Winning Over The ‘She Economy’: How To Tap Female Consumption In China

With women being an ascendant force in China’s consumer market — accounting for over 70 percent of household purchases in China, including luxury goods, consumer products, and online shopping, according to Alibaba’s Digital B2B Outlook 2023 — brands have a golden opportunity to tap this burgeoning demographic.

But to access that potential, they must address 2023’s emerging “she economy” trends, such as increasing premiumization and the rise of functional foods, and learn to better co-brand and market to the target demographic, such as during special occasions that celebrate all things female, like International Women’s Day and the 3.8 Women’s Day Festival, which fall tomorrow. 

Women’s Day on major e-commerce platforms

The 3.8 Women’s Day Festival is an important marketing event for China’s e-commerce platforms, which target the female demographic with special discounts on products catering to women’s interests and needs. The festival coincides with International Women’s Day and has grown to become a significant opportunity for businesses to boost sales and attract new customers. 

As China’s e-commerce industry booms, events like the festival are expected to become even more critical for businesses looking to showcase their products and services, build brand awareness, and cater to the highly lucrative female demographic.

Participating in Women’s Day campaigns on e-commerce platforms like Tmall and helps businesses attract female consumers. Effective marketing strategies include eye-catching advertising, exclusive discounts, and influencer collaborations. Taobao’s Women’s Day campaign last year drew an audience of 70 million viewers and generated 2.8 billion RMB in sales. 

Brands can also leverage Douyin’s advertising formats, like hashtag challenges and influencer collaborations, to build brand awareness and encourage the sharing of user-generated content. For instance, Chinese beauty brand Florasis used Douyin’s livestreaming services last year to promote its new products. These campaigns provide businesses with the opportunity to attract new customers and build loyalty among existing ones.

Douyin’s Queen’s Festival generates widespread exposure. Photo: China Mega Report by ChoZan

Growing buying power

These business opportunities are set to expand as China’s “she economy” thrives, driven by financially independent young women, particularly those from the millennial and Gen-Z generations, spending on themselves for their own happiness rather than fulfilling traditional roles. 

This growth has propelled the emergence of female-centric businesses catering to women’s preferences and needs, making China the world’s third-largest consumer market for women, equivalent to the combined retail markets of Germany, France, and the UK, reports the South China Morning Post. The shift has also prompted other businesses to target female consumers and promote gender equality in their workforce.

The COVID-19 pandemic both positively and negatively impacted China’s “she economy.” E-commerce and digital platforms accelerated, benefiting female consumers who shop online, and female representation in companies improved, while women in the workforce, particularly in the service sector, have lost jobs or experienced reduced hours. 

These dynamics are fueling the rise of trends that brands must master to succeed.

Going premium 

China is on a mission to upgrade, and that applies to the consumer market, which is experiencing premiumization across all its sectors. Consumers are now more interested in superior quality and exclusive options, a shift reflected in the 20,000-plus posts on Xiaohongshu relating to the topic of premium alternatives. 

For instance, demand for high-end skincare and beauty products is growing, especially among younger generations who prefer mid-to-high-end brands. 

Getting in shape

Functional foods, such as products fortified with vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that support women’s health needs are increasingly popular in China’s food and supplement market. Interest is also growing in beauty supplements that claim to improve consumers’ appearance. 

Traditional Chinese medicine and natural remedies will also be prominent this year, with many women preferring natural, plant-based supplements. Roughly 50 percent of Gen-Z women in China report taking vitamins and supplements more often now than before the pandemic.

Chinese women are increasingly choosing traditional health products. Photo: China Mega Report by ChoZan

Understanding 2023’s key trends is one piece of the puzzle; putting that knowledge into action is another.

Create strong emotional connections 

To connect with female consumers, businesses should align their marketing and product offerings with the demographic’s values and interests. For instance, companies can implement sustainable practices to appeal to consumers who are passionate about protecting the environment. 

Building a brand story around self-care and self-love is also an effective way to evoke emotions and inspire loyalty. Chinese beauty brand Proya’s new tagline, “Gender is not the divide, prejudice is,” resonated with Chinese consumers and generated significant engagement on Weibo. Marketing efforts should promote positive messages on gender roles in China and encourage diversity and inclusivity.

Team up for max visibility

Co-branding for Women’s Day campaigns is an effective way to tap into the occasion’s emotional significance and increase brand visibility. For instance, a fashion brand could partner with a beauty brand to leverage each other’s audience by offering a unique Women’s Day gift set. 

For example, Essity’s Libresse partnered with Yongpu Coffee for 2022’s 3.8 Women’s Day Festival to launch the “Pad storage box” campaign. The collaboration not only broke down the social taboo around menstruation and promoted gender equality, but also expanded Libresse’s reach to a wider audience. Co-branding can provide convenience and unique product showcases, while also promoting meaningful causes.

Libresse’s campaign with Yongpu Coffee in 2022 tells women that menstruation does not need to be hidden. Photo: Yongpu Coffee

Winning over women

Brands should highlight women’s power and achievements, create campaigns promoting gender equality, and offer personalized experiences to better engage this demographic. One way of achieving this is to partner with organizations that support women’s causes and create content celebrating women’s accomplishments. 

Personalization, such as through tailored product recommendations, customer service, and exclusive access to events, is another effective approach to engage women consumers. Building an emotional connection with these consumers can increase loyalty and foster long-term customer relationships.

Above all, brands should be vigilant and keep a constant eye on unfolding trends so they are best positioned to tap into the consumption power of Chinese women.

Read more on these insights in ChoZan’s 2023 Mega Report.

Ashley Galina Dudarenok is a Chinese serial entrepreneur, award-winning digital marketing professional and three-time bestselling author. She is the founder of China-focused digital marketing agency Alarice and digital consultancy ChoZan 超赞.