Chinese shoppers seek advice

20 September 2013
SHANGHAI: A number of third-party platforms have been launched in China to provide local consumers, confronted with an ever wider variety of products, with professional comparisons rather than relying on marketers' descriptions.

One such, MingJian, has begun with a series of reports comparing baby and child products. Founder James Feldkamp explained to China Daily that it was committed to "independent, expert, impartial research and testing of products and services".

Its online reports are aimed at the growing numbers of "new mainstream" consumers with incomes above 106,000 yuan ($17,193) and who are prepared to spend more on reliable products.

MingJian says it surveys consumers in major cities on the products they use before selecting particular models to test that cover a range of prices and features. "We started with baby and child products as we noticed that more young Chinese parents who have been influenced by Western culture are willing to buy expensive and high-quality goods for their children," said Feldkamp.

Nor is it just Western culture that is affecting such parents – safety has become a big concern, following food scares such as the presence of melamine in baby formula. A Warc Trends report noted earlier this year that shoddy workmanship and fake products were also driving consumers to pay a premium for a sense of safety in their consumption.

"When one local product has a safety issue, all local brands within the same product category are affected," it said. "Consumers' reaction is often to switch to international brands"."

Even though the price of MingJian's reports is pitched at a level where consumers will more than recoup that cost if they make the right buying decision, experts thought it would take a long time for Chinese consumers to accept the worth of such evaluation reports.

"They still firmly believe that expensive goods are the best," said Zhao Jiaoli, former secretary-general of the Shanghai Commission of Consumers' Rights and Interest Protection.

That view may be starting to change however, as a new survey from the People's Bank of China, which polled 20,000 urbanites in 50 cities, found that almost 60% felt prices of consumer goods in the third quarter were "high and unacceptable".

Data sourced from China Daily; additional content by Warc staff
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