This week London hosted the European edition of the Millennial 20/20 Summit. The two-day event saw over 200 speakers from across industries share diverse insights, including observations on the luxury industry and the global millennial market. 2018 saw, for the first time, a huge focus on Chinese millennials, with a specific Breaking China conference track offering a host of China-centric events, panels, and talks.
Here are five of the most provocative China insights from Millennial 20/20.
1. Chuck Out Your 2018 China Marketing Strategy
Giving insight into the changing rules of retail in China, Chance Dubuque, Director of Business Development at IPinYou, a leading digital advertising company said, “To survive in China, there’s no point having a 2018 China Marketing Strategy.”
An annual strategy is not effective in a market that does not evolve at an annual rate. To last in the world’s biggest market, brands must be constantly planning for and anticipating change, and evolving their strategies as quickly as the market moves.
“The entire Chinese consumer environment is changing very quickly, and apps and popular platforms rotate in and out almost instantaneously. What was popular three months ago could be largely irrelevant today,” said Dubuque. “A direct translation isn’t good enough when it comes to the Chinese market. You can’t just translate your global marketing strategy and roll it out across China.”
2. China Is Not a Single Market
While insiders agreed it’s best to focus on in-country development, China can’t be regarded as one single market. Brands do best when marketing to an initial city, and then expanding slowly.
One enlightening case study is England’s Derby Football Club, which was highlighted by Jonathan Smith, Managing Director of Hotpot Digital, the UK’s only digital agency entirely dedicated to reaching the Chinese consumer. The club set up a partnership with Hefei in Anhui province, taking advantage of the region’s huge interest in football, and a location too small for the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool and other larger premiership teams to target. This “small” city of eight million people in a province of 60 million has an annual GDP of 360 billion dollars.
“If somebody said to you, there’s a place with the GDP of a small country, where everyone is interested in your product, but nobody has heard of your competitors, what would you say?” said Smith.
Derby FC has since launched partnerships with Hefei’s local government, including football programs in local schools.
“What we should take from this is that starting small in China isn’t starting small. There are massive segmented markets just waiting for brands to take advantage.”
3. WeChat Is Not Facebook and Instagram Combined
When foreign brands are first introduced to WeChat, it’s often described along the lines of “Facebook and Instagram combined”. However, this simplification is looking increasingly dated. As Tom Nixon of China digital marketing company Qumin pointed out, there’s a huge difference between the internal structures of the apps.
While Western apps like Facebook and Instagram are advertising led, encouraging sales through observable marketing, WeChat utilizes an extraordinarily successful user-led approach. WeChat offers what it thinks the user will want and need, and in exchange, users spend more time on its platform. Obvious marketing on WeChat is not only difficult to implement but will cause millennial consumers to actively dislike a brand.
4. The FUTR Is Coming
The close of the event saw Millennial 20/20 announce their evolution into FUTR, marking a new commitment to a year-round conversation on innovation and technology. The summit identified several trends that will dominate that conversation: the tech-native millennial and the influence they will have on future commerce, launching VR technology in stores and, in some cases, using mobile payments to eliminate the need for staff all together.
This is all very much in line with Jack Ma’s vision of New Retail, and Europe is clearly taking note of what is happening in China. Technology start-up Mishipay is an app that may help shoppers never have to pay at a checkout again. By using a self-scan system, shoppers can pay for any item in a store and simply walk out with it, without triggering the store’s security alarms. “Europe seems to be Last week” MishiPay launched Saturn Express, Europe’s first cashier-less consumer electronics store, offering shoppers in Austria the opportunity to scan, pay and leave, without having to wait at a checkout.
5. Chinese Millennials Want It All (and They Can Get It)
Millennials in China are very different to elsewhere, and should be in no way undervalued. As Domenica Di Lieto, CEO at Emerging Communications, pointed out, markets that in the West may be considered less lucrative are in China extremely affluent. “Chinese students buy property, luxury goods, and have amazing influence over the opinions of both their peers and their parents. If you can reach a millennial like that, you can reach their whole community.”
Recognising the different aspirations, values and consumer power of the Chinese millennial is of key importance for brands hoping to break into the market. Aaron Winsloe, Asia Manager at The Hut Group said. “These consumers should not be underestimated. They want everything, they want photos of every single part of a product, and they want context and a brand narrative.”
Michael Beutler, Sustainability Director at Kering also suggested “this emerging millennial consumer cares about everything. They care about where their clothes come from. They prefer the experience of buying and owning a brand to the product itself. With luxury, this can’t be underestimated, this is what makes luxury feel valuable.”