Consumers shop for reliable advice

Updated: 2013-09-19 01:07

By YU RAN in Shanghai (China Daily)

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As Chinese consumers gain access to a larger variety of products in their daily lives, they need objective, third-party advice on making choices.

To help Chinese shoppers reach the right decision when they are confronted with glowing descriptions of every item, some third-party platforms have been launched to provide professional comparisons among products.

Consumers shop for reliable advice

Experts say that it will take a very long time until Chinese consumers accept evaluation reports and realize that the most expensive item is not necessarily the most appropriate for everyone. provided to china daily

"MingJian is committed to helping consumers make better-informed purchasing decisions through independent, expert, impartial research and testing of products and services," said James Feldkamp, co-founder and chief executive officer of MingJian.

The third-party website releases reports that compare popular baby and child products.

In developed economies such as the United States and the United Kingdom, consumer reports issued by third-party organizations are important references for shoppers.

Being the nation's only member of International Consumer Research & Testing, MingJian is keen to introduce the daily pre-buying advice from overseas to the Chinese market.

A group of new mainstream consumers, with annual incomes of more than 106,000 yuan ($17,193), have markedly different spending behavior than the broader mass shoppers.

This new group is rapidly advancing in size and purchasing power, according to the 2012 annual report on Chinese consumers by Mckinsey & Co. The report found that the new mainstream customers are willing to trade up, rely on the Internet more to conduct searches, take emotional considerations more into account when making purchases, trust brands and prefer online shopping.

The online evaluations posted by MingJian were specifically conducted to meet the demands of the growing ranks of new mainstream consumers in China, who are willing to spend more on reliable products.

"Before we test any product, we first conduct considerable research, while market researchers in major cities across China survey consumers on the products they use," said Feldkamp. He added that based on its research, the organization then selects specific models to test, comprising representative brands, price ranges and features.

Along with the evaluation form, the recommended option from MingJian is a shortcut for consumers to see which product has the highest performance-to-price ratio with the overall best ratings.

"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.

After a three-year trial, MingJian launched its new website in March, where it welcomed membership applicants and offered in-depth evaluation reports at various prices.

"We want to make our reports unique so that when we charge members to download reports, they will save much more than the report cost, if the consumer makes the right decision," said Feldkamp.

However, it's not easy for local consumers to accept MingJian's system.

"I've heard of the website, which offers very professional advice on baby products, but I don't want to pay to [read the reports], as I am not sure whether the suggestions and information are reliable enough for me to trust," said Zheng Chaimei, the mother of a 12-year-old daughter and a 1-year old son in Shanghai.

Zheng added that buying products with reliable brands at higher prices is still her first choice when she goes to the mall.

Experts said that it will take a very long time until Chinese consumers realize that the most expensive item is not necessarily the most appropriate for everyone.

"It is quite hard to reinforce Chinese consumers' reliance on the evaluation reports, as they still firmly believe that expensive goods are the best," said Zhao Jiaoli, the former secretary-general of the Shanghai Commission of Consumers' Rights and Interest Protection.