Study of Modern Chinese Women

2015-6 Priscilla Sze

Recently, the market research agency I run received a group of clients from Northern Europe. We together conducted a study about modern women in Shanghai, which is rather interesting. We spent four consecutive days with respondents to experience the life of modern women including shopping in the mall, tasting various dishes, taking yoga lessons, having high tea, and conducting in-depth interviews with different column writers, career coaches, hairdressers, shopping assistants, magazine editors, etc. Apparently, we also visited apartments of modern women in different ages, in order to understand their life attitudes, value and lifestyle etc. This market research project was really fascinating.


City landscape of Shanghai is very different from that of Northern Europe

Clients from Northern Europe obviously felt enormous differences between Shanghai and Northern Europe when they have arrived. By using Denmark as an example, the entire country only has a population of 5 million people, which is equivalent to one fifth of population in Shanghai. They felt that Shanghai was exceptionally busy and crowded. We visited many shopping malls with clients to experience the life of modern women. The huge number of shopping malls and their large scale can never be found in Denmark. There are only a few busy commercial streets with some boutique shops along the streets there. Therefore, they thought it was new and exciting to see such a strong commercial ambience in Shanghai.


High prices of luxury products in Shanghai

Prices of luxury products in mid and high tier shopping malls in Shanghai are fairly high. This differs a lot from the situation in Denmark. For example, a pair of design shoes is approximately RMB1,000 and a purse is around RMB4,000 in Shanghai. Clients found the prices beyond their imagination. They said that it might only need half price for the same product in Denmark. They felt that it was hard to understand why Shanghai women have such consumption power. Even though they have the consumption power, why would not willing to accept such high prices of these luxury products.    


Dreams and pursuits of young modern women

We visited and conducted the observation and interview in the apartment of a single woman, who was approximately 30 years old. She said that she was an after-school Mathematics tutor for children of foreigners who live and work in Shanghai. She regards her job to be giving her much freedom. She considers this is a well-paid job which demands little time commitment, making her absolutely happy. However, what she pursues is a kind of richer, more flexible and enjoyable life. She desires to have her own career. Since most of her female friends are entrepreneurs, she believes that establishing a business of her own was the best way to test her own abilities. Meanwhile, it would enable her more financial and time freedom. Therefore, a number of modern women are not merely satisfied with some basic needs. They have many unique thoughts and wishes, which they hope to achieve by their own abilities.


Beauty of women in the workplace

In the western society, if women want to compete with men and achieve success in the workplace, they must show some extent of masculinity in terms of the way they talk, act or dress. However, this is not a common idea in China. According to the female career coach we interviewed, Chinese modern women seem to be relatively traditional. They regard family as most important once they get married and give childbirth. They would rather sacrifice their career, not competing with men, and spend their time and efforts on their children. They want to accompany them to grow up. Therefore, they usually prefer to express femininity instead of masculinity in the workplace. Perhaps these traditional family values are the reasons why they are keen on building their own business to exchange for the time and freedom later on in their lives.

Modern women’s value towards love

The woman we interviewed pays much attention to her appearance. She thinks that it is a must to dress in style specially clothes and to keep young, in order to attract men. She stated that if she wants to find an excellent husband, facing strong competition, it is essential for her to keep herself competitive all the time. She needs not only be independent on finance, but also has sweet smile, slim figure and white skin. According to her, anti-aging and retaining beauty are the common topics between her and her friends. They usually communicate about cosmetics and skin care products, clothing and weight-losing products etc.

Anti-aging and staying healthy

This woman interviewed thinks that active exercise is one way to prevent aging problems. However, she has her own view on how to do exercise. This view is very much similar to her peers. She is not willing to do too many outdoor activities as they may cause damages to the skin and make it tanned. Therefore, the most ideal exercise is running for a short time and yoga. This is very much different from Northern European’s health concept. Northern Europeans believe that it is necessary to do strenuous aerobic exercise and get sweat in the process in order to keep fit and healthy. Moreover, tanned women are regarded as healthy and pretty, which is quite the opposite in China.


There are huge differences between Chinese and Western women. Chinese women, on one hand are very traditional, paying much attention to family. On the other hand they are very modern and independent. Hence, they have strong individualistic styles in terms of lifestyle, interests, hobbies and dressing style. Certainly this should not be generalized. Further consumer segmentation and in-depth interviews are required to help client customize their marketing strategies to achieve success in China.