Generation Gaps towards Consumer Behaviours

Whenever one is trying to talk about the consuming ability of Chinese people, the capability of Chinese expenditure should be familiarized by most of the world. If you try to go to Paris, Milan and step into any luxurious shops, it is of high chance that you can see Chinese people around you.

Due to the immature market environment, the Chinese consumer behaviors are sometimes being criticized as it shows a certain special characteristics. However, the side that we always see about this group of consumers does not represent the whole population of Chinese. Indeed, the traditional Chinese culture has formed its unique consumer characteristics, and the distinctions between different generations show big differences between these gaps.

When it comes to consumer behavior, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory is always being mentioned. These hierarchies of five different levels of demand are the minimum to meet their basic physiological needs, followed by the security needs, social needs, esteem needs, and lastly self-realization.

Reflected in this hierarchy of needs theory is a universal condition, but in the actual market behavior, especially in the Chinese market, the environment is quite complex, and different phenomena under this model varies between generations. The consuming behaviors, life styles and habits between different generations show an obvious distinction.

Chinese towards expenditure are usually divided into four generations and distinct by the general level of economic development during their growth stage, which shape their primary characteristic.

  • 1st : Born on or before 1945, which have come along with the war
  • 2nd : Born between 1946 to 1965, which is the generation of baby bomb
  • 3rd : Born between 1966 to 1980, the Generation X
  • 4th : Born after 1981, includes the Post-80s and Post-90s

The 4th generation always represents the most developed consumer groups, while the 1st generation is often on behalf of the least developed consumers. These different groups of consumers are grown in different environment in specific period of times. The economic status and the development of consumer market surrounding shapes different specific behaviors of them.

The 1st generation grows in more or less a poor environment as they have experienced war in their lifetime. Basic physiological need is the core value of their consuming behavior. They tends to have a strong family values and the value of money expenditure tends to be more pence-pinching. They will usually compare prices before making a purchase and the preference goes to the cheaper product. Only necessities and essential products would be on their list of purchase. Luxurious products would not attract this group of consumers.

The 2nd generation is the generation of the baby bombers. The consumer market in China expands a lot in the growth stage of this group of people, in order to suit the dramatically expanding market of consumption. Upon the stable growth of post-war economy, there are more choices and varieties of products available in the market. Thus, this group of people tends to pay more attention to product safety and reliability from the varieties. They will conduct careful planning and research before buying any products.

The 3rd generation is what we called “Generation X”. This generation follows the powerful baby bomber generation. “X” described the lack of identity that members of Generation X felt — they didn’t know where they belonged, but knew for sure that they weren’t a part of the overbearing generation of Baby Boomers. With the shocking growth of the economic status during Baby bombers stage, the parents of Generation X would be able to provide better environment for their child. The identification problem together with the better economy has created the starts of needs for self-esteem and self-actualization. The concept of luxury products starts to grow in this stage, as different products seems to be able to provide this group of people different identity. Fashion trends and brand-name goods start to be an important concern of this group of peoples’ buying behavior.

The 4th generation is called Post-80s and Post-90s in China. Post-80s and 90s are colloquial terms which refer to the generation whose members were born after 1980 in Mainland China, after the introduction of the One-child policy. This generation currently aged below 32, making up a major portion of China’s young adult and teenager demography. In this generation, the One-Child-Policy started to launch and the effects of this policy is significant. With the fastest-ever growing of Chinese economy and the restriction of child in family, they are sometimes being referred as “Little Emperors” at home. In many Chinese families the 4-2-1 format, 4 grandparents, 2 parents, one child, takes place, resulting with a child which receives love and attention and has no siblings to compete with. The spending habits and buying behavior of this generation is very significant as their parents tends to encourage them on spending if this makes them feel happier. The concept of luxurious products is very important to this generation and they are willing to spend a lot on buying expensive products to treat themselves.

I have conducted a skype interview towards different family members of mine who live in China, including my grandma, uncle, auntie and their daughter, my cousin, to understand their consuming behavior. To make the interview easier, I have picked up an example of product: Mobile Phone, as they all have one and it’s easier to analyses their behavior.

Grandma /71 years old / Retired person/ Nokia 8310

Uncle /48 years old/ Logistic Manager/ Blackberry 8520

Auntie /39 years old/ Housewife/ iPhone 3GS

Cousin/16 years old/ Student/ iPhone 4S

Question 1: Why do you think you will need a mobile phone?

Grandma: Indeed I do not need a mobile phone, but my son is not living with me currently. They buy me a phone so that they can find me anytime even I am not at home.

Uncle: I need a mobile phone to contact my family as well as use this in working purposes.

Auntie: Obviously everyone needs a mobile phone in this generation. I need to contact my friends and family. There’s no reason for not having a mobile phone for everyone live in town in China now.

Cousin: I need the phone to contact my friends and play games. I also need it for listening music and watch movies.

Question 2: Why did you choose your current phone?

Grandma: My son wants me to have a phone but I really don’t need one. So I just take his old phone to use.

Uncle: Blackberry is good for organizing my stuffs at work. It facilitates my working process. It is very useful.

Auntie: iPhone is very trendy and popular now. The shape and the functions of it are perfect. I feel good for using iPhone that it gives me a luxurious feeling. But my phone is out of fashion now, I am going to ask your uncle to change a new iPhone4S for me soon.

Cousin: This is nonsense of asking why people use iPhone! Everyone knows that iPhone is the best. You are going to use iPhone to do everything. The best thing is that people jealous when you are holding it!

Question 3: How do you find the price of your phone?

Grandma: I don’t know the price of it, but I am sure that it must be high. My son needs to get a new phone for work so give this old one to me. However, it can still function well and I think it’s kind of waste to give it to me. I try to give it to my granddaughter but she refused to use this.

Uncle: I think it is reasonable. The price matches the functions and it eases my workload in certain extents.

Auntie: I think the price is high but It is still reasonable. The price is a bit high as compare to other phones. But as long as it is trendy people are willing to give money to them.

Cousin: The price is not expensive at all. This gives every functions that you can use and it worth more that it cost.

Question 4: Will you get a new mobile phone in the coming period?

Grandma: No. I am happy with this one.

Uncle: Not in this period until it’s not functioning. This one matches all my need of a mobile phone.

Auntie: Yes. I want to get an iPhone 4S. But maybe my daughter is going to get a new phone soon. So I may get hers if she is getting a new one.

Cousin: Probably. I heard that the new iPhone 5 is launching soon and I want to get that one. It would be the trendiest and people would envy about it. I think mobile phone should always be changing due to current trends.

I hope the results would give you more clues on the difference between generations in consumer behaviors. These gaps in a single family actually represent majority of these groups in China. And I believe this is worth to understand.

Advertisements

Because it’s cheap!

I am currently studying jewellery design, but I will not be writing about beaded necklaces that are made for Mardi Gras. Actually, we do not celebrate it in Europe in the same way that it is celebrated in the United States. I am mostly going to express mine and others opinions about daily life and how we deal with jewellery and clothes shops in Dundee, the UK, France, and Europe.

In order to find the opinions of other people, I sent out a questionnaire to teenagers, workmen, students, unemployed, and retired individuals. I tried to ask people from different social classes to find if money made a difference. The questions I asked were simple and were based on questions that I was curious to find the answers to. After the answers I received, I also came up with a few more questions to ask.

The first question I asked was, “When I say ‘Made in China’, what does that mean to you?” The replies I received were very similar, ranging from “huge factories, poor people working, children workers, rapidity, profitability, cheap goods, bad quality”.  Almost everyone thought the same thing, more on a negative side. The question is, “do people continue to buy Chinese items even if they criticize it?” I found that people do still continue to buy items despite what they know.

Even as a jeweller, I admit that I buy cheap jewels that are made in China (Claire’s, Topshop, New Look, Primark). These jewels are the kind that are easily breakable, lost, cheap, and are not important.  I always check the labels of things I buy out of curiosity, including clothes and jewellery. Honestly, I know where and how the stuff I buy are made when it says “Made in China”, but out of habit I still continue to buy it. It seems wrong, especially when I am aware of the bad conditions, pollution, and other factors. Why don’t I change? It is probably because it’s a habit. I’m still a student so I always try to find the cheapest deal when I buy clothes and jewellery. Many people I interviewed do the same. Even though we are aware of what is happening, we live too far from the reality of the other side of the world and are more concerned about the money in our purse.

I’ve asked my friends and myself the reasons as to why we continue to buy cheap things all the time, especially when we don’t need it. Why do we not keep our money in order to buy something of better quality, made in Europe in good working conditions, but more expensive? The response that came up was quantity. Our society is a consumer society. The fashion society will tell you what to wear and say that what you are currently purchasing will be outdated in a few months! We do not want the expensive brand made by a fashion designer. Instead we prefer similar clothing just for the attitude and look. Most people don’t have the money to buy designer brands, unless they are from the upper class! You can just ignore that and try to buy “ethical” clothes and jewellery that was made in better working conditions or go to second hand shops. I try to do that sometimes, but I find that things made in Europe are too expensive to buy all the time or items in second hand shops are not “fashionable”.  I received similar responses from my panel. Some people are not interested in buying second hand clothes, but more to try less but Asian goods.

I’ve asked some people the reasons why they want to stop buying jewellery and good “made in China” and they reply, “ because Made in China items are destroying western jobs, factories, and the economy.” When I ask them about the working conditions, people are aware of how the products are made and feel guilty, but most of them admit that this is not the first thought that came to mind.

A few friends have argued that products “Made in China” are everywhere, so it’s kind of hard to boycott it. We can’t really do that because China has such a large export industry worldwide and it’s probably not a wise thing to do either. Europe is in a huge crisis and people are very aware of their money and how much things cost. We may tend to blame China, but actually they are just making what we want and ask for: cheap, consumable, but a detriment in quality and working conditions.

We tend to blame China for many reasons, but goods produced from other Asian countries like India and Bangladesh, South America and Turkey are all made in poor working conditions. The quality for products from these countries is similar to Chinese goods and pollution from clothing factories is quite harmful. A large number of jeans are made in Turkey and sadly workers in textile factories have serious health injuries. The public tends to turn a blind eye towards these issues. Why do we only really focus on what happens in China? I asked this question to my panel and gave them information about jean factories in Turkey as a comparison. Some people came up with interesting responses. They said that China is one of the most powerful countries in the world, western people and westerns factories are possibly afraid of that. They try to make China the black sheep because they were able to increase their economy so quickly. Chinese made goods quickly and at an affordable price in large quantity, due to the large numbers of workers they have! Westerns try to use the guilt factor with consumers in order to keep their economy alive.

Made by Hand: II

Following on from my assignment 3 post, a new information has come to my attention. In the last post I was discussing the idea of goods made by hand are perceived as higher quality in Western culture. While in China, where the majority of goods are made by hand, they are commonly thought of as poor quality items.

This has been a recent surge in bringing the manufacturing of our own goods, which have been moved to China, home. Here are a couple of examples.

Hiut Denim are a new business backed up by a remarkable amount of experience – a whole town in fact. When the jeans factory in Cardigan (Wales) closed down, its workers spanned over three decades of expertise. These were and are real, honest, crafts people and Hiut has reemployed them to do what they do best.
Cardigan is a small town of 4,000 good people. 400 of them used to make jeans. They made 35,000 pairs a week. For three decades.
Then one day the factory closed. It left town. But all that skill and knowhow remained. Without any way of showing the world what they could do.
That’s why we have started The Hiut Denim Company. To bring manufacturing back home. To use all that skill on our doorstep. And to breathe new life into our town. – hiutdenim.co.uk

Channel 4 have also been looking into bringing manufacturing back to Britian. Mary Portas, they ruiner of charity shops, has a new series coming up which looks into getting unemployed people in Britain back to work in the manufacturing business.

In the middle of the worst recession since the war, retail guru Mary Portas believes a a window of opportunity has opened to restore some life back to British manufacturing.

Transport costs and foreign labour costs are rising, so Mary’s heading to Middleton, Greater Manchester, to set up a new production line for British-made knickers.

Mary wants consumers to understand the value of buying British: skills, UK jobs, pride in our manufacturing heritage.

 

 

It will be a challenge for Mary, who normally frequents an altogether different shop-floor. She not only needs to breathe life back into a mothballed factory, she has to persuade the old seamstresses to teach the new recruits, and track down some of the last fabric suppliers in the country.

Will she pull it off, or will her first ever foray into manufacturing be simply a brief encounter? – Channel 4

Fumin Road, Shanghai

NewImage

Jing Daily has a link to a profile in Fashion Trend Digest of one of Shanghai’s newly trendy streets, Fumin Road, where the city’s up and coming fashion designers are selling their wares:

““Fumin Road, a once-sleepy street in Shanghai’s French Concession, [is becoming] something of a hotbed of activity for young local designers, several of whom have opened boutiques there as rents in fashion districts like Changle Road have skyrocketed. Much like Nanluoguxiang, Baochao Hutong and Wudaoying Hutong in Beijing, which have seen a [recent] influx of local designers and boutiques, Shanghai’s Fumin Road is now attracting independent designers like Helen Lee to multi-brand curated shops like Dong Liang Studio””

The Hive

Read the full story – in English – at Jing Daily (link via Design China.)