Interviews, insight & analysis on Ecommerce

Beyond the Great Wall: Navigating Chinese Gen Z consumer behaviour for digital marketing success

By Arnold Ma, CEO of Qumin

Gen Z, the demographic cohort born between the late 1990s and early 2010s, represents a powerful force in China’s consumer landscape. With unique preferences and behaviours shaped by the digital era, understanding and effectively targeting Chinese Gen Z consumers has become a top priority for UK marketers. 

For UK brands looking to expand into the Chinese market, understanding and effectively targeting this goldmine is of utmost importance, as they represent a significant consumer segment with immense purchasing power and influence. According to McKinsey, China’s Gen Z are projected to account for 40% of China’s overall consumption growth by 2030. Moreover, as China’s consumer market continues to evolve, Gen Z’s preferences and behaviours are shaping the future of consumption trends. 

The importance of internet and technology: shaping Gen Z’s purchasing decisions

This demographic is heavily influenced by the internet and technology, growing up in an era where smartphones and social media are deeply embedded in their lives. For instance, the multi-functional social media platform, WeChat, reportedly reached a huge 1.3 billion monthly active users at the end of March 2023.

Gen Z are digital natives, with nearly all of them being active internet users, and their online activities play a significant role in shaping their purchasing decisions. According to Statista, as of December 2022, the internet penetration rate in China reached 76%, with the majority of users belonging to the Gen Z age group. Additionally, a survey conducted by China Youth Daily found that 95% of Chinese Gen Z consumers consider the internet as an important part of their daily lives.

Understanding and tapping into China’s digital economy

In line with efforts to understand and tap into China’s digital economy, earlier this month the 2023 Future Close-up Forum took place in Beijing, co-hosted by China International Communications Group and Tencent. This youth exchange program brought together international experts and young professionals from various fields to engage in discussions and share perspectives on the current landscape and potential opportunities presented by China’s booming digital economy. The forum provided hands-on experience and fostered a deeper understanding of the significant role played by Gen Z in shaping the future of consumption trends.

To effectively target these consumers, digital marketers need to understand the unique characteristics of this generation:

Digital platforms: engaging Gen Z through interactive content

Firstly, it’s well worth recognising the importance of digital platforms in their lives. This consumer group spends a significant amount of time on platforms such as WeChat, Weibo, Douyin (TikTok), and Xiaohongshu (Little Red Book), which are integral to their daily routines. These platforms serve as opportunities for brands to engage with Gen Z through creative and interactive content.

Authenticity: building trust and genuine connections

Authenticity is another key aspect that resonates with China’s Gen Z. They are discerning consumers who can easily identify insincere marketing efforts. The “Global Youth’s Wisdom: Digital Economy Makes the World Better” by Tencent states that 90% of Chinese Gen Z consumers prefer brands that have a genuine and authentic image. 

Personalisation: tailored experiences for individual interests

Personalisation is also paramount when targeting these tech-savvy consumers. They appreciate tailored experiences that cater to their individual interests and needs. According to a survey by McKinsey, 35% of Chinese Gen Z consumers expect brands to offer personalised recommendations and experiences. Furthermore, the same survey found that 79% are willing to share their data in exchange for personalised benefits. 

Leveraging data-driven insights, brands can create personalised content, offers and recommendations that resonate. This can be done through personalised emails, targeted advertisements, and customised product recommendations based on their browsing and purchase history.

Peer influence: harnessing the power of KOLs and social media influencers

Furthermore, they are highly social and value peer recommendations. They are influenced by key opinion leaders (KOLs) and social media influencers who align with their interests and lifestyles. A survey by Deloitte shows that 80% of China’s Gen Z trust recommendations from their friends and peers. Additionally, a report by iResearch highlights that 70% of these consumers follow influencers on social media platforms for product recommendations and trends. Collaborating with popular influencers or leveraging user-generated content can significantly boost brand awareness and credibility. Brands should also encourage user participation, such as user-generated reviews, challenges, or contests, to foster a sense of community and create a buzz around their products or services.

Agility in the digital landscape: adapting to changing preferences

Lastly, brands must stay agile and adapt to the evolving digital landscape to effectively reach Gen Z consumers. New platforms and trends emerge constantly in China’s digital landscape, challenging marketers to stay updated and adapt to changing consumer preferences. There has been a rise of short-form video platforms and the increasing popularity of live streaming ecommerce. By embracing innovation and experimentation, brands can establish themselves as frontrunners in capturing attention and loyalty.

Forging connections and building long-lasting loyalty with Gen Z

In conclusion, reaching China’s Gen Z requires a deep understanding of their unique characteristics and preferences. By leveraging the power of digital platforms, including Tencent’s WeChat, focusing on authenticity, personalisation, and peer influence, and staying agile in the ever-changing digital landscape, marketers can successfully engage with this influential consumer segment. By crafting campaigns that resonate meaningfully, brands can forge strong connections, capture their attention, and ultimately build long-lasting loyalty among this dynamic and digitally-savvy generation.


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