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Consumer Generation Series: Chinese Millennials

In 2013 the cover of Time magazine was titled “The Me Me Me generation- Millennials are lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents. Why they’ll save us all”. Years passed by and, as Malcolm Harris wrote in his 2017 book Kids These Days: Human Capital and the Making of Millennials,

“Soon ‘millennial’ won’t refer to those rascally kids with their phones”

aka they're not kids anymore. Who are the Chinese millennials today?

Chinese millennials consumers

Chinese millennials (people from 1981 to 1996) grew up in the era of rapid economic growth. They have not experienced war and reconstruction and they are currently on the rise in careers and families. According to a Nielsen report, 36% of the post-80s households have a monthly income of more than 10,000 RMB.

This group is currently the main force in the consumption of various markets in China, such as houses, cars, and home appliances. At the same time, the post-80s and post-90s generations are also very experienced in the consumption of entertainment, electronics, and skincare products.

After the epidemic, a new wave of patriotism struck, a strong local awareness was born, and this consumer group started to focus on individual expression rather than blindly following the trend. The tendency of Chinese millennials to return to Eastern traditions has become a very distinctive characteristic of this group profoundly affecting their consumption choices. “New domestic products” is the trend for Chinese millennials, with several important requirements: high-quality, high-value, and, very often, craftsmanship.

What are the millennials' characteristics?

  • Generally high education, high income

  • They generally live alone and have personality

  • Accept new things quickly and have a strong willingness to consume

  • Focus on personal consumption experience

  • Change from buying products to buying services and buying experience

  • Improving the quality of life and gaining experience are the core driving forces of their consumption

  • Both “millennial” men and women are delaying marriage

Millennials relationship with Social Media and Kol

chinese millennial social media

Social media and mobile shopping are millennials’ major consumption channels (they account for 40.3% of all the social media users in China). They are big social media users — from live streaming to sharing, with fond trust in influencers and KOLs. The millennial followers of influencers account for about 52.2% of all the social media platforms, with Wechat, Douyin, and Kaishou as top social media, as of May 2020.

Those data were also confirmed this year during a live broadcast on the WeChat video channel “Liu Xiao at Night” (夜听刘筱). On March 13, the live streaming reached 10.26 million GMV. The number of likes in the live broadcast room was 2.03 million, and the number of transactions was 14081. The majority of the core users were distributed in the third- and fourth-tier cities, with an average age of 30 to 40 years old. The anchor sold around 60 different items during the live streaming, including cosmetics, skincare, and daily necessities. Luxury price products such as IPhone 12 contributed more than 60% of GMV.

Millennials and Fashion & Beauty

chinese Millennials and Fashion & Beauty

Drama-watching women over 30s have more keen insight into fashion trends, those groups of consumers who love to watch dramas and variety shows are more concerned about beauty, skincare, and fashion than the overall female users.

Sustainability is trending with China’s millennials. Faced with a highly competitive environment and a post-pandemic recession, Chinese millennials are searching for a more minimalist and purposeful life. Although the minimalist life, according to a statistic from De Beers, China’s old millennials and young millennials contributes respectively to 69% and 10% of the diamond jewelry market, accounting for about 79% of the total.

When it comes to beauty products, rookie white-collar consumers (educated people in their early 30s who live in Tier 1–3 cities) are spending 1.5 times the average on makeup products and 1.3 times the average on skincare products.

Millennials and pets

chinese Millennials consumers and pets

Chinese post-’80s are consuming 29,4% of pet contents on WeChat and 18,4% on Douyin, while 29,5% of them are pet owners, becoming the second force (behind Gen Z) of the pet economy.

Millennials and e-commerce

Chinese Millennial consumer and e-commerce

According to the new study of We Are Social GWI and Hootsuite (click here to download the report), by January 2021 78,1% of Millennials have made an online purchase in the previous month.

Millennial moms (also known as “Supermoms”) are the primary shoppers for their families, spending an average of RMB 2100 on FMCG in the second quarter of 2020.

The core e-commerce customers are wealthy consumers in top-tier cities (mostly Rookie White Collars and Supermoms), who spend 40% of their money online. It’s usually for the physical store experience that they select offline outlets.

Their favorite offline outlet, Hypermarkets, serves as a one-stop-shop for all of their family’s needs. When making a buying decision, online reviews are one of the top three sources of impact.

Traditional word-of-mouth, or listening to friends and family offline, is, on the other hand, declining insignificance (40%) as a source of influence among millennials. In China, 38 percent of millennials prefer online e-commerce sites that allow peer-to-peer transactions, such as Taobao and Xianyu, a second-hand marketplace. However, the preference does not extend to individual sellers on other social media platforms at the same level of appreciation, possibly due to greater transparency and quality assurance on Taobao and Xianyu.

Millennials and Food & Beverage

Chinese Millennials consumers and Food & Beverage

As a result of COVID-19, Chinese consumers have become more health and quality-aware, and are attempting to boost their overall health and ability to combat infections. Millennials drink less alcohol than any previous generation. Generation Z's per capita alcohol consumption is 20% less than that of Millennials, but Millennials drink less than Baby Boomers and Generation X.

Millennials and Hospitality

Chinese millennials consumers hotel tourism Hospitality

Millennials opted more for experiences and “Instagrammable moments” rather than luxury items. He Guoxiang, President of the Greater China Region of Hyatt Hotel Group’s global operations, said that Chinese millennial consumers have grown up, their needs are more diversified, and lifestyle hotels will become more popular for them in the future.

Millennials and home products

chinese Millennials consumer and home products

With the increase of age and changes in living conditions, more and more post-80s and 90s have become the main consumer in the home appliance market. Thanks to the influence of their growth environment, their consumption outlook is quite different from the previous generation. While focusing on product functions, millennials are more interested in values and personalized services. Outstanding appearance allows millennial consumers to choose home appliances (e.g. refrigerators) like it is a piece of design furniture.

NOTE: According to Kantar Media, the term "millennial generation" is a valid term in China, because the "post-80s" and "post-90s" generations share many of the same attitudes, cultural norms, and values as that party. However, Kantar’s research shows that despite being born within this twenty-year period, people of that generation may have drastically different buying habits and behaviors, necessitating brands to treat them differently.

Sources: De Beers, China Commercial Industry Research Institute, 焦点黑科技, 人民资讯, Jingdaily, Luxureport, “Her Trend Report 2020" by Youku and Youmeng+, We Are Social, Kantar, Bain, McKinsey

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