Brands are desperate to reach the younger generations of Chinese. Consumers born after 1980 already account for over 20 percent of luxury product sales in China, according to Bain & Co, and the younger cohort will only become a bigger buying force in future. But with that opportunity comes challenges. China’s younger generations, including post-80s, post-90s, and post-millennials, have fast evolving product expectations, aesthetic tastes, and online behaviors that result in constantly changing shopping habits.
Therefore, having a deep understanding of the underlying social and consumer transformations is necessary to adapt your product offer and communications strategies to connect with younger generations of Chinese.
Based on our qualitative and creative research, we’ve drawn up a portrait of Chinese millennials viewed through eight different lenses.
Growing up in a population of 1.4 billion who, in previous generations, shared similar consumption codes over the years, the younger generation are more willing to affirm their identities and to show that they are singular.
More independent than their parents, many are developing their own projects, following their inner desires, and making personal choices for their futures.
Expressing more and more self-confidence, Chinese youths wants to break the codes and is not afraid to speak out their own taste, their originality and share them on their numerous social platforms.
Since China re-opened itself to the world in 1979, international brands invested significantly in the country, starting with major Chinese cities. This contributed to the country fast adoption of international lifestyle and consumption trends. The young urbanized generation grew up surrounded by global brands and innovative consumer concepts.
They are eager to discover new trends and live new and exclusive experiences while travelling worldwide, helping them adopt global trends even faster.
3. Tech Savvy
Early and eager adopters of new technology, Chinese youths have fully integrated social media and online tools into their lifestyles. Their deep need to exchange, discuss, share, and approve translates into high participation on social media and social shopping apps, and an inability to be away from their mobiles.
Through their mobile phones they can express themselves and be reassured by looking at the comments, recommendations, and pictures of their favorite KOLs or other users.
Being knowledgeable provides important social status for the younger generation, who grew up with demanding parents. Having the best academic record is not enough, and many were pushed to participate in extracurricular activities and to study abroad. Consequently, many young Chinese movers and shakers are well educated about their own culture and about the world.
They are very curious and want to learn more in order to become experts in specific fields. For example, wealthy young Chinese are disproportionately drawn to art collecting compared to their global peers.
Having received patriotic schooling, young Chinese give a lot of importance to China’s sovereignty. They are proud of China’s growing strategic importance on the International chessboard, being the world’s second largest economy, and having a strong political leadership. But that doesn’t mean they blindly support their government’s processes and decisions. They often criticize it on social media.
They have a deep interest in their own culture and traditions, which drives them to dig deeper into their past and revive various elements, drawing inspiration from things that are “Created in China”.
Enhanced by new technologies, numerous communities have appeared online, setting up new social rules among Chinese youth. New generations of Chinese are joining social networks according to their passions and their center of interest while following they favorite KOLs and wang hong (online celebrities). This is a way to make China’s huge population seem smaller, develop friendships, and rise as an individual within a group.
Each individual is defining herself by the multiple groups she follows and shares with, but those communities are also developing offline as the members tend to meet in real life to share experiences and attend events.
Today, young Chinese are really looking to live in the now. They are eager to have more experiences and to do what is trendy. They want to live IRL the same experiences that they have seen on their screens going to the new trendy coffee place, to the latest edgy shop. Those spots that got popular after being shared online are called “wang hong places”.
Radically different from previous generations, they are not afraid to spend their money freely in order to do or buy what they want in the moment. To purchase a desired product or service they are even ready to use credit. (Post-90s consumers make up the largest part of Alipay credit service Huabei’s 45 million users.)
The popularity of livestreams and the “See now, Buy now” trend are also incarnations of this impatience phenomenon.
China’s new generations encompass a large variety of people. We usually use sub categories of post-80s, post-90s and post-millennials, but we could even go deeper in the segmentation within the decades. Below are the main particularities of each of the three different decades.
The “in-between generation”, having a big gap with the older generation, are living between the desire of freedom and the pressures placed on them by their parents. In terms of consumption, they are more thoughtful in their spending, typically looking for more renowned labels.
The post-90s are clearly more independent in their choices and have grown up with families that will still give them less pressure to get married and hold down a steady job. They look for more creative labels that affirm their personalities.
Concerning the post-millennials, those born after the year 2000, they clearly grew up with a smartphone between their hands. It completely dominates their social and consumption behaviors. The blueprint for tomorrow’s consumers in China, they will follow the post-90s in their quest for experience and affirmation.
Recommendations for brands
- Always keep-up with what is changing in China. What you did today might be completely obsolete tomorrow as the market is evolving faster than anywhere else
- Personify and adapt your branding and product offer in a qualitative and creative way to reach your target customers. Show that you understand that their desires have evolved.
- Speak and socialize with your audience. China’s new generations are not looking for brands that impose products on them but brands that share ideas and opportunities, a more horizontal communication approach.
The Chinese Pulse is a creative consulting agency based in Paris, dedicated to deciphering trends in the Chinese contemporary market for fashion, beauty, luxury, and lifestyle brands.