Lisa Yang comes from Inner Mongolia, a province in Northeastern China. She has been working in sales at Bosch Packaging Systems (Switzerland) since 2013 and is responsible for Asian markets. In the following short interview, she shares with us her personal impressions of the market, society and the behavior of the younger generation of consumers in China.
China has been experiencing considerable, continuous economic growth for years, and is opening up completely new sales prospects for many international manufacturers. Its 1.4 billion consumers are just as dynamic as the market itself; they have purchasing power, an affinity for technology and are keen to experiment.
Lisa, what developments do you currently see in the Chinese economy?
The Chinese market is still extremely dynamic. China has 1.4 billion people, and its population continues to increase. It is no wonder that many companies regard China as a strategically important market. Consumers are generally very open to new ideas and demand constant innovation from companies. Whatever the industry, manufacturers must constantly bring new, attractive products to market. Every time I travel to China, I see things that didn’t exist six months prior.
China is on its way to becoming a completely cashless society. Apps such as WeChat or AliPay have established themselves in the market with their QR code payment systems. Whether at the supermarket, buying bus tickets, in a restaurant or buying from small merchants in a street market, you can pay quickly and easily using your mobile phone. We generally adopt new technologies without hesitation. There’s no fear of the unknown.
Can you tell us a little bit about how China has changed over the years?
The trigger for the enormous change was the opening of the market. This development began in 1978. In designated zones, the economy was developed step by step for international trade. This process has gained momentum over the years. Today, China is the world’s second largest economy, with the strongest purchasing power in the world. Considering that it’s only been 40 years between its total isolation and its position as a global player, this is a great achievement. The Chinese population has benefited from this development and a lot of jobs have been created. There is now a stable, growing middle class, but even the lower income groups today have more money in their pockets than ever before, and everyone likes to afford a little luxury. Currently, the general satisfaction of the population is high.
This rapid economic growth will certainly bring with it some social upheavals. You grew up during that time. What changes have you seen?
With the opening up of the country and the resulting economic development, society naturally changes. We, who were born in the 80s and 90s, have experienced a completely different China compared to the country our parents and grandparents knew. The family used to be the foundation of the social system. People stayed together to protect each other. Today, children move out of their parents’ houses early. They lead an independent life, travel a lot and -like me – work abroad. This is actually not so different from people’s experiences in other countries. Young Chinese are shaped by this continuous growth and prosperity. They see opportunities in this extremely dynamic environment. They are ambitious and work hard to advance their careers. A good career and earning as much money as possible are the big goals for many.
One of your business areas in the Chinese market is the chocolate industry. Is chocolate actually popular in China?
Traditionally, we prefer salty snacks. Sweets were around before, but they weren’t as popular as they are today. I still remember the moment when I first ate real chocolate as a child. The chocolate melted on my tongue. It was a whole new experience. Until then, all we knew was artificial chocolate. It was rock-hard, no trace of a “delicate melt.” Today, of course, this isn’t anything special anymore, because with the change of generations and the international range of sweets, the taste of the population is slowly adapting to the expanded range that is available. The Chinese chocolate market is dominated by international manufacturers such as Mars, Mondelēz, Ferrero, Hershey and Nestlé. Together, these companies have a market share of around 70 percent.
What do you think is the biggest trend in China?
Clearly e-commerce. This is no longer merely a trend, but with e-pay, e-food and so on we are already experiencing the next stage of e-commerce services in China. Last year, the e-commerce market grew by 24 percent and overall the country has implemented almost twice as much e-commerce as the USA. Those who want to be successful in China must also sell online.