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24 Hours in the Life of a Chinese Consumer

Have you ever wondered what life is like for the average consumer in China?

Daxue Consulting has done the research for you and would like to introduce you to our consumer proxy, Li Ping (李萍), whom we will be following for 24 hours to help you understand the facts and figures that defines the Chinese consumer.


Li Ping is 35 years old, China’s current median age. Her name, meaning “elegance” and “brave” is relatively uncommon by Chinese standards; only 250 thousand other woman currently have the same one. On this hypothetical morning, she woke up a little after 7:18, China’s average wake-up time. The first thing she did after turning her alarm clock off was check her Wechat (微信). Wechat is the most successful messaging application in China, with 549,000,000 monthly active users in 2015. Li has a single child, a daughter, who uses the app all the time. She says she could spend the whole day sending messages for much less than the average SMS thanks to this application, and like most young people, she opens it more than 50 times a day. In fact, 16% of all Wechat users open it more than 50 times a day.

At the exact moment she was about to answer one of her friend’s messages inviting her to go shopping after work, a Weibo (微博) notification popped up. Weibo is the Chinese microblogging giant, often referred to as China’s answer to Twitter, and has completely integrated itself into Chinese habits. It’s not just for students and youngsters either; 56.1% Weibo users have a bachelor or higher degree, 10.6% have a master degree. Li herself would be surprised by this since she doesn’t have a bachelors’ degree, but is satisfied to see the content she is reading mostly comes from educated people and rushes to get ready.

She passes by her daughter’s room and sees her hesitating about what clothes to wear. Studies by retailers have suggested that Chinese girls tend to spend about 15 minutes choosing their outfit in the morning. Since Li lives in a big city, she has a lot of outfits to choose from; urban residents shop way more than China’s average of 2 or 3 times per month.


Li Ping prepared soy milk and pancakes for her daughter and left her some money to buy fired dough sticks down the street. She has spent nearly 45% of her total income on her daughter. This amount is a lot less than the 13.2% of the population that spends over 50%, but it’s a reasonable amount since 59.3% of families spend between 25% and 50% of their incomes on their baby’s first years. Li and most Chinese women reach such high rates by spending 50% of their household’s total expenses on the best milk powder and supplementary foods possible. Clothes and diapers are also a major component, as they cover 25% of total expenses.

Matching 30% of the Chinese population, Li Ping skipped breakfast to save time and, according to what she has read on Weibo, stay fit. Since they live close to their daughter’s school, Li and her husband don’t have to drive her; she’s already at school by the time her parents are leaving for work.


8:30 is the most practical time for all family members to commute to work, so rush hour in large cities is typically between 7:30 and 9:30. Li goes to work by taking the subway and spends about 1 hour to get to work; workers commuting in China’s megacities like Shanghai and Beijing take between 1 hour 10 minutes and 1 hour 20 minutes, on average. Contrast that with the world average of 15-20 minutes. Before arriving at work she notices a magazine and picks it up, starting her daily 20 minutes spent reading magazine advertisement like the rest of the Chinese population.


After many hours work, Li was tired and went to eat lunch. Conveniently for us, her company reflects the Chinese population’s lunch habits. 70% of employees go to the restaurants for lunch at least once a week and 28% go every day. Unlike overseas, restaurants are more affordable and may be cheaper than cooking from home. Li heads to the company canteen at 12:00 which is the peak hour for restaurants across China. She hesitated between the two most common dishes of her canteen; meat and vegetable combinations are the ones she picks the most often as they are said to be the healthiest. She picked the braised pork in brown sauce with a bowl of rice but colleagues coming from northern China opted for steamed bread with beef and a dish of stir-fried cabbage.


Li is set to spend exactly 4,200, exactly the average of her demographic, urban women between 31 and 35 years old. With her friends, she spends no more than 52 minutes shopping and has often tried different outfits on without buying them, instead checking her tablet device for discounted versions of the same outfits on ecommerce stores like Taobao and Tablets have seen the fastest growth rate among all major media devices, and Chinese people spend on average 35 minutes per day on them. Li stopped off at the food store to buy a fresh food; she’s likely to spend roughly 26.9% of her total income on groceries, which is high compared to the 6.6% of the US and 11% of Europe. She then ate dinner at a restaurant to spend time with some friends. Li always has a good reason to go to the restaurant. Coincidentally, it matches China’s exact distribution; 62.1% of the time it is to spend time with friends, 20.7% is for family meetings, 11.5% for business reasons and 5.7% because she doesn’t have time to cook. Only 17.7% of people never go to restaurants for dinner in China. 10% even skip dinner totally, opting to have their final meal around 6 o’clock in the afternoon or so.


As soon as she got home, she switched the TV on to watch The Voice Of China (中国好声音) or Running Man (奔跑吧 兄弟), two of the most popular TV shows, and checked her mobile phone for the best shopping deals at the same time. She is keeping in mind the many discounts that will be arriving on the 11/11, Chinese Single’s Day. As many delay their shopping until that day, sales reached 35.019 billion RMB last time. She totalled an average of 3 hours and 5 minutes this week spent on digital devices, up from 1 hours and 47 minutes in 2011, an increase of 15.3%. Li has been using he phone so much these last few years that for the first time in 2015, she has actually seen more internet ads than TV ads, a trend reflected in the rest of China.

She is spending 2 hours and 55 minutes with internet ads every day while she only gets to see 2 hours and 5 minutes of TV ads. After having spent her average 2 hours and 40 minutes on TV every day (though often doing something else while it plays in the background), she heads to bed for her 6 hours and 43 minutes of sleep, the average in China. She reached her bed at 12:32 like other average people in China, checking her phone one last time. Luckily for her, tomorrow is Wednesday, the day of the week where most Chinese people report getting the best quality sleep.