Chinese digital transformation is a buzzword. Luxury brands that are present on the Chinese market are not waiting for you to go digital in China. They are looking for a purpose and a reading grid of the best digital practices on the market. As digital is nowadays part of the Chinese culture, the aim is to go from digital transformation to cultural transformation in China. For luxury brands to reach Chinese millennials, 3 different axes have to be considered: the battle of perception, the battle of attention, and the battle of conversation.
The best digital practices of luxury brands in China
- #1 – The most engaging brands: Gucci & Dior
- #2 – The most converting brands in e-sales: Gucci & Cartier
- #3 – The most mentioned brands on Social Media: Louis Vuitton & Chanel
- #4 – The most followed brands on Social Media: Louis Vuitton & Gucci
- #5 – The most innovative brands regarding digital practices: Burberry & Louis Vuitton
- #6 – The most consistent brands: Gucci & Hermès
- #7 – The most viewed brands on Youku: Burberry & Louis Vuitton
- #8 – The most performing brands with KOLs: YSL beauty & Revolve
THE BATTLE OF PERCEPTION – How do Chinese Millennials Perceive your Brand Through Digital?
Today, we are evolving in the golden age of substantial. Customers are looking for more know-how and more authenticity to justify the brand’s existence and the products’ value. In a word, the communication of luxury brands has to be innovative to convince the Chinese. Luxury brands face a double challenge: tackle the competition and keep an exclusive image. They have a top-down speech, to sacralize its history and know-how, up to focus more on tangible assets rather than emotional affect. But the emotion is everything in China, especially with the rise of New Retail.
Chinese millennials have no time for you…
Every day, the Chinese spend 6 hours per day on their phone. Yet, the average attention of a Chinese consumer is 1.7 seconds on his phone… compared to 2.5 seconds on a computer and 8 seconds of physical attention. With the increasing amount of content created and shared on a daily basis, the audience is then looking for an additional richness: immediate, sensational, experiential, and unique. The time that customers will give to you is precious and rare, so you have to use it carefully with impacting and adapted content.
… So use it to share impactful digital content
Today, the most desired brands are not those with the strongest patrimonial value, like Supreme, Sophia Webster, Urban Decay… But those with the highest cultural dimension. You can draw inspiration from what surrounds you, communicate content that is easy to watch and remember. Luxury brands always need to remain desirable. So, they need to constantly reinvent themselves in a more premium and unique way. Think from craft credibility (your brand gets inspired) to street credibility (the brand inspires customers). This way, you will be able to create a strong sense of community.
To another extent, the Chinese millennials are more and more into societal debates. They are more sensitive than older generations to sustainability or gender equity. They value brands’ commitment to wider engagement. Do not hesitate to use luxury activism: not only share what you stand for but what you fight for. For instance, Yves Saint Laurent Beauty launched a worldwide campaign called “Abuse is not loved” to raise awareness of domestic abuse. Such a commitment is key for any customer to identify themselves with the luxury brand they like.
THE BATTLE OF ATTENTION – How Can you Reach Chinese Millennials With your Content?
Among the constant content and information shared online, it is essential to catch and retain the customer’s attention. It is essential to think from media concentration (TV, print, outdoor, and radio) to media fragmentation (360° communication connection touchpoints). The opportunities for social media content are huge in China: people scroll around 146 meters a day in China (the equivalent of Kheops Pyramid) against around 93 meters in the West (the equivalent of the Statue of Liberty). A new social richness is being created: people want entertainment to entertain others.
One digital day of millennials in the world
In China, in only 1 day there are:
- 1.8 billion photos posted on all social media platforms
- 600K hours of videos posted on Youtube only
- 200 million hours viewed per day on iQiyi
iQiyi is a Chinese online video platform equivalent to Netflix. It belongs to Baidu and hosts Chinese-Asia co-productions to contribute to street culture rise in China. iQiyi gathers 500 million monthly active users and represents Chinese entertainment at its best. Luxury brands can create alternative content with online video platforms or short video platforms.
In 2021, the global pandemic reinforced the trend of short videos and live streaming. The Chinese millennials want to be entertained. On Douyin, the Chinese TikTok, users can get their daily dose of fun, share opinions, learn makeup tips, discover how to cook, or practice English. They evolve in a constant quest for new and innovative content. In the meantime, Chinese millennials want to create deeper and more meaningful relationships with luxury brands. The success of live streaming is proof that human interactions are even more important in the digital world.
Prepare the right digital formats for the right millennials moments
Most of the digital content is consumed on the go. Chinese people used to watch content on public transport or while walking. To adapt, you need to create adapted content like GIFs, short videos, Weibo topics, or vertical formats. 95% of Chinese people discover and purchase on their phones. Your content must be impactful in order to stay in consumers’ minds on such a short period of attention.
Lean forward: 20%
For lean-forward moments, digital content is consumed for waiting moments and long transport rides. In other words, Chinese people want to pass the time thanks to entertaining or interesting content. For this type of use, images and posts are the best options. You can bet on H5 programs for WeChat and mini-programs to catch your customers’ attention. You need to share something with your audience so that they enjoyed spending qualitative time with your brand.
Lean back: 10%
Lean-back moments represent a little period of time among the Chinese millennials’ digital journey. For this last moment, longer in time, you can be more creative and propose longer content. For example, you can propose an article of 2 pages or more or a mini-program on WeChat to adapt to lean back. This is a unique time to create a more meaningful connection with your audience thanks to long posts, videos, or live streaming sessions.
Luxury brands do not capitalize enough on AI & sound marketing
In 2018, smart speaker sales reached 5.4 million on Alibaba. Chinese consumers start to capitalize on voice assistants and sound marketing to save more and more time. In China, 1 user out of 4 has already shopped by voice, making sound the future of marketing. Around 18 hours of music are consumed per week per individual, which brings attention to music marketing to incarnate the hybridization of cultures.
Compared to the West, China is a country of entertainment. Luxury brands often propose unique videos or games to entertain their consumers. For instance, you can create games inspired by your brand’s universe to entertain your clients while they are waiting in line to buy your product… or directly link it to your e-commerce store. The purchasing journey is always evolving fast in China, and you need to stay up-to-date with gaming, AI, sound marketing, or AR.
THE BATTLE OF CONVERSATION – How Can you Interact With Chinese Millennials Through Digital?
Two visions of digital communication in parallel
Communication with people is by essence vertical. In a word, a brand shares content with its customers. The problem is that this communication mode is expensive, time-consuming, inefficient, and represents a waste of energy. Why? Because Chinese youth is looking for horizontal communication where they can talk with a brand and create content.
In China, communication from people is horizontal. This new way of doing marketing is cost-saving, faster, trust-building, and more efficient. The Chinese have a problem with trust. They are surrounded by counterfeit products, milk scandals, and fake hospitals. They are always looking for horizontal communication with inspiring content shared by customers to get inspired by each other. Chinese millennials will always search for reviews and recommendations on your brand online: your Chinese website, your presence on Chinese forums and Q&A sessions, your content on social media, your presence in Chinese magazines, or with famous KOLs.
If you want to perform in China, you need to capitalize on sharable content to plant the tree of your brand awareness and e-reputation and watch it make fruits by your customers themselves.
There is a niche market for millennials VPN users
More than 1 million Chinese citizens use a VPN and have access to international social media. Using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat, for example, open a huge amount of possibilities and opportunities to reach digitally Chinese millennials. Depending on your marketing strategy in China, you could reach a niche market of open-minded Chinese travelers or target a wider audience of Chinese luxury shoppers.
More than 60 million Chinese people use Instagram overseas… almost the total population of France! In China, Little Red Book also called Xiaohongshu is considered to be the Chinese Instagram and gathers 100 million users. Depending on your target, these two apps represent a great advantage. On Instagram, 76% of 18-34 years old Chinese people living abroad repost their Instagram content on Chinese social media. So, do not hesitate to internationalize your digital content to send it across Chinese borders.
Golden digital rules to conclude about Chinese Millennials
In brief, what is the specificity of Chinese millennials? They are mobile-first. Prepare the right content for the right objective, build customers’ attention beyond your owned media by being present on several platforms. The effect must be bigger than the effort provided to obtain it, less is more. You need to think precisely and shortly like to write a press headline or a 140 characters tweet to catch attention. For that, you need to understand Chinese cultural specificities and last trends.
Keep in mind that an original idea can create different ideas if it is well constructed, maybe for future multiple versions. In China, you need to stay honest and find inspiration. You should learn by practicing to be original while creating digital content that will be effective in the long term. In China, you are not in 2021, but in 2025. The market trends are evolving fast, and you need to follow along if you do not want to stay behind.
At Gentlemen Marketing Agency, we work with brands from 50+ countries around the world. We help them understand the Chinese market and build tailor-made solutions to seduce and retain Chinese consumers. You can contact us to know more about our case studies and our different solutions to perform in China.
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