5 ways to reach luxury fashion shoppers in China
Consumers in the metropolitan areas of China are more tech-savvy and demanding – and more likely to embrace new digital technologies – than their counterparts in mature markets.
That was a standout statement from a recent Forrester report on customer experience trends in China, and it neatly illustrates the key route to success in the country for any brand – including luxury fashion players.
Against this backdrop of innovation, tech-savviness, and what Forrester’s senior analyst Riccardo Pasto identifies as a metro consumer demographic attracted by brands incorporating distinctive lifestyle elements into the experience, we’ve picked out five ways to make a connection with Chinese luxury fashion shoppers.
1. Emphasise quality and heritage
HSBC recently asked 2,000 of its wealthier consumers in China about their attitudes and behaviours, particularly regarding luxury shopping, and the majority cited quality as their top reason for buying.
They also suggested they like the status that these products give them, and only their children, health – and, for some, property – take precedence over luxury items in a list of purchasing priorities.
It’s no secret Chinese shoppers are the highest spenders on luxury items when travelling abroad, and the bank’s research found that Italian and French brands are preferred, followed by American, just ahead of local Chinese labels.
The appeal of buying abroad is apparently not just the experience associated with the heritage of some of these brands, or the price; they also see it as a way of reducing the risk of counterfeits.
2. Be social
From WeChat to Weibo and everything in between, China has an array of social media sites that consumers access throughout the day, and which are neatly integrated into payment systems and various other media. To give a small idea of scale here, WeChat recently surpassed one billion monthly active users, suggesting brands ignore creating a social presence at their peril.
3. Be transparent and trustworthy
Forrester’s report says a lack of information transparency – mostly due to complex supply chains connecting producers and manufacturers to consumers – is compounding Chinese consumer distrust around authenticity and quality.
If ever there was a call to action for China-focused brands to get their supply chains in order and bring together disparate systems and divisions, this is it.
4. Think mobile first
China is now the world’s largest market for smartphones even though sales fell in 2017 after eight years of growth. It is still clearly a mobile-driven society, however, and the HSBC survey suggests 72% of respondents bought a smartphone last year.
Arguably, mobile has become the primary way to pay for goods, too, as China effectively went straight from cash to phones, in many cases skipping over card culture. Brands not only need to set themselves up to enable mobile commerce solutions, such as Alipay, they must ensure high visibility on the mobile web consistently.
5. Embrace technology in all its forms
It’s not just mobile – it’s technology in all forms that needs some consideration. From the front end to the back end of business, China is embracing things like artificial intelligence, augmented reality and robotics, and that is how consumers will expect brands to operate.
Forrester’s Pasto says that, until only very recently, most customer experience professionals would not have viewed China as an innovator, but he admits things have changed “at breath-taking speed” – and this has far-reaching consequences for brands trying to appeal to shoppers in the country.
Technology titans in the country such as Alibaba and JD.com are raising consumer expectations, blurring the boundaries between digital and physical space, and making the impossible possible in terms of customer service and convenience.
Luxury fashion players need to bear all this in mind; emulate wherever possible, and accentuate their own unique selling points at every opportunity. Every brand has a story to tell and, in China, if you tell it in a compelling way, using sophisticated technology and quality products, you’re well set.
Crucially, as the HSBC research shows, the spending power is there. The Chinese are confident, with economic growth exceeding 6%, high share and property prices, as well as 7% annual wage increases, and that all paves the way for a buoyant luxury goods market.