Do you really know Chinese customers? 5 key facts in the Post Covid-19 world

What will the ‘new normal’ look like in China? One thing’s for sure, the Chinese economy looks stronger than ever, with healthy growth projections for the year ahead. (The IMF has assessed that 90% of the world experienced negative GDP growth for 2020 – but China experienced an expansion of up to 1.2%!)[1]

The opportunities for Western marketers are also excellent – for those who are prepared to understand their changing target markets and to invest in the right digital marketing strategies.

So with that in mind, what should Western brands know about Chinese customers in the post-Covid world? Here are five things to take on board:

1. Chinese customers are resilient – and optimistic

Chinese customers are hugely optimistic and resilient, particularly compared to their global trends. Research shows that they believe normality will resume in the world far quicker than counterparts from other parts of the world. This confidence has already helped China’s retail markets to rebound, and many analysts believe that Chinese customers could help drive the global recovery, not just their own domestic market recovery. This is great news for Western brands considering either a move into the Chinese market or a further investment to grow their position. China’s customers are open for business and ready to buy – so now really is the time to invest in your digital marketing strategy!

2. Younger Chinese customers are changing the way they shop

Younger Chinese customers are showing a strong desire to look after themselves after the effect of the pandemic. Health and wellness products are on the rise, and Gen Z customers in particular are watching how they spend their cash. This doesn’t mean that they intend to stop spending – many young middle-class Chinese customers enjoy subsidies from their parents as well as their own income – but they will be considering their purchases more carefully and dialling in impulse spending. This means that Western brands will need to build their brand awareness and digital engagement strategies for the longer term, focusing on values and brand credentials that really matter to their target audiences.

At the same time, Chinese customers across all consumer segments have begun to embrace ‘at home products‘ in a new way that has been driven by Covid restrictions. Many have indicated a desire to continue with these flexible digital services, such as at-home fitness streaming, remote learning and education, telemedicine and remote consultations and video chat. Again, this offers interesting opportunities to forward-thinking Western brands looking to build their business in China.

3. Chinese customers want luxury!

China’s customers still want the luxury, high-quality brands that symbolise status and taste; spelling good news for Western brands which can trade on values such as craftsmanship, heritage branding, authenticity, taste and superior quality. McKinsey estimates that China’s customers will represent 40% of the world market for luxury goods by 2025. Furthermore, 36% of Chinese customers have indicated that they will be willing to pay more money for quality goods that last the test of time in the post-Covid world. [1] For Western brands keen to capture a slice of the luxury goods market, an agency such as Market Me China can help greatly with everything from KOL partnering to branded content creation and online marketing campaigns.

4. Digital engagement is more important than ever

During the pandemic, B2C brands were able to take advantage of digital channels to great effect. Nike used its mobile apps to host home workouts to Chinese customers on lockdown, driving their engagement by 80% and their first-quarter online sales by over 30%. Similarly, Lululemon leveraged WeChat to boost its customer acquisition, and car brands used the live streaming features on Tmall and TikTok to market models to consumers, answer questions, promote key features and ultimately, to sell new cars – which were then dropped off at customer’s homes. It’s worth noting too that Taobao registered 30,000 new branded live-streaming accounts, growing its account volumes by 700%. [1] If you’re a Western brand looking to market in China, now is certainly the time to ramp-up your digital strategy!

5. Poor service is no longer tolerated

Research shows that Chinese customers are becoming tired of low-quality, sub-standard products. For example, customer complaints in Guangdong hit 98,000 in Q1 of 2020; a rise of 40%. [1] Customers in China are no longer willing to put up with bad products – or bad service. Again, this offers excellent opportunities for quality Western brands which are prepared to invest in their entire marketing offer; from product development through to post-purchase customer service. For example, look at beauty brands such as Estée Lauder and L’Oréal. who already use Chinese social channels such as WeChat to enable their Beauty Consultants to reach out and engage with potential customers to offer personalised advice, service, and content. Digital channels offer fantastic opportunities for Western brands who are prepared to invest in a great customer experience, with native Chinese language customer service agents, chatbots, apps, carefully-optimised websites and other digital approaches.

The help that you need

The digital marketing landscape in China can be complex and bewildering! The Chinese digital ecosystem is far bigger and arguably more complex than in the West, with existing competitive players already using sophisticated omnichannel marketing strategies to engage and convert their target audiences. But the good news is that now is the time to launch or grow your brand in China – with huge rewards and opportunities available for those who take the leap – and the team at Market Me China is here to help you succeed.

Our team of digital marketing professionals blend native Chinese language skills with in-depth digital marketing expertise – leveraging significant experience in the field to help our clients in education, eCommerce, B2B, travel and other sectors. We work on a flexible – and socially distanced – basis according to each client’s needs and evidence our value at every turn. Ready to build your brand sustainably and successfully in China? Please contact us for a no-obligation discussion about your needs.

[1] China consumer report 2021 – Understanding Chinese Consumers: Growth Engine of the World, McKinsey