Report Summary

A detailed survey of 5,500 women across Asia’s major urban areas conducted by The Economist Intelligence Unit finds that they are increasingly empowered financially and that they are driving the explosive growth of e-commerce in the region. The survey results are published in a report entitled On the rise and online: Female consumers in Asia. The report was commissioned by VIPSHOP. 

Across the eight markets covered, 41% of the women surveyed say they are joint breadwinners in their household and another 8% say they are sole breadwinners. The trend is particularly pronounced in mainland China, where 62% of women describe themselves as joint breadwinners. Women are also showing increasing independence in handling finances—just over two-thirds report having their own bank accounts (76% in mainland China) and 48% hold their own credit cards.

Nearly half of women polled (49%) say they prefer shopping online to doing so in stores. The figure is as high as 69% in mainland China. There are several reasons why women prefer online shopping. Most women point to cost savings (62%) and time savings (60%), but they also feel that online retailers can be relied upon to have the products they want to buy in stock (59%) and that online shopping offers a broader range of choices (56%). Nearly half of women (48%) say they feel pressured and stressed in traditional shops (more than 50% of women in Macau, South Korea, India and mainland China feel this way), and 27% feel store staff talk down to them because they are women (a sentiment that is most pronounced in Macau, India and mainland China).

For many women, online shopping has become a favourite pastime. Among the survey respondents, 63% say they browse the Internet for products and services at least once per day, with nearly 30% doing so twice or more per day. Nearly 90% of the women surveyed buy some clothing and accessories online (39% buy the majority of their clothing this way) and 83% buy some cosmetics (29% buy the majority of their cosmetics online).

Many of the trends uncovered in the research are driven by the younger generation, suggesting that the move toward online shopping in general, the shift to shopping on mobile devices, and a preference for being addressed on a personal level by marketers are likely to intensify. Among 18 to 29-year-olds, 53% prefer shopping online rather than offline, compared to 48% among 30-49-year-olds and 42% for those between 50 and 60 years of age. Similarly, 58% of 18-29-year-old shop on their phones, compared to 38% of 40-49-year-olds.

Key findings

  • Survey of urban women across eight markets finds nearly half are joint or sole breadwinners
  • Nearly half of urban women prefer shopping online rather than offline
  • Majority of women browse online at least once a day
  • Younger generation are mobile and find independence appealing
Women are controlling spending in a variety of categories where you would expect them to, such as clothing and accessories, cosmetics, and groceries. But they also have an increasing influence in bigger ticket items such as electronics. Many brands are realising this and making efforts to better understand what is important to female consumers.
Laurel West, Director, Industry & Management Research



Published:December 16th 2014

Laurel West

Commissioned by

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