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China's Generation Tech

by Raksha Arora

By some reports, young Chinese tend to embrace all things "Western" -- from clothing to consumerism. But how much do we know about the behavior of young Chinese consumers in the ever-changing high-tech world? The Gallup Poll of China provides some insight into the virtual lives of urban Chinese in the 18- to 24-year-old age group -- China's "Generation Y."

The Digital Divide

Chinese 18- to 24-year-olds -- especially the highly influential market segment of urban 18- to 24-year-olds -- have far greater access and exposure to computers than Chinese aged 25 and older. While 44% of urban Chinese aged 25 and older say they have computer access, almost double that number of urban Gen Y Chinese (87%) have access to computers. The gulf only widens when looking at likelihood to have ever used a computer, with 88% of urban Gen Y respondents having used computers, versus 37% of urban Chinese aged 25 and older.

Internet Habits

Not surprisingly, urban Gen Y Chinese are also significantly more likely to be Internet savvy than those 25 and older. While nearly three-fourths of urban China's 18- to 24-year-olds have used the Internet, only about one-fourth of city dwellers in the 25+ age group have ever been on the Internet.

By far the most widespread reason Gen Y urbanites give for using the Internet is communication and information exchange -- whether it is online chat, e-mail, or downloading files. Nearly 8 in 10 Internet users in this category take part in some form of online chat. Those 25 and older, on the other hand, are more likely to use the Internet for obtaining information, such as checking the news, finding general information about sports or the weather, or seeking reference information.

Personal Computers: The Marketing Challenge

Marketers of personal computers will be pleased to hear they have a considerable opportunity with urban 18- to 24-year-olds -- nearly three in every four Chinese in this age category are interested in purchasing a computer. At least 44% of this segment plans to buy a personal computer at some point in the next two years. Among urban Chinese 25 and older, 46% are interested in purchasing a computer, and 21% have plans to buy.

When it comes to companies that manufacture computers, Lenovo and Toshiba have the highest levels of brand recognition for urban Gen Y Chinese, while IBM and Dell have the poorest recall (Samsung also has high brand recognition in China, but thus far has focused on other products there). But the real marketing challenge for all computer manufacturers is product differentiation -- the overwhelming majority of urban Gen Y prospects (61%) don't discern any tangible difference at all among competing brands.

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