Gen Z is here – why it matters to Chinese marketing

Generation Z, also known as Zoomers, were born in the late 1990s and early 2000s, although some definitions specify a particular year range of 1997-2012. They are the generation that came after millennials and the generation that precedes Generation Alpha.

The value of Gen Z to marketers

With over 250 million young people, the Chinese Gen Z population is believed to be worth over 5 trillion CNY, and already, the group represents around 12pc of China’s total consumption.

Chinese Gen Z customers are known for their love of luxury goods, optimism, and impulsive shopping behaviours, which are supported by high levels of affluence. These true digital natives are also sophisticated, keen to experience the world and ready to engage with quality brands that meet their needs, desires and aspirations.

For marketers, the value of the Gen Z market in China is clear, but the strategies needed to win them over are different. Let’s take a closer look:

Characteristics of Gen Z Chinese customers

Key things to know about this generation in China are:

Chinese Gen Z customers are:

  • Culturally confident and often display elements of traditional culture and modern twists. This is seen in the urban fashion scene, for example.
  • Impulsive shoppers (far more so than previous generations)
  • True digital natives who have grown up with e-commerce and features of digital marketing such as influencers.
  • Keen to express their identities and engage with trends and fads.

It’s also interesting to note distinct preferences between urban and rural Generation Z customers. For example, Gen Z customers in Tier 1 cities are more worldly and sophisticated, plus open to experiencing new experiences and products, than those from lower tier cities and rural areas.

How Western Brands can attract Gen Z customers

The trick to attracting Chinese Gen Z customers lies in using the right channels and crafting thoughtful, tailored and personalised campaigns that will closely match their needs. For example:

1. Use the right social media platforms

Some of the most relevant Chinese social media platforms for this generation are WeChat, Douyin (TikTok) and Xiaohongshu. These offer a huge array of functionalities to marketers that go beyond posts and blogging – such as online payments, 24/7 chatbot customer service and integrated e-commerce stores. They use highly addictive algorithms that keep their Gen Z users engaged for hours, which gives brands a fantastic opportunity to be seen by an engaged audience.

As well as being active on the right social media platforms for your Gen Z audience (the choice of which requires careful analysis), it’s important to use each platform effectively, consistently and creatively. For example, if you offer live customer service, make sure you fully staff it or use a chatbot so that you can deliver on your promises. Be creative with digital giveaways (stickers, filters, shareables), gamification, and quirky competitions that show how well you understand this fun, open-minded audience. Find ways to foster two-way communication and engagement to build community. Creativity and insight can go a long way to delighting Gen Z customers!

2. Bring in plenty of interactive, personalised elements

Gen Z customers in China love interactive and personalised features, as they are highly tech-savvy and appreciate customisation. This generation wants to be recognised for their individuality and unique interests and they seek to patronise brands that recognise these features. For example, brands such as Nike offer personalised shopping experiences to customers in-store based on purchase history and online profile, using virtual fashion shows, interactive touch screens and AI.

It goes without saying too that your digital ecosystem must be faultless, with perfectly localised content, smooth user journeys, smartphone-friendly optimisation and clear CTAs.

3. Flag up your sustainable credentials

Chinese Gen Z customers also want to shop with brands that have a strong track record on sustainability, corporate social responsibility and ethical business. These young customers want to support brands with a strongly values-based mission, and companies that weave powerful CSR messages into their branding have a strong chance of engaging this audience.

It’s important to note that these messages should be targeted according to segmented Gen Z groups in rural and urban areas, whose norms and consumption drivers may differ. Local marketing partners can help tailor the right messaging to reach Gen Z audiences across different reasons, flagging appropriate business practices, such as biodegradable packaging, clean energy or cyclical manufacturing.

4. Partner with the right KOLs

Chinese Gen Z customers value KOLs and influencers, and many of these powerful online personalities engender more loyalty than commercial brands themselves. The right KOL can be hugely influential in recommending products and services to Gen Z customers and their recommendations can go a long way to converting this affluent audience. Some brands use influencers to host live streaming events on Taobao Live for example, and these occasions can see thousands of units sold in minutes.

5. Adapt your marketing offer to suit local preferences

Chinese Gen Z customers also want to shop with brands that recognise and value their cultural identity, which can be complex and nuanced and span areas such as aesthetics, values and language. This doesn’t mean adding red and gold to everything, but it does mean thinking sensitively about what matters to this audience and finding creative ways to meet these needs. For example, during the popular Chinese holiday of the Mid-Autumn festival, Starbucks will sell mooncakes as a culturally appropriate holiday special.

6. Use the services of a Chinese digital marketing agency

To win the hearts and minds of Chinese Gen Z customers, it’s vital to deeply understand their characteristics and preferences. Targeted research can build up detailed user personas that help craft effective marketing campaigns with the right degree of localisation and precision targeting. Once this insight is in place, a Chinese digital marketing agency can help you craft effective marketing strategies to engage this exciting, demanding audience.

Market Me China is here to help your brand succeed in China. Our team of digital marketing professionals have the skills and native language skills needed to craft powerful marketing campaigns, and we always evidence our results to demonstrate ROI. Please contact us to discuss your needs and we will be delighted to assist.