By Forrest Cardamenis, Luxury Daily, March 09, 2016
In a reversal of the more materialistic tendencies of their parents, almost 95 percent of Chinese Generation Z consumers say it is essential for brands to be sustainable and environmentally conscious, according to a report by RTG Consulting.
The continued growth of China over the next several years will ensure that its consumers remain prime targets for brands for the foreseeable future, as even a slowed China exceeds the growth rate of western nations. As a result, brands will need to make a connection to this group, the first born in a fully modern China, in the interest of long-term success.
“We have noticed that the meaning of success is being redefined where career and financial achievement are no longer the main drivers,” said Marc-Oliver Arnold, head of research and business consulting divisions at RTG Consulting Group. “Our research shows that more than 62 percent of Gen Z already believe that ‘success no longer means financial wealth’; instead, there is an emerging shift in mindset where it is more about how you live your life that matters.
“Not only does this mean they want to live a multi-faceted and enriching lifestyle, but that they also see the value in taking responsibility for caring for the world and their environment,” he said. “This awakening fuels this generation’s desire to be mindful of the present moment and rediscover the meaning of happiness in daily experiences.
As millennials have begun to accrue wealth, they are now the target market for many brands, which recognize that making the connection could sustain several decades of good business. However, the potential of the subsequent generation, particularly in booming market such as China, is enormous.
Additionally, the present reliance on Chinese tourists, a result of the country’s enormous population and booming economy as well as laws, taxes and limitations of distribution that raise the price of luxury goods in the country, means brands must be equipped to reach these consumers when their behaviors and desires change.
While Chinese millennials are heavy travelers and see luxury items as status symbols, tomorrow’s Chinese consumer will more closely resemble today’s western youth, a worldly, socially conscious consumer with alternate definitions of success.
Good news for brands is that many of the techniques currently being used to court millennials, namely emphasizing sustainable measures, will prove effective on China’s Gen Z. Brands that have not yet begun to prioritize sustainability and reduce their carbon footprint and have instead banked on a globalizing economy and/or Chinese tourists will only be more pressed to adapt as time goes on.
Although environmental concerns are the largest marker of China’s Gen Z consumers, it is far from the only one. Barely a quarter of these consumers object to same-sex marriages, an opinion that is at first glance divorced from consumer culture but is in fact important to note for marketing materials, which still overwhelmingly suggest heterosexual couplings.
While “word of mouth” was and remains the best form of advertising a brand can hope for, the phrase is quickly becoming an anachronism. Only 10 percent of consumers surveyed spend more time interacting offline than online with friends.
Marketers are already going after consumers on social media, but proficiency with the various platforms and a quick adoption rate will be crucial moving forward. With interaction moving online, brands will need to find ways to generate buzz in an organic an unobtrusive way even more so than they do today.
Chinese consumer using WeChat
“As digital natives, China’s Gen Z currently lives and breathes mobile, and so [a brand’s] approach must be inherently mobile, with the goal of becoming part of their digital lifestyle,” Mr. Arnold said. “This means offering engaging, meaningful and inspiring creative content as well as distinct experiences.
“In addition, we foresee brands to increasingly become more of a platform for people to build deep and personal human connections.”
Perhaps most alarmingly, around half of respondents say that a more interesting job would be preferable to a high-paying job and only 11 percent agree that wealth indicates success. The overall shift from materialism to mindfulness could be a major obstacle for many sectors, which will need to find a way to tell consumers that a handbag, jewelry or a car is more than a product or sign of wealth.
Brave new world
Although this data connects China’s Gen Z to global Gen Y consumers, China’s own millennials are generally far more consumerist than those in the United States and elsewhere.
Following Gen X’s economic breakthrough, Gen Y was presented with a world in which they could buy previously unthinkable luxuries. Those born into such a world, however, have turned their attention to non-material aspects of happiness.