25 Jul The Next Growth Driver, Global Chinese Consumers
It is no longer a myth that China is one of the world’s largest consumption markets with rich opportunities for brands. However, a previously underrated demography, Chinese consumers who have high global mobility show a large consumption potential to unleash. Thus a whole new approach to segment the consumers, the Global Chinese Consumers, identified by Rane Xue, former SVP of Moët Hennessy and Xiaolei Gu, Consulting Director of Fabernovel in their recent co-authored publication1, provides a vision for brands to leverage the ‘hidden’ consumption force consisting of 45 million frequent Chinese outbound travelers and 11 million wealthy and mobile Chinese residents in foreign countries to achieve new growth.
According to Xue and Gu, global mindset, individuality, diversity and inclusion, sustainability, exceptional consumption power, and social influence are the key characteristics of Global Chinese Consumers. Because they are frequent travelers who can afford vacation trips to outbound destinations, international students and working professionals/expats who possess the opportunities to reside in foreign countries, and HNWIs who seek for global asset allocation. They are not only consumers who indulge in exceptional shopping and travel experience, but also trendsetters who have influences on the sentiments of domestic Chinese consumers.
The COVID-19 pandemic has diminished global mobility since 2020. Thus a countless number of Global Chinese Consumers are “forced” to stay in their long-term residences. However, evidences show that these consumers are still the ones with the greatest intentions for cross-border mobility and consumption during this time. According to U.S. ICE annual report2, China remain the most popular origin of international students in the United States in 2021. Keyword searches for ‘travel overseas’ and ‘immigration opportunities’ have surged in 2022, according to Baidu Index, suggesting a possible “revenge” border crossing in the post-COVID era. Many signals suggest that the Global Chinese Consumers, if became static, will resume their activities after the pandemic.
Hainan became a temporary “detour” for Global Chinese Consumers. In 2020, the Chinese government supported the development of Hainan Free Trade Port and aimed to transform the island province into an offshore duty-free shopping hub. The Maldive-like scenery, duty-free shopping malls, and the exciting (but expensive) get-away feeling that the resorts and beaches offers immediately became the best alternative for Global Chinese Consumers who were not able to travel abroad. Statistics show that inbound tourists visited Hainan increased YoY by 25.5% in 20213.
The rebound of cross-border mobility may not be around the corner. But the globalization and upward mobility of Chinese consumers will sustain in the long horizon. Thus this special period of time becomes an opportunity for brands to get engaged with the temporarily static Global Chinese Consumers and prepare for a welcome-back. What should brands do under this context? To systematically implement a Global Chinese Consumer strategy, there are layered approaches, from high-level strategic design to operational tactics on the retail level:
1. BUILDING THE STRATEGIC FRAMEWORK
To leverage this unique consumption force for achieving sustainable future business growth, it is essential to have a topline strategy that aligns the understandings and orchestrates multiple business units across geographies of your organization. Xue and Gu have defined and positioned Global Chinese Consumers in their strategic framework as a sizable and prioritized luxury segment that not only brings the growth but also exerts influences. Such insights are essential for establishing both the knowledge foundation and the advocacy to stimulate succeeding consumer-centric initiatives.
2. SETTING UP THE INFRASTRUCTURE
How do we engage with Global Chinese Consumers? How can we set up infrastructure for digital experience and data collection? This demography, regardless of where each individual resides, is deeply connected with both the global and China’s digital ecosystems. This means that they can be reached by WeChat just like their domestic peers. Fabernovel is currently assisting clients to conduct deep-dive research on sub-segments of Global Chinese Consumers comprehensively and to develop travel-oriented Mini Programs to be integrated into the brand WeChat ecosystem.
3. UPSKILLING THE MARKET TEAMS
Strategic visions can fall flat without operational support. Retail stores, rather than corporate offices, are the brand’s most immediate and fundamental touchpoints for engaging with Global Chinese Consumers. Sales associates are ambassadors who directly influence purchase decisions and customer relationships. However, the knowledge on Chinese consumers is still limited in many non-Chinese markets on the retail level. Training programs, such as digital academies for retail personnel can help close the gap between strategic intent and execution to improve clienteling and retention. Some top luxury brands have already started to pilot such programs to help the frontline staff adopt mindsets, behaviors, and techniques for engaging Chinese consumers.
Implementing a new consumer approach requires investments and collective intelligence. The success of these initiatives depends on the coordination between different stakeholders in the organization. Fabernovel has accompanied clients in successfully launching multiple cross-geographic and cross-BU collaborations.
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1. “At the forefront of growth in the luxury goods“, by Rane Xue & Xiaolei Gu, SMU Asian Management Insights, November 2021
2. “Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) 2021 SEVIS by the Numbers Report“, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), 2021
3. “China’s resort island of Hainan receives over 81 million tourists in 2021“, by Xinhua, China Travelnews, January 2022
4. Cover image by Visual China Group
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