Who am I?: Inside the Mind of China’s 20-Something Luxury Shopper

For luxury brands wanting to sell to 90s-born consumers in China, it’s crucial to first understand their world. Inspired by a lifestyle report released last week by Shanghai-based researcher CBNData that pinpoints sales trends within this generation, Jing Daily has summarized seven hot buzzwords/trends that show how and what this consumer audience is thinking.

1. More 20-somethings think of themselves as ‘slashers’ (斜杠青年)

The term “slash” was coined in 2007 by Marci Alboher, a columnist at the The New York Times and book author, to describe someone who has more than one identity, job, or occupation (and might introduce themselves as an artist/personal trainer/yoga instructor, for instance). More twenty-somethings identify as slash youth in China in recent years, and CBNDate shows that, compared to a post-80s generation that pursued stability, the ’90s-born generation is uninterested in having a single job and they are more concerned with finding a work/life balance. Therefore, many twenty-something workers have embraced the “gig economy” by becoming a slasher.

What luxury brands can learn: Slashers dress for many different scenarios and want the brands they buy to be as versatile as they are. The Louis Vuitton customer may now work at a corporate job from Monday to Friday but attend underground parties on weekends. LV’s menswear creative director Virgil Abloh is the perfect example: He shares multiple titles — Art Director/DJ/Creative Designer — and advocates for luxury to help bridge different identities. Perhaps that’s why we are seeing more luxury brands collaborating with streetwear brands, including Louis Vuitton x Supreme, Jimmy Choo x Off-White, and others to come.

2. ‘Buddha youth’ still buys (佛系)

This term was first coined in a 2017 WeChat article titled “The First Group of Post-’90s are Already Becoming Monks” and has since gone viral. In fact, the piece inspired many people to share the Zen way they live on social media, which they describe as non-disruptive, peaceful, loving, and non-materialist. It’s a reaction that’s been attributed to the radical change in wealth and technology China’s seen over the past decade.

What luxury brands can learn: At first glance, the Buddha youth might seem like a red light for luxury brands. But Amrita Banta, Managing Director of Singapore-based Agility Research & Strategy noted that Chinese millennials are still very interested in luxury brands — they simply won’t prize material objects over everything else. To resonate with them, brands need to fully discover the consumer’s emotional needs and form bonds with them on a deeper level.

3. Chinese heritage is hip (国潮)

“China hip” refers to the trend of combining streetwear – a fashion style that’s huge with young Chinese consumers now – with the aesthetics of China’s rich heritage. While reality TV shows like Rap of China and Street Dance of China have brought streetwear fashion from obscurity to the mass market, various TV dramas set in ancient China have also captured a wide audience by introducing consumers to their own cultural roots. This has led younger generations to develop an interest in different periods of their country’s history (through traditional materials, symbols, and aesthetics) while helping them to forge emotional connections to the streetwear they love.

What luxury brands can learn: Luxury brands who wish to build this connection with Chinese consumers have a dilemma: They might add traditional elements to their products or stories to please this generation, but they can also risk being called out for cultural appropriation or could appear outdated, losing their “cool factor.” Brands should show respect to China’s cultures by working with local experts and craftsmen to help give their brand an authentic Chinese identity.

4. It’s a ‘face economy:’ these consumers splurge on looking good (颜值经济)

This term was first coined in the book Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People Are More Successful, written by American economist Daniel Hamermesh in 2007, in which he proved a positive correlation between physical looks and economic earning. The concept has become a mainstream belief for China’s youth, who are particularly willing to invest in their looks to stand out in a competitive society. They’ll invest in a range of products, from skincare and makeup to cosmeceuticals and fitness. The CBNData report notes that women in their 20s have become the largest group of consumers for cosmetics and skincare, spending more on those products than older women with higher disposable incomes.

What luxury brands can learn: While Chinese twenty-somethings are less hesitant to spend money on their looks, they also expect real results from their purchases, and brands should be careful about the benefits they claim. Earlier this year, a Chinese beauty blogger called out the beauty company La Mer for false advertising which forced many consumers to reconsider their products.

5. Checking-in has become a must (打卡)

Since the ultra-connected 90s-born generation strongly shares the “FOMO (fear of missing out)” mentality, sharing check-in posts on social media has become a popular way to prove that they have a very real and active social life. In the report, data from Ctrip showed that going to museums, watching popular TV shows, and attending sporting events are the top three activities ’90s-born consumers like to check in from. When it comes to choosing travel destinations, they are drawn to locations from popular TV shows or books.

What luxury brands can learn: Hosting interactive events is now a common way for luxury brands to communicate with millennials in a meaningful way, but having tons of event photos for them to share on social media is still the priority for young consumers. Brands can use this concept and hopefully win the priceless “word of mouth” effect on social media.

6. They contribute a lot to the lazy economy (懒人经济)

The so-called “lazy economy” refers to a new type of consumption that’s about saving time and energy. This term came about as the pace of life accelerated because of technology, forcing people to spend more and more time on working and social life and less on activities like brick-and-mortar shopping, cooking, and cleaning. The research shows that in 2018, twenty-something consumers liked to buy high-tech home goods and beauty products that emphasized quick and easy tutorials for gaining popularity.

What luxury brands can learn: Beauty and luxury brands can take advantage of this trend by creating innovative products that embrace the digital channels that the ’90s-born generation loves.

7. They are proud Dinkwads (养宠一族)

Dinkwad is an acronym which stands for “Double Income No Kids With A Dog.” As the only-child generation, ’90s-born consumers are willing to invest in a pet’s food, accessories, and cleaning products to fulfill their own emotional needs. The CBNData shows that the growth rate of consumption on pet products among the ’90s-born generation is almost twice that of the whole population. They are picky pet owners who carefully examine different products to ensure only the highest quality of life for their pets.

What luxury brands can learn: The rise of pet owners is about the ’90s-born emotional need for companions, and luxury brands can better market their products or services by tapping into those feelings.

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