Key Segments of Chinese Consumers

  • Ashok Sethi


In this chapter, I look at a few broad specific segments of Chinese consumers and attempt a general classification of the Chinese consumers, with an objective to look at a few groups which may offer a certain degree of homogeneity of needs and warrant a certain degree of uniformity of approach for developing marketing strategies and tactics. These segments described here are not mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive. For instance, millennials is a large group, which straddles young couples as well as singles, and is a critical target group for marketing for most brands. Similarly, women consumers are a part of all the other groups. However, women and millennials have been described separately as they have some special characteristics which deserve separate examination. Specifically, this book examines the following consumer groups, and tries to explain their importance and their peculiar characteristics which could be relevant for marketing to them:
  • Gray consumers, who through sheer numbers in China offer a huge and a largely untapped market, which most marketers are slow to exploit

  • Young couples, who are not only large in number but also at or approaching the peak of consumption, as they buy to get the best out of life as well as nurture the family

  • China’s singles, which is a growing population as more and more people lead their life by themselves, voluntarily or by force of circumstance as they are unable to find a mate

  • Chinese centennials, who are the youngest and the most distinctive of the consumer groups

    (These four groups mentioned above are mutually exclusive and collectively form the large part of the consumers in China)

  • Chinese millennials, who may have very little in common with their Western counterparts, as they grew up and came of age in an entirely different environment

  • Chinese women consumers, who because of their own means of income (China has one of the largest proportion of women working outside the home) have created an enormous market

  • Lower tier city consumers and migrant workers, who offer unique characteristics because of their background and where they come from


  1. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  2. Bain & Company; China Merchants Bank. (2017). China Private Wealth Report.Google Scholar
  3. Barton, D., Chen, Y., & Jin, A. (2013). Mapping China’s Middle Class. McKinsey Quarterly.Google Scholar
  4. BCG. (2016, November 2). Capitalizing on Asia’s Booming Upper Middle Class. Retrieved from
  5. Credit Suisse. (2015). Global Wealth Report 2105.Google Scholar
  6. Dobbs, R., Remes, J., & Woetzel, J. (2016). Emerging Demographics are the New Emerging Markets. Harvard Business Review.Google Scholar
  7. Escabado, J. (2017, May 22). Nearly $150K Per Post? What You Need to Know About China’s Key Opinion Leaders. Retrieved from
  8. Fischer, L. H. (2014). Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China (Asian Arguments). Zed Books.Google Scholar
  9. Gan, N., & Hu, T. (2017, July 4). How China’s smaller cities are going all out in the race to win young talent. Retrieved from
  10. Hurun Report; Taikang. (2016). The Healthcare pension Combo Trend.Google Scholar
  11. Kharas, H. (2017). The Unprecedented Expansion of the World Class an Update. Brookings Institution.Google Scholar
  12. National Bureau of Statistics of China. (2016). China Statistical Yearbook 2016.Google Scholar
  13. Reform and Opening Up. (2014, November 18). Retrieved from
  14. Roland, G., & Yang, D. Y. (2017, May). Retrieved from CHINA’S LOST GENERATION:
  15. Shumei, L. (2017, February 13). Single men to number over 30m by 2030. Retrieved from
  16. Silverstein, M. J. (2012). Driving Growth – the Female Economy in China and India. The Boston Consulting Group.Google Scholar
  17. (2018). Statistical Communique of the People’s Republic of China on the 2017 National Economic and Social Development. National Bureau of Statistics of China.Google Scholar
  18. The State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China. (2015). PRC State Council, WhitePaper – Gender Equality and Development in China.Google Scholar
  19. Wang, L. (2015, November 19). More Chinese couples cohabit before marrying: survey. Retrieved from
  20. Xia, C. (2016). Cross-border e-commerce is luring Chinese shoppers. McKinsey Quarterly. Retrieved from
  21. Xingjian, Z. (2016, July 28). ‘So far, the sofa is so far’ strikes a chord with overworked professionals. Retrieved from

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ashok Sethi
    • 1
  1. 1.Illuminera InstituteShanghaiChina

Personalised recommendations