With China’s borders opening up to the world again, its economy is still struggling after a weak 2022, including a low consumer confidence and continuing geopolitical challenges. Nevertheless, the expectations for China’s consumer market in 2023 are generally positive. Here are a few of the most important drivers which are expected to boost post-Covid- consumption in China in 2023.
1. Chinese consumers have a lot to spend
Although consumption was severely affected by the pandemic over the past years, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), China’s nominal disposable income per capita rose by 5.3% in the first nine months of 2022. Chinese people historically are big savers, which was even more the case during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a nationwide survey by McKinsey in 2022, 58% of Chinese urban households indicated their desire to “put money away for a rainy day”, which is the highest level since 2014.
2. The Chinese middle class continues to rise
The COVID-19 pandemic has slightly slowed down the development of China’s middle class, but there is still no other country in the world that adds as many households to the middle-class each year as China does. Over the next three years, the country is expected to add another 71 million upper-middle and high-income households. This segment of the market is eager to spend money again and travel to foreign countries after three years of isolation.
3. Chinese consumers are making smarter and greener choices
It can be expected that Chinese consumers are increasingly choosing products for quality and functionality. Chinese consumers are getting much smarter about what they buy and where. They are very creative at finding the cheapest way to buy the brand they want, whether it’s through WeChat groups, other social media platforms, parallel imports on Taobao or through livestreaming.
Today, Chinese consumers are more and more seeking products and brands that are environmentally friendly or healthy. Sustainability is playing an increasingly important role in consumption decision making in China. Additionally, sectors such as technology, healthcare and education are expected to see a significant growth, as Chinese consumers demand better products and services.
4. It’s all about digital
Amidst the rise of digital technology, the acceleration of O2O integration and changes in consumer habits, China’s consumption market has already been digitized for many years. This process has been facilitated by the widespread use of mobile devices and internet, as well as the government’s push for a digital economy. The most notable examples are online marketplaces, such as Alibaba and JD.com, but also social media apps, such as WeChat, Douyin, Little Red Book and Pinduoduo. Foreign brands need to have a presence on these platforms to be taken seriously by their Chinese customers.
5. Domestic brands are gaining momentum
The days are over when consumers were willing to pay a premium price for foreign brands without good reasons. Nowadays, more and more Chinese brands are being preferred above foreign brands, making it even more important for foreign products and services to stay ahead of the game and take a much more agile approach towards a fast-changing economic environment.
When entering the Chinese market, Belgian companies should understand the local consumer behavior, preferences and cultural differences and adapt the brand’s messaging and offerings to the local market. Building and maintaining a positive brand image is crucial for long-term success in China, using digital marketing and e-commerce to reach Chinese consumers. Cooperation with a Chinese partner is surely the preferred approach, but it is crucial to know your partner well enough.
Please contact the Belgian-Chinese Chamber of Commerce (BCECC) in case you need more information.
- 2023 McKinsey China Consumer Report – December 2022
- Ten highlights if China’s commercial sector 2023 – Fung Business Intelligence – January 2023