Interview with Ashley (II): Trends That Will Shape China’s Online Retail Market in 2021H2
BY Shine HuAug 26, 2021
ChemLinked is very glad to have interview Ashley Galina Dudarenok, the founder of ChoZan & Alarice, to touch on the Chinese online consumption trends in 2021. Ashley is in the loop on what’s happening in Chinese retail market right now. In this episode, she talked about: Promising consumption categories and economies: health-related, duty-free, and night economy. Rising new consumer groups: the silver-haired generation, the lower-city youth, and mothers. Dominant sectors for imported brands in the online marketplace: mother and baby, and pet products. Get up to speed and find out all you need to know in the following content.
1. Which related industries or categories do you think will be driven by consumers’ continuous attention to health? 

First of all, the Chinese government is making great efforts to promote sports, with more stadiums and more emphasis on sports in schools. There is also increasing national pride or national fascination with sports like swimming, football, and table tennis, which is conducive to business spanning from sports equipment to related fitness services and products.

On the other hand, Chinese people have a different perception towards how to stay healthy from people in western countries. In China, health is more about eating rather than exercising. If the Chinese want to become healthier, they would tend to change their eating habits and choose some supplements or Chinese medicine. In this respect, we see huge trends there, which are happening in China and globally. For example, sugar-free drinks and plant-based meat are popular right now. However, I do not think plant-based meat fits Chinese cuisine currently in terms of the cooking method. If local players could make the healthy concepts represented by less sugar and oil, more protein, coarse grains, and plant-based more applicable for the local market, the potential would be huge. 

In China, people of all ages have started to focus more on health. They not only care about themselves but also care about somebody above or below them. They not only buy products for themselves, but also their families. The generational care concept will create a whole chain of product lines for the whole family and leading to the prospects when everybody is talking about eating better and being healthier.

On top of that, disinfectant products, including masks, medical gloves, and sanitizers, are potential. The pandemic has pushed people to protect themselves through using these categories of products. In my view, the sales of disinfectant products would remain strong in the next 2-3 years, if not forever. SARS is the best proof of how people in Asia have changed the way they wear masks. Because before SARS, there were rarely people wearing medical masking outside. After SARS, people wore masks more, even though some may have a slight sore throat. So we are going to see some long-term consumption changes in these categories.

2. What other consumption trends, besides health consumption, do you see for the second half of 2021?

The first trend is duty-free. In the past two years, we have seen the duty-free market embracing more relaxing policies. Although we are stuck in the country, there is still a proportion of the population that would like to embark on a journey to Hainan or to city mall in Beijing to relax with nice food and shopping. This should be a focus of international brands right now that used to be a big driver of retail, especially those in the sectors of perfumes, cosmetics, home appliances, and alcohol. They should think about shifting the retail model and capturing consumers’ attention from not just airports in some isolated islands.

The second one is the night economy. In China, night consumption has become a habit rooted in Chinese consumers’ daily lives because they work late, eat late, and water TV series or live-streaming late. Chinese people prefer e-commerce shopping (4-8 times a day on average), and the majority of it happens between 10 pm to midnight. Night purchases have accounted for about 40% of all-day consumption.

According to Tmall Global, from January to July in 2020, the sales of foreign liquor increased 220%, and most of the transactions happened at night. The rising night consumption economy also boosted other relevant industries, such as sleeping-aiding calming tea and eye cream, which addresses dark circles after staying late.

3. What new consumer groups do you see besides Gen Z that will contribute a lot to China’s online consumption market?

The first is the silver-haired generation. China is stepping towards an aging society. The latest national population census result shows that the number of people aged 60 and above in China has reached 264 million, accounting for 18.7% of the total population. This is a group with idler money and more spare time. Besides, more of them have an interest in technical products and online platforms such as Douyin and Kuaishou. We have seen some of the bloggers of that age popping up. Due to the pandemic, they are becoming more digitally savvy through network effect, and have been used to buying grocery online.

The second is the lower-tier city youth. Most post-80s and post-90s are now adopting a “Lying Flat” attitude (meaning youth exhausted by a culture of hard work with seemingly little reward push for a lifestyle change). Lower-tier youths generally don’t have huge aspirations, and they take things as they are. They don’t measure success by fame and wealth but by inner peace and joy. Although they don’t earn much, they benefit from owning cars and houses and have more money to spend.

The third is the mother group that pursues a delicate lifestyle. I do not think Chinese mothers will give birth to the third child right now even though the country is encouraging them to do so. But in China, there is always the culture where mothers want to bring the best to their children. The culture is highly central to what Chinese society has been built on and cherished for thousands of years. Also, the rise of women empowerment featuring more focus on self-value and self-fulfillment has promoted mothers to spend more on themselves, such as skincare products for both babies and mothers. Parents are willing to spend money to lead their families to a healthier and decent life, look good, and feel good.

4. Which sectors do you think imported brands still have an advantage in the online marketplace?

I think Chinese consumers have the idea of some products being better because of their origin. They have affiliation preference towards some foreign countries in the selection of some categories. For example, in maternity and baby products, I still believe that milk from New Zealand would be more believable for Chinese consumers than Yili, the local producer. In the minds of lots of mothers, they would rather buy something from Germany because they trust the German standard, and they feel more assured from “made in Germany.” Foreign brands have a competitive advantage in all consumer products for mothers and babies, from eating to using, from inside to outside.

Another sector is pet food. Currently, pets have become important family members of Chinese people. They are following the western picture of what a family looks like, with children and pets. Chinese consumers feel that products from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the U.S. are above local producers in any kinds of pet snacks, pet grooming products, and devices. Chinese young pet lovers specifically like imported pet food. As we can see from CBNData, 40% of imported meat-based pet food consumption on Tmall is by post-95s pet owners. Imported brands have been dominant in pet-related categories.

About the Expert:


Ashley Galina Dudarenok

Founder of ChoZan & Alarice

Ashley is a China marketing expert, serial entrepreneur, global keynote speaker, 3 time bestselling author, vlogger, podcaster, media contributor and female leadership spokesperson. She was recognized as a LinkedIn Top Voice in Marketing in 2019 and chosen as an Asia Pacific Top 25 Innovator by the Holmes Report. She is the Founder of China-focused social media agency Alarice and China insights and training company ChoZan.

We also have another episode, click the following link to read:

Interview with Ashley (I): Trends That Will Shape China’s Online Retail Market in 2021H2

Shine Hu
ChemLinked Research Analyst
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