Mar 8, 2021|

Rise of Chinese Women as Economic Force 


by Kelly Dawson

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, JD’s Big Data Research Institute has released a consumption report on Chinese female consumers, revealing trends and changes that also reflect the evolution of women’s status in China. Among JD’s findings are that the growth of female shoppers on the platform is quickly outpacing that of their male counterparts, spending not only on “family consumption,” an area where they remain a dominant force, but also on themselves, increasingly focusing on their own needs and tastes.

“In addition to their vast contributions to the workplace, family and society, women are also the powerhouse of Chinese consumer spending,” said Meha Verghese, growth and innovation lead for MediaCom, a leading media agency in China with a focus on consumer insights. “Seventy-five percent of all purchase decisions in China are made by women, and the ‘she-conomy’ (她经济) is driving the growth of diverse categories from cosmetics, baby products and luxury goods to alcohol, cars and mobile gaming.”

Chinese women are currently responsible for ¾ of household purchasing decisions, but the proportion between how much women spend on household and family consumption vs. spending on their own interests is declining year by year, with the two pulling level at 50% and an expectation that personal spending will continue to grow, according to JD’s report.

“The modern Chinese woman is an economic powerhouse with more financial and social independence, social stability and higher disposable income, meaning women now spend more on themselves,” said a recent report from market analysis agency Alarice. Among the world’s self-made female billionaires, Chinese women account for 57% of the total. In fact, even everyday Chinese women have amassed increasingly formidable economic power, as more and more women achieve financial independence and demonstrate unprecedented spending savvy.

As women’s status changes, so do their needs, said Verghese. “Chinese women’s values, their ambitions and passions, and their consumption habits are changing and diversifying,” Verghese said.

Chinese women with higher education and greater participation in the workforce are naturally more likely to experience financial autonomy. Today in China, 56% of the female population enrolls in tertiary education, while only 46% of men do. If this trend continues, female spenders will grow to represent an even greater power in the Chinese market.

Reflecting this dedication to learning is a higher rate of book purchases among female shoppers on JD as compared to male shoppers, with women buying 8.1 books a year on average. Popular book topics include self-improvement and finance management, with a focus on the pursuit of financial independence.

Women are also increasingly health-conscious, a trend that has accelerated during the pandemic as many have prioritized self-care. While traditionally female-centric categories like makeup have grown, so have the categories of sports and fitness—particularly in lower-tier cities, according to JD’s data.

Women in lower-tier Chinese cities are indeed gaining share in the market, with female shoppers in these cities becoming the single largest source of increase in Internet retail, according to JD’s report.  While female shoppers tend to spend the most in Tier 1 Chinese cities, the report found that the lower the tier of the city, the higher the rate of growth among female shoppers as compared to male shoppers.

Female shoppers in these lower-tier cities were most likely to list “zero-tolerance for quality issues” as a determining factor in how they shop online. Considering that customers in lower-tier cities have been slower to adapt to ecommerce due to lingering skepticism, JD’s commitment to 100% authenticity has been particularly attractive for female consumers with increasing health-consciousness and a desire to make savvy purchases.

Additionally, female shoppers are becoming a driving force in the growth of the pet economy. They are increasingly likely to purchase smart pet products including automatic water dispensing machines and self-cleaning litter boxes, with sales growing by 6 times YOY.

Distribution of female shoppers across age groups is becoming more balanced, with more teens and elderly women shopping online. Additionally, Chinese women are resourceful shoppers, according to the Alarice report. They use extensive channels to research and more deeply understand merchandise before spending, and are quick to explore shopping innovations including group buying, livestreaming and more.

“Powerful women are pursuing our best selves,” said Jacqueline Chan, Alarice projector director, of what’s driving the rise of the Chinese female consumer. “We insist on self-improvement, from our appearance and fitness to upgrading our professional skills and cultivating our talents, to make the best of ourselves inside and out. We’re willing to pay to enhance our quality of life.”