Why China loves Apple best

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Apple Store, Beijing. The Genius Bar has impressed Chinese consumers. (Photo courtesy Jake via Flickr)
Apple Store, Beijing. The Genius Bar has impressed Chinese consumers. (Photo courtesy Jake via Flickr)

A recent survey of Chinese consumers found Apple scored highest across all categories. What's the appeal?

Editor’s note: This story is excerpted from a piece by Jenny Chan, Campaign Asia-Pacific. Read the full story here.

Recent research by Epsilon into Chinese spending attitudes provides a perspective on how faithfulness and devotion to a brand can be strengthened — and discovered that Apple ranks No. 1 for all the qualities Chinese consumers value most.

Epsilon sought to explore Chinese consumers’ definitions of brand loyalty and their loyalty motivations, as well as to compare the behavior of loyalists versus non-loyalists.

The data-driven marketing solutions company conducted the research in the third quarter of 2014 via online channels and face-to-face interviews across mainland China, with 1,000 respondents classified into three socioeconomic classes.

Apple received the highest score for loyalty of any brand cited across all categories. What explains Apple’s unrivaled loyalty in China? Yes, the products are attractive. Yes, the price point is high enough that the iPhone is a status symbol that is more accessible than a diamond-studded watch or flashy sports car.

Read: In China, milk company "comes out" to support Apple CEO Tim Cook

But China’s love affair with Apple goes beyond vanity. Epsilon's research revealed that the kingpin brand is most adept at integrating online and offline touchpoints to deliver a seamless customer-service experience. And this integrated experience has not been seen before in the mainland, at least prior to the last decade. The Apple Genius Bar has impressed Chinese customers with a level of respect and must-do service attitude that still eludes retail staff in all other sectors in China, according to Vivien Deng, China country leader at Epsilon.

In other news for international brands:

  • Following repeated food-safety scares, from counterfeit meat to sewage-laced cooking oil, it's not a surprise that Chinese consumers are opting for foreign grocery brands that they can trust, like Carrefour and Amazon's special e-commerce channel for Chinese consumers to purchase and import food items duty free.
  • Luxury brands with first-mover advantage like Dior or Louis Vuitton are now finding that they are seen as old-fashioned. The whole category stalled last year following the government’s crackdown on gift-giving, which severely hurt mainland luxury sales.
  • Brands offering affordable luxury — Coach and Kate Spade, for example — are making headway with urban consumers who are opting for less opulent brands.

    Especially in China, the return on loyalty investment is high. Loyal customers stand by their preferred brands despite wavering market conditions. Loyalists are more generous with their private information and more likely to refer products and services to friends.

    Marketers aiming to win the loyalty of Chinese consumers must look beyond one-size-fits-all marketing programs and develop data-backed targeting strategies to increase efficiency, according to Epsilon (which, we must note, sells services in that very area).

    Brands that came out on top in the loyalty survey are those who are establishing the mechanisms to effectively communicate with and service customers — even after the sale is made.

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