Visiting China as part of the Center for Brand and Product Management’s international trip was one of the most fulfilling experiences during my two years in the Wisconsin MBA program. Walking on top of the Great Wall and hiking to the top of a mountain overlooking Hong Kong were eye-opening. In addition, because of the continued growth and increasing disposable income for its middle class, China may be the most important international market for U.S. companies moving forward. Some insights we learned are unique to China, products of different historical trends, while others may soon make their way over to Western markets.
Here are a few of my key market takeaways and personal learnings that I will take with me into my career as a brand manager at Procter & Gamble.
Consumer expectations of e-commerce companies will continue to rise:
In the U.S., Amazon Prime is the mainstream standard for online retail. But allowing a company two full days to ship a package from warehouse to doorstep would be unacceptable for many Chinese consumers. With Chinese e-commerce sales almost 2x that in the U.S., online platforms often have same-day delivery for packages to consumers in Tier I cities. Similar trends of urbanization and time pressures will continue in the U.S. and as consumers shift more of their shopping to e-commerce the current 48-hour timeline will no longer be acceptable. Online marketplaces and companies planning their own D2C services will need to make sure they can meet these consumer demands.
To fully understand a consumer market, you must immerse yourself in it: Before visiting mainland China, I read a few articles noting how prevalent mobile payment was for a variety of merchants. However, it’s hard to comprehend the extent of that market trend until you personally experience it. A classmate and I were walking around the Beijing Olympic Village one night and wanted to check out an exhibit promoting the 2022 Winter Olympics. We had cash and credit card on hand, but no mobile payment. We legitimately couldn’t get a ticket because they only accepted WeChat Pay or AliPay. This would never currently happen in a Western market, but it’s essentially the new normal in China. Leo Burnett Shanghai Managing Director Angie Wong said it best: “It takes someone who is open-minded to learning about the culture to be successful in marketing products.”
Out-of-home ads will become increasingly connected and valuable: Another trend that could be making its way to the U.S. is the increasing creativity and value associated with out-of-home (OOH) advertising. As more consumers opt for ad-free content platforms at home, companies will need to find other ways to reach its targeted segments. For example, on the Beijing subway there was a long digital display between stations seamlessly playing a 10-second ad spot as the train drove past. Starcom also noted that companies can implant a sensor in these OOH ads to detect when mobile devices pass by, recording the owner’s demographics. This will allow companies to better reach their target consumers compared to more traditional forms of OOH ads.