Most of what we in the tour and travel industry have read or published regarding the shopping habits of Chinese visitors to the USA—with the exception of proprietary research not readily available to the public—comes from the perspective of professionals who are a part of the industry. Just recently however, the magazine, Retail Week, published an engage article by Tammy Smulders on “Six Things You Should Know about the Chinese Shopper,” which the Inbound Report has digested here.
Chinese Spending Has Gone Global
As a brief preface, here are some numbers: In just 10 years, the share of the market for luxury goods represented by Chinese shoppers has grown from 5 percent to has grown to 31 percent, thanks to the country’s strategy to engage more with global markets following the 2008 Beijing Olympics, plus greater interest in travel and western culture by Chinese people.
China’s travelling population make up 24 percent of global luxury spend, with only the remaining 7 percent of spend occurring inside China.
With the number of Chinese people who own a passport expected to rise from just 4 percent to 12 percent by 2026, the desire to buy luxury items abroad is sure to increase as well.
A Love of Designer Labels
- We asked high-spending Chinese shoppers: “What would you spend $10,000 on, given the choice of a range of items and luxury experiences? Over 60 percent opted for designer fashion.
- When we asked a number of affluent European and American shoppers the same question, 56 percent chose a luxury holiday.
- It can be argued that many Chinese shoppers place far greater importance on luxury products than experiences. But the majority are not interested in discovering niche labels or the next big thing.
- They want established global mega brands such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Hermes.
A Love of European Brands
- When asked: “What brands best represent luxury?”, many nationalities pride themselves on their own stable of luxury brands – Italians are considered to advocate Armani, Bvlgari and Ferrari, while the French often go for Chanel, Dior and Louis Vuitton.
- Chinese shoppers however, also favor the French brands of Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Hermès, with almost 60 percent preferring to travel to France to buy these brands in their market of origin.
- Although only 21 percent of Chinese shoppers say they go to the UK to shop for luxury, the number of Chinese visitors into Britain rose by 45 percent last year, spending £586 million ($736 million).
Again, with increased levels of Chinese passport ownership, visitor numbers to Europe and corresponding spend will continue to rise over time.
Buying Luxury to Make a Statement
- For Western shoppers, it is considered that many buy luxury products as a personal and private reward for something achieved. For many Chinese shoppers on the other hand, luxury items are bought in order to make a statement about who they might be, how much they could earn and to demonstrate taste and style.
- This difference is vital in understanding how to market to those people for whom status and how a product makes them feel is more important.
- When asked: “Which luxury items constitute an expression of personal style?” 12 percent of Westerners selected home furnishings, whereas 22 percent of Chinese respondents opted for a luxury watch.
Friends often dictate Style
- Across Europe and America, a person’s style is influenced by the people around them. Many Westerners turn to people in restaurants, bars or walking down the street for inspiration when trying to create a personal look.
- In China, style is often influenced by friendship groups—social acceptability is all about adopting the fashion and cultural codes of the people you spend time with.
How brands influence these codes is vital for success.
Appreciating things social, mobile and digital
- The majority of travelling Chinese that buy luxury goods are wealthy and second generation—80 percent of whom are under 45-years-old.
- Their spend has increased 10.5 percent compared with two years ago and many use social media, mobile and digital options to learn about brands and interact with luxury branded content.
- There are huge opportunities for advertisers to create an affinity with the right content across the right digital channels, and feed an insatiable Chinese interest.