BEIJING: Brands looking to engage female online shoppers in China must consider the different habits and profiles of potential customers in large and small cities, a study has argued.

MEC China, the media agency, reported that 44% of female consumers in first and second tier cities now shop on the web. This total hit 23% for third and fourth tier cities, up from 13% in 2007.

More specifically, the average annual per capita expenditure among this audience has reached RMB2,096 ($331) in first and second tier markets, versus RMB1,757 in the smaller tiers assessed.

Based on a sample of 3,800 women in third and fourth tier outlets, MEC China found 56% used the web to discover information about brands and products.

While 62% of this panel agreed traditions and customs are "most important", 73% also believed it was imperative to keep learning new things, an area where the net plays a key role.

Turning to purchase behaviour, 39% of third and fourth tier buyers were "impulsive" and 52% wanted to be "trendy and modern", higher figures than their peers in first and second tier cities.

Elsewhere, the willingness to buy imported brands has grown by 120% in smaller markets since 2009, a rate of growth standing at 62% when it comes to choosing "well-known" brands.

Moreover, their online spending has increased by 146% during the same period, measured against an uplift of 45% in China's largest metropolitan centres.

Similarly, female consumers from lower-tier outlets dedicated 2.3% of their monthly income to ecommerce purchases, ahead of the 1.8% posted by their first and second tier counterparts.

Another distinguishing factor is that women shopping in lower tier cities are mainly 20–29 year olds, rising to 20–39 years old in tiers one and two.

Given 70% of female consumers who buy goods online now access the internet via their mobile phone at home, the study further suggested this channel should be incorporated into marketing plans.

MEC China also quoted figures from Credit Suisse, the investment bank, which reported that web expenditure in the country would reach RMB2.7tr by 2015, equivalent to 6.7% of retail sales.

Data sourced from MEC China; additional content by Warc staff