Moonlight clan, sensitive, finicky, frustrated, nationalistic, beaten generation – no prizes for guessing who these labels are describing. Born between late 1990s and early 2010s, Chinese Gen Zs have experienced a socio-economic environment that differs drastically from previous generations. Gen Z currently make up 16.5% of China’s total population of 1.4billion. Their 2021 consumption scale is at approximately 4.94 trillion Yuan and spend is only expected to increase in the future as their spending power increases.
But as we all know, with great (spending) power comes great responsibilities - are Chinese Gen Zs just mindlessly spending money? Definitely not.
Gen Zs are discerning on what they spend on. Brands need to first understand that Gen Zs are not just an extension of Millennials. It takes a lot more effort to understand what makes Chinese Gen Zs tick when it comes to their purchase journey.
What makes Gen Z unique from past generations?
Being true digital natives, Gen Zs all around the world (including China) have never known a day without the internet. Growing up with smartphones and social media platforms, ‘Zoomers’ can effortlessly source, collate and cross-check information that shape their viewpoints and perspectives.
Growing up during China’s fastest economic growth, most Gen Zers have never experienced financial hardships and are enjoying a higher standard of living. They are more accustomed to a higher quality lifestyle and they are likely to continue this level of living standards in future.
Better educated than past generations, with an additional 12million vocational school graduates entering the workforce in 2022 alone, Chinese Gen Zs are eloquent and expressive of their needs and desires.
The Chinese Gen Zs are savvy consumers who are more demanding compared to past generations. Pleasing them has proven to be no easy feat. So what can brands do to capture their hearts?
Be real not perfect
Quality goods and reputable brands are pretty much the norm in their lives – they are pretty much baseline expectations of Gen Zs. To catch their attention, they are looking for authentic brands. For many of the Chinese Gen Z, growing up in single-child household leaves them craving honest, sincere relationships, even with brands.
What is authenticity, one might ask? For Chinese Gen Zs, it’s about being true to your roots and values. Chinese Gen Zs are proud of their identity and expects the same from the brands that they support.
What if you’re a brand that has made a mistake? No problem – take ownership and show consumers your sincerity by rectifying the error. Chinese Gen Zs are not looking for perfection from brands but want them to own up to mistakes to show their honesty and integrity; values that showcase authenticity.
Dare to be different
Previous generations tended to follow trends and fads blindly as part of the collectivist culture. However, Gen Zs have shifted away from this and are used to expressing their unique thoughts and personalities – having grown up mostly in single-child families showered with attention from doting family members. They therefore seek out brands that allow them to express their individualism – either through limited editions, collaborations with artists or even co-created pieces.
Stand alongside Gen Zs
With the buzz around the “lying flat (躺平)” and more recently the “let it rot (摆烂)” phenomenon in China (where Chinese Gen Zs want to throw in the towel and stop trying), it is apparent that mental well-being is something that resonates strongly with China Gen Zs. Faced with the mounting pressures of ’adulting’ - getting a good job, climbing corporate ladder – Gen Zs are finding it hard to cope with these societal pressures.
Brands can consider tapping into this opportunity – by taking a stand with Gen Z. It’s important that brands show them that mental well-being is an important issue to be supported. Gen Zs appreciate being supported on issues that they care about; just like how friends support each other in times of need. More importantly, brands can play an inspirational role to help Gen Zs find their purpose in life again.
The Chinese Gen Zs are often misunderstood as self-centred and demanding, but perhaps what they are seeking is a brand that can be a friend and that understands their experiences and expectations? No doubt it will require a lot of effort but the rewards can be great.