What do Chinese millennial and Gen Z customers want from brands?

Chinese millennial and Generation Z customers are a huge and uniquely attractive audience for Western brands, as they are affluent, keen to experience new things, international in their outlook, and ready to spend. This audience has grown up online and is truly au fait with the digital world, consuming content seamlessly across platforms and via their mobiles throughout the day. They are keen to show off their taste, align with brands whose values they care about, broaden their horizons and experience fresh, exciting and meaningful things with a high degree of personalisation.

Yes, this audience can be demanding, but the potential rewards for successful Western brands are huge, especially as China’s younger consumers cement their position as truly global citizens, with money to spend! So what are some of the key things that Western marketers should know when trying to understand what Chinese Millennial and Gen Z customers want from brands?

Luxury brands

Research by Bain & Co has found that China’s younger markets are expected to consume 45% of the global luxury product market by 2025. Dealmoon, the luxury online Chinese-American retailer, has found that Chinese millennial and Gen Z customers love high-ticket brands such as Hermès, Gucci and Balenciaga, as well as edgier high street brands such as Converse and Zara. Trainers are a hot category but handbags remain the most coveted status symbol, with the classic Chanel quilted leather always being eminently covetable.

This cohort of buyers demonstrates a tendency to impulse shop, wield significant buying power, and be extremely empowered and confident in their consumer choices. When it comes to luxury markets, they love big names, big celebrities and big campaigns – but increasingly they also want to discover interesting and unique brands that are highly relevant to their lifestyles. Gen Z and Millennial buyers also want to show off their luxury purchases, to display their style credentials and affluence. They do this on social media, sharing posed content that incorporates their brand choices, and which gives marketers a fantastic chance to engage, share and make their customers into micro-influencers.


Western brands will find that younger Chinese buyers move seamlessly across a far more complex and technically advanced digital ecosystem than their Western counterparts. This means getting to grips with a far greater array of Chinese social media platforms, AI and VR technologies, live streaming, live gaming, shopping events, Chinese payment platforms, mobile-first optimisation… and more! A Chinese digital marketing agency can make this process far easier, and organise everything from Chinese website hosting and translating through to Chinese user journey optimisation and targeted content creation.


This audience is highly mobile and digital and they are increasingly turning to micro-influencers (Key Opinion Consumers, KOCs) who they see as being more authentic. High-profile and celebrity influencers are still valued in the social media world but many trend analysts expect to see Chinese purchasing decisions migrating further and further towards online micro-communities.

Micro-influencers offer exciting benefits to Western brands. Firstly, they are extremely good at developing deep levels of engagement with their followers, who value them greatly – in a way not seen comparably in the West. Micro-influencers also have a far greater degree of product and service knowledge and really understand the brands that they represent. They are also far more cost-effective for brands than large celebrity KOLs, and evidence suggests that they can deliver genuine gains in terms of shifting products. When Dealmoon launched a luxury handbag that didn’t sell, they kickstarted the campaign again using micro-influencers and sold the entire range within a day.

Price consciousness

China’s younger shoppers have money to spend, but they are very price-savvy and understand the value of what they buy. T/his means that they want the best deals at all costs, and they also value ‘tokens of appreciation such as gifts with purchases. They also want to feel valued and rewarded for their custom and they greatly value things such as pre-launch sales and exclusive previews to recognise their loyalty. Brands can avoid the temptation to discount by offering these added-value symbols. Tactics such as thank you notes, digital stickers and wallpapers, free gift wrapping, free trial sizes, shareables and invites to product launches can be very worthwhile.


The younger generation of Chinese customers is also uniquely demanding regarding the brands they choose and the products and services they buy. They want to feel that they really resonate with a brand’s values, energy, passion and true meaning. This means that storytelling is more important than ever, and in a country where digital experiences are ubiquitous, these stories must have the finest production qualities, the best creative concepts and respectful, careful localisation to avoid accidentally causing offence or misinterpretation.

Brands must be clear on the values that they embody and the ways in which they communicate them. Values should be authentic, respectful of Chinese culture (any content criticising the Chinese government, for example, is likely to see a Western brand’s online presence taken offline entirely in China), and tailored to these switched-on, sophisticated and intelligent young buyers. And never miss a Chinese shopping festival if you’re serious about sales!

It’s also interesting to note that Chinese Millennial and Gen Z buyers are becoming particularly passionate about sustainability, environmental issues, veganism and natural or ‘clean’ beauty. These are all attributes that Western brands can consider when developing and marketing their Chinese products and services, to differentiate and engage their target audience.

Find out more

Most Western brands who are seeking to succeed in the Chinese market will first commission tailored market research to truly understand their target audience within the Chinese Millennial and Gen-Z markets – which are huge! This research is a valuable starting point upon which careful digital marketing strategies can be developed and deployed, using omnichannel marketing and exciting, culturally-aware campaigns delivered via optimised Chinese branded digital ecosystems.

To find out more, and to benefit from the partnership of an expert Chinese digital marketing agency with native Chinese language skills and a proven track record, please contact Market Me China today.