In China’s consumer market, 2014 was not just about the continued rise (and rise) of WeChat and arguable crash-and-burn of Weibo, but about the greater pace with which Chinese shoppers lived more seamlessly mobile-native lifestyles. Where plugged-in fashion lovers once saw their mobile devices simply as a way to learn about new trends, they now constitute an entire consumer ecosystem—complete with news and video, aimed at driving the consumer to e-commerce sites for shopping, and after-sales service, loyalty programs, and CRM via messaging apps like WeChat.
The increasingly inward lifestyle fueled by mobile usage—which has transformed the luxury market from one driven by a singular need to impress peers to one motivated by the desire to reflect one’s personality—is poised to only build in ubiquity in 2015. The ongoing corruption crackdown certainly hasn’t killed China’s luxury market or demand for luxury goods, but it has increased the speed with which China’s wealthy shoppers turned to more discreet luxury brands—many of which are only available online or overseas.
The way these shoppers have procured these items, in addition to the usual pathways of friends or daigou sellers, has increasingly been through their mobile devices. They interact with brands when overseas via WeChat or buying natively through the app, or making impulse purchases from foreign websites using payment solutions like Alipay ePass—which for the first time this year pulled Chinese shoppers into the Black Friday fold.
Another reason mobile investment is likely to continue among brands in China in 2015 is that the advertisers—generally some of the savviest trend-spotters in that market—are all going that direction. According to The New York Times, next year companies will spend more money on digital ads than TV campaigns in China, compared to half going to TV ads and only 14 percent to digital in 2011. But what Chinese consumers expect to see in ads is becoming more specific and presents unique challenges in tailoring messages and imagery. For luxury brands in particular, mobile ads should take into consideration the preference of many Chinese shoppers to make high-end purchases overseas—a preference that has only strengthened as international travel becomes attainable for more people. As Chinese travelers continue to use their mobile devices when traveling abroad, tailored content that engages Chinese tourist-shoppers with content that’s useful in unfamiliar cities like Paris or New York will be a welcome sight.
In essence, what brands learned in 2015 about the difficulty (and expense) of working with influencers and celebrities, competing with still-important daigou sellers, tip-toeing the line between allowable marketing and the anti-corruption crackdown, and turning a legion of jaded, ad-numbed consumers into brand advocates will continue to translate to 2015. The market remains one of opportunity, albeit one that’s more inward facing yet outward shopping, hard to please, and even harder to influence. But by using China’s mobile boom to their advantage, brands can accomplish what they never could by brick-and-mortar expansion alone: getting face-time—anytime—with over half a million potential customers and a real shot at making a connection.