How to Capture the Attention of the Chinese Millennial – London Breakfast Briefing

The Luxury Conversation went offline to create an invitation-only event in London: How to Capture the Attention of the Chinese Millennial?

Industry experts, luxury brands, agencies and the media attended the talk, in order to learn about the China luxury market and its key consumer in the luxury demographic – the Millennial.


(if you are in China without a VPN, you can view the video here)

How to Capture the Attention of the Chinese Millennial?

First — some figures:

Chinese Millenials – Who are they?

  • Born after the mid-1980s, they have entered adult life just as China has opened to the West.

  • While raised with Chinese cultural rigours, they are politics-free and feel at liberty to enjoy life

  • The first generation to have the modern lifestyle of luxury as an attainable reality from the middle-class and up

  • Glued to their mobiles as in other countries – yet with no other main device. They don’t watch TV, don’t use a laptop/PC, don’t read print and rarely carry cash.

Some photos from the event:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A few numbers from our survey:

Print is for Grandparents

I can’t remember when I last bought a magazine or a newspaper. Maybe last year?”

Hailey, 22, Shanghai, working in Marketing

  • Let alone no print, websites are out too. WeChat and Weibo are like air and water. Without a strong presence on these two, you do not exist in China.

  • QR codes are a must. Everything ‘real’ needs a QR code so that it either be followed or be paid for using WeChat Wallet or AliPay (by Alibaba).

  • Shopping is M-Commerce only. If a Chinese Millenial wants to buy expensive luxury clothes, or cosmetics, or household basics, or order lunch (or make a restaurant booking), or any single one purchase in life – they reach for their phone and expect a same or next-day delivery.

  • Your brand needs to be digitally streamlined from its first moment of existence in China. The idea of a product not being available on Tmall, not having a QR linking to its WeChat account? Unthinkable.


KOLs win heart & minds (& wallets)

I follow around 30 KOLs, my favourites are Papi Jiang and Uncle Alex because they always tell interesting stories that I didn’t expect”

Dolores, 25, Beijing, working in Hospitality

  • KOLs — about whom we have already covered in this piece on How to Work with KOLs in China — have risen to become nationwide celebrities, a phenomenon made possible by a couple of key elements: specific apps and social media replacing not only the entire internet, but shopping and purchasing options as well, and secondly, a cultural background of being eager to belong and comfortable with the online social life of an only child.

  • Chinese Millenials don’t only follow KOLs, they like them, they feel ‘proud’ of them and they are keen to be ‘good followers’ by buying anything that their favourite KOL recommends them (which is explained further on)

  • Brands must be accurate when selecting the right KOL; one who is relevant to the brand and can build a relationship over time, instead of making random ad posts.

  • As well as the bigger, celebrity KOLs, micro-influencers are crucial. Their audience may be smaller, but engagement with a keener readership is a vital plus point.

Buying to Belong

I look at Weibo to find out what’s the current trend and what’s new. The last thing I bought that I saw on Weibo was probably a special skin cream from Australia because I saw that it had a lot of recommendations.”

Vicky, 25, Shanghai, working in F&B

  • Chinese consumers, including Millenials, do of course expect quality. Yet the Millenial bracket doesn’t care about when the brand was ‘established in…’.

  • While Chinese luxury consumers have moved through stages of purchasing reasons, from purely bling show-off to understanding and discernment – they still want to show off. This means that limited editions, personalisations and the like are sought after and often used when selling via KOLs.

  • Online trends come and go quickly. Mr. Bags might sell millions of RMB of a specially coloured ¥15,000 (almost £2,000) bag in 15 minutes – but the same bag won’t be highly desired a week later. Brands need to prepare an ongoing roll-out of the ‘next’ big thing, and the one after that, and so on and so on.

Connecting with the destination

“This year I went to India and Marrakesh, because they are exotic, off the beaten track and less Chinese people have gone there, so it feels fresh and new.”

Vanessa, 25, working in marketing in Shanghai

  • There is a growing group of sophisticated Chinese traveller – we call them the EASTs: “Experience and Adventure Seeking Travellers”.
  • The EASTs are forgoing snaps of the Eiffel Tower for hiking trails in Patagonia and off-piste skiing in Canada. These EASTs are young, interconnected via social media, and excited to flex their buying power on unique experiences.
  • The shift in travel behaviour is driven by a desire to connect with nature, broaden the mind and live healthily. These discerning travellers value unique experiences, particularly those with a high “like” potential on social media.
  • Travel plans are heavily influenced by key travel apps such as Ctrip and Mafengwo to make practical travel plans, and inspiration from content generated within WeChat and Weibo.
  • Hilton Huanying was perhaps the biggest example of the biggest hotel corporation creating a program especially for one nationality, offering a customised hospitality experience after their extensive research found that the arrival experience, in-room amenities and breakfast were key preferences of Chinese tourists.
  • Marriott Rewards teamed up with DaoDao, TripAdvisor’s official Chinese website, to provide Chinese travellers access to search location-based points of interest through Marriott Rewards’ WeChat platform. Marriott International’s Li Yu program fine-tuned this recognition with additional subtle touches, such as assigning guests room and floor numbers with “6” or “8,” considered as auspicious.


Seamless integration

I prefer to do shopping on my phone. I also stream all my favourite series or movies on my phone or through Xiaomi. Only my grandmother still watches TV programmes.”

Song, 23, Shenzhen, working in Media

  • Research? Comparison of price point and attributes? No. They don’t want to take time researching all types of product and all of the brands that make them. That’s what the KOLs and the brand’s own social media presence do.
  • An example of how luxury brands can do 020 (online to offline) effectively was Coco Café which Chanel opened for two weeks in central Shanghai earlier this year. Visitors to the beauty themed pop-up could avoid the long queues by registering for a space through Chanel’s WeChat account. Social media buzz was intense with thousands of people sharing pictures and people waiting in line for hours, purely for the chance to take selfies at the ‘in’ place.
  • It all needs to be linked up. The Weibo campaign has to link through to Tmall, WeChat to a WeChat shop or, and so on. One tap to go through and another tap to buy – nothing more onerous.


Know your Millennials: Chinese Millennials are now more savvy than their Western counterparts. Competition for their attention is fierce. Never assume that any demographic will care just because a brand is new to the market. Being new isn’t enough. Young Chinese people have grown up with new things every day – new skyscrapers, new restaurants, new brands in their thousands. They want to be offered something that is special, like they are.

Social media is everything: Chinese Millennials are never offline. You must have a presence on WeChat, Weibo and any specific apps that pertain to your brand.

M-Commerce or Die: If a Chinese Millennial reads about your brand on a WeChat article, a Weibo post, within a travel app or other, they want to make one tap to book it and buy it. If your product is not on Tmall or then it may as well not exist.

Curate your KOLs: It’s not how big it is, it’s what you do with it that counts. Bigger KOLs aren’t always better – but they are always more expensive. Consider working with a higher number of micro-influencers, rather than one KOL who has higher Weibo figures. The individual reach of industry experts and micro-influencers may be lower, but the readership could be much more relevant and engaged in what they are reading, rather than passing, unknown views of a ‘celebrity’ style KOL. The brand-KOL relationship isn’t a quickie in the digital car park, it’s a happy marriage of content planning and features that work well for both sides. Followers need to enjoy seamless branding foreplay before the big finishes of the collaboration come to fruition.

Get your shop in order: Give Chinese consumers a seamless experience when they travel. If your store or hotel in London, Paris or Rome doesn’t accept WeChat pay and AliPay – why not? Ensure Chinese-speaking service staff at all times. Integrate their O2O experience by having QR codes in your retail spaces that let them follow your social media and shop more on your Tmall store. Tell them about who you are when they are at home so that they are hungry for your brand when they travel.


More Briefing Analysis and What to Know: