@forrester.com), who are both based in our Beijing, China office.


1 Forrester’s Consumer Technographics surveys 330,000 consumers in 18 countries, providing a consistent view into how technology affects global consumers' attitudes, behaviors, and motivations.

2 Forrester Research conducted an online survey in October 2011 of 3,621 consumers ages 18 and older in metropolitan China (including Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Wuhan, and Xian). The sample is representative of the adult online population in metropolitan China.