Starcom China is embarking on an ambitious adventure into China’s lower tier cities. This is the first time we will be diving deep into China’s tiers, going from our Tier 1 home cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, to counties and towns. Our first leg is in Guangdong, the next is Hebei and our final leg brings us to Anhui.
Marrying both quant and qual, this is a robust study that takes the thoughts and opinions of over 13,000 respondents from 510 locations across tiers 1-5.
Starting yesterday, we have hit the road and traveled to Qingyuan, a prefecture-level city in Guangdong province with a population of just over 4 million. Initial observations were “this isn’t so bad!” and “Seems quite developed”. Indeed it did seem that way. While Qingyuan is lacking the tall towers, skyscrapers, and bright lights seen in top tier cities, it has no shortage of KFCs (this morning, I saw two on the same street), shops and boutiques. Traffic is more chaotic and buildings look older, but there is clear evidence of a city on the path of growth.
Yesterday afternoon, we met up with Wen, a 30 year old sales associate. She welcomed us into her home – a 9th story flat (no elevator) she rents for 300 yuan a month. It contains two small sectioned rooms (one as bedroom), a small balcony which she uses as a kitchen and laundry room rolled up into one, and a washroom. She lives in what seems to be a busy shopping area of town.
Wen leads a simple life. Her desires don’t appear great and her ambitions few. Her perfect day is going to work, making good sales (she works at a clothing boutique), going home, watching TV dramas on her computer (via “PPS”, a video streaming site), and getting good sleep. It’s as simple as that.
She also has a handful of good friends that she loves to be around and sees practically every day.
Travel is something that she says makes her happy, though she hasn’t been many places. She tried living in Guangzhou for a bit, but found the life too hectic. Qingyuan is the perfect balance between the Qingyuan suburbs she grew up in and a large city like Guangzhou. The places she most desires traveling to are Beijing (to see the historical sites), Yunnan (because her good girl friend went and said it’s beautiful) and Hangzhou. Outside of China, she wanted to visit Hawaii (Why? Because she loves to see water and the beach). We got the feeling that she wasn’t too aware of the world outside of China … or perhaps it was just all too daunting for her. Being within China is desired due to it being familiar yet exotic at the same time. Once again, this shows how she will not reach too far when it comes to her ambitions and desires.
Finding a husband is her top priority right now, but she does not desire one who is rich or who owns a flat (like many top tier ladies do), but rather one who treats her well and has a good heart. Why not rich, we ask. And once again, we see that her expectations only extend so far. ”A rich man may not necessarily be a good man”, she says.
Are lower tier consumers more humble? More accepting? More content… or more complacent? There is definitely a difference in being content and being complacent. As we speak with more people and go deeper into the tiers, this is one of the many questions we wish to find an answer to.
Stay tuned for more daily updates for the rest of this week. If there is a burning question YOU would like to ask, please feel free to send me an email or leave a comment.
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