Global media is full of stories about how the Chinese global travel shopper has changed, how they are reevaluating their shopping habits, how they are realigning their desires because of the COVID crisis and this will dramatically change the way luxury brands connect with their most important global customers.
Yes, Chinese are shopping in China. Why? Because the global borders are closed and they can’t travel. Yes, Chinese are shopping online, because until a few weeks ago malls and stores were closed and even though there are fewer than 100 cases of infection in China, it might still be safer to stay at home compared to standing in line waiting to get into a store.
In survey research there is something called a false positive… Data that is accurate today, but might not show the real picture. I call it the Umbrella Effect. For example – if today is a horribly rainy day, the sales of umbrellas increases by 5000%, compared to yesterday when it was a sunny day and there were no umbrella sales. A rainy day does not mean that the sales of umbrellas will be up 5000% for the rest of the year – it just means today is rainy and people are buying umbrellas because of the rain.
This is what is happening in the Chinese global luxury consumer market. Chinese shopping behavior today is being driven by the circumstances of the COVID crisis and its impact on Chinese travel and hence shopping. So when media announces that the Chinese have stopped traveling and are shopping in China – yes – because this is all they can do. Once they are free to travel again – this will change radically, and the previous drivers for Chinese global shopping will be back in the driver’s seat.
In China, we say – “I am what people think I am” – perception is very important… in one’s professional and social circles, even amongst family, there is no disconnection between social and professional. Over the past ten years China has experienced the greatest creation of wealth in human history – as compared to most economies that transfer wealth amongst its citizens – China is creating wealth as other economies transfer wealth through trade deficits with China.
Chinese nouveau riche (everyone with money in China is nouveau riche), have built wealth through entrepreneurism, either at the top of a national Chinese company, working for an international multinational, being really creative by turning one hair salon into twenty – no matter how, it has come at great risk, being smart and ultimately being successful. This achievement is to be displayed in China.
The Chinese elite travel the world because it distinguishes them from the average person, who they used to be. Shopping in China for luxury is what anyone with money or credit can do. But if you are a new “master of the universe”, why shop with everyone else when you can shop in Paris, London, Rome and New York? The shopping elite of China don’t want to wait in line with everyone else to get into the store, then compete with 75 other shoppers for the attention of a sales person, only to find the color and size is no longer available. That’s not why you made the millions or billions….. These shopping elite will not shop on line, return what they don’t like, order again…. They want and require that sales people serve them…. This is part of the luxury brand experience….
If luxury comes in a box, delivered by a guy in a helmet, off the motor scooter, then what is luxury? China may be a communist country, but there is nothing communist about the elite, they are imperialist. Their feet don’t touch the ground, let alone wait in line.
Let me introduce you to a luxury lady in China – please see this video and imagine if she will shop online or wait in line: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ooOIr6Vk5wo
At China i2i Group, we produce a series of publications and WeChat platforms titled China Galerié. Galerié’s core readers are all Chinese global travel shoppers, the top 3% of China’s socio-economic consumers. Galerié captures these readers by being distributed to Chinese travelers at the point of visa application in consulates and visa services centers. After all, anyone getting a visa intends to travel – no one is getting a visa for fun. Hence the readers and followers of Galerié are all global travelers from China. The Chinese consumers who normally buy as much as 50% of global luxury brands.
We periodically survey our readers and followers and always ask why do you shop abroad? Invariably, price is always the first response. This is a simple answer – everyone wants to save money, even the Chinese rich – they got rich by being smart. But always the second survey answer is service, then experience, then choice. These are the real answers!
In April and May we conducted an on WeChat survey of these global Chinese travel shoppers and found that in summary these high net work global consumers want to travel as soon as possible.
What we found from the 1800+ global travel shoppers was:
1. Their appetite for international brands remains very robust. The desire and important of consuming international luxury is a key for them in their professional and social success.
2. They are active buyers, buying monthly and have been buying in the past month and plan to purchase in the next month.
3. Brand stores are where they prefer to do their shopping, not online.
4. They plan to travel internationally as soon as borders open.
5. Europe and North America are their first choices for travel shopping.
6. Quality of the brand is their most important consideration when deciding what brand and product to buy.
7. Friends and family are their prime influences, not celebrity endorsements.
These readers and wechat followers are not aspirational, but rather committed to spending thousands to shop abroad.
If you have ever been shopping in China, you will know the sales people just follow you around the store, a few steps behind you. They often don’t know much about the products, because they never really sell the products. Instead they are there to make sure you don’t steal anything. Service in China is not really service compared to the west and the Chinese luxury shopper knows this very well.
A complete summary of the report is available here: https://we.tl/t-4ZvmRgT8bS
Our video webinar on the market conditions and survey finds can be streamed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_5w8BXvOBDQ
I hope you enjoy and happy to answer any questions you might have.
Thanks and regards.
China i2i Group