Shut up the ping pong table and put away the mahjong tiles. Seventy-seven percent of Chinese people say that online shopping is their “favorite leisure activity”, according to a report released yesterday by KPMG and online shopping platform Mei.com.
The fourth annual China’s Connected Consumers survey asked 3,004 people in mainland China about their current and future shopping habits. Sixty-seven percent of respondents were millennials, half of whom were born after 1985 and half after 1990.
The report states that online shopping “has effectively become a national pastime” in China, where it enjoys its own festivals such as Single’s Day and Double 12.
“Retail is entertainment,” declared Joe Tsai, co-founder and vice-chairman of Alibaba Group, at a gala launching this year’s Single’s Day event. “Nowadays in China, the first greeting isn’t whether you’ve eaten, but how many items do you have in your shopping cart.”
Chinese consumers went on to spend RMB 121 billion (US$25.3 billion), smashing last year’s 24-hour Singles’ Day sales record in just 13 hours.
On average, Chinese consumers spend 30 minutes a day on Taobao, according to the Boston Consulting Group. That’s three times longer than an American consumer typically spends on Amazon.
This is all good news for the brands and platforms profiting from China’s embrace of e-commerce. It does, however, pose a challenge for brands.
We are told, in Mintel’s “Key Consumer Trends Set to Impact China in 2018”, for instance, that Chinese consumers want to buy things that “help people enhance who they really are”. That becomes a tricky thing for brands to cater to if the best description of who they really are is online shoppers.
China’s online shopping obsession also raises questions about the state of alternative leisure activities including sports, outdoor activities, art and culture, which Xi Jinping has described as “a nation’s soul”. In explaining why Chinese people spend three hours a day on their phones, more than any other nation in the world, save Brazil, China Daily reports that “offline activities in China, such as sports, travel, art shows and reading are not as popular as they are in other countries.”
Herein lies the opportunity for luxury brands. Chinese millennials, we’re told, are an “experiential generation” who have created “a surge in demand for luxury products as well as the affordable luxury segment.”
Seventy percent of Millennials plan to spend more on luxury goods and services in 2018. They are more likely than the previous generation to say luxury items reflect their personality and tastes, rather than their social status.
Luxury brands have not only the marketing budgets but also the relationships with local governments to help pull off cultural and sporting events that allow Chinese consumers to truly explore who they are. Done right, the reward for such efforts is closer, more loyal and more enduring relationships with their customers.