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  • Writer's pictureLeaf Digital

Understanding China's Gen Z: Here’s what marketers need to know

Updated: Feb 20

China's consumer landscape is rapidly evolving, driven by the seismic influence of Generation Z. With over 280 million individuals born between 1996 and 2010, this cohort commands substantial purchasing power and is reshaping the way brands engage with consumers. Highly educated, with about 50% expected to attain a university degree, and often dubbed the "invisible rich," many of China's Gen Z population live with their parents, alleviating living expenses such as rent. They are top consumers, demonstrating a willingness to invest in their interests. To navigate this dynamic market successfully, having an understanding of China's Gen Z's unique preferences and behaviors is paramount. In this article, we distill key insights into 10 trends defining China's Generation Z, offering essential guidance for foreign brands seeking to thrive in this dynamic environment.

Chinese gen z sitting together

Understanding China's Gen Z: 10 China’s Gen Z trends

1. China's Generation Z is generally impulsive and tend to exceed their budget

China's Generation Z is characterized by their spontaneity, as evidenced by their tendency to make impulse purchases while on the go. This trait stands out significantly compared to Chinese Millennials, with 47 percent of Gen Z respondents admitting to buying products spontaneously, surpassing millennials by five percent. This impulsiveness leads to many of the Chinese gen Z overspending their budget every month. They even call themselves “the moonlight clan”, as a reference to tendency to spend their entire monthly salary within a single lunar cycle, thus living from paycheck to paycheck.

2. A want for unique products and services

Authenticity is paramount for Gen Z consumers, who seek brands that embody sincerity, transparency, and genuine values. Marketers must prioritize establishing authentic connections by crafting genuine brand narratives, engaging in transparent communication, and sharing real-life stories that align with Gen Z's values and aspirations. Moreover, Gen Z views consumption as an expression of their individual identity, holding higher standards for beauty and taste. They are drawn to products that exude style and uniqueness, rejecting uniformity in favor of being distinct.

3. Pursue a green and healthy lifestyle

In China, Gen Z prioritizes health but often rates their own well-being lower than other generations, experiencing heightened anxiety about their health. Despite this, they've increased purchases of healthcare products and promote these products to friends and family, with healthy gift boxes emerging as a popular choice. Additionally, their purchasing decisions prioritize social significance, individual well-being, environmental impact, and sustainability over monetary concerns. They value quality, shopping experiences, uniqueness, and diversity, and while they're more willing to invest in content, they're also more discerning about its quality.


4. Fun and fresh – in search of new experiences

Gen Z's Perspective: For Gen Z, embracing the latest trends isn't just about style; it's a reflection of their optimistic outlook on life. Half of Gen Z actively seeks out the newest and most innovative experiences. Their top trend categories, apparel (21.68%) and sneakers (19.86%), showcase their eagerness to stay current and explore new styles. Moreover, Gen Z prioritizes experiences over material possessions, craving immersive and interactive brand engagements that transcend traditional marketing tactics. To resonate with this generation, marketers should focus on creating memorable experiences, such as pop-up events, interactive installations, and virtual reality activations, to captivate their attention and foster lasting connections with the brand.


Check out our work with hummel, to see an example of these kinds of events.

hummel and abc player coffee collaboration, 3 girls running

5. Fan culture – follow advise from celebrities, influencers and KOL’s

The fans' economy has surged, marked by Gen Z’s buying celebrities' merchandise and to enhance the reputation of their idols. Overall, both celebrities, influencers, and other Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) hold great precedence for this generation. Traditional advertising holds less sway over Gen Z, who prefer advice from KOLs and user-generated content, finding it more trustworthy and relatable. This preference for KOLs over traditional word-of-mouth marketing signals a significant shift in consumer behavior, with Gen Z placing increasing trust in KOLs' recommendations due to their perceived authenticity and expertise. As KOLs continue to rise in popularity and influence, their role in shaping consumer decisions is expected to grow, reshaping marketing strategies worldwide.


6. The Guochao (国潮) trend

The Guochao trend represents Generation Z's strong embrace of Chinese culture, going beyond just fashion to express a deep sense of national pride and identity. For foreign brands looking to tap into this trend, understanding the preferences of young Chinese consumers is paramount. Collaborating with local influencers and celebrities, is essential for incorporating Chinese cultural elements into product designs and marketing campaigns. This approach not only resonates with the aesthetic sensibilities of young consumers but also facilitates a deeper connection with the cultural trend. Moreover, establishing a robust presence on popular platforms like Little Red Book provides foreign brands with a direct channel to engage with Chinese Gen Z. By leveraging these digital platforms effectively, brands can showcase their understanding of Guochao and foster meaningful interactions with their target audience. In addition to collaborations and digital engagement, foreign brands must also prioritize product design that authentically reflects Chinese culture. Drawing inspiration from traditional motifs and incorporating them into product offerings demonstrates a commitment to catering to the cultural sensibilities of Chinese consumers.


7. Care about their appearance – and spend a lot of money on it

In online shopping, categories related to appearance like clothes, makeup, beauty, and shoes are very popular with Gen Z—they make up almost half of what they buy online. Skincare is a big deal too. Gen Z is getting into skincare routines way earlier than previous generations. Nearly 40% of them start buying skincare products when they're just 16 to 18 years old, while older generations typically start in their mid-20s. At the same time, Gen Z is spending more and more on skincare every year, and the growth has only accelerated.


8. Convenience focused

Gen Z's demand for convenience is evident in the 82% surge in lazy product consumption on platforms like Taobao in 2020. While fast food satisfies their need for quick meals, Gen Z craves higher quality options. Enter self-heating hot pots like Zihaiguo, designed with Gen Z in mind. Additionally, most Gen Zers are the only child in the family. They somehow enjoy loneliness and like spending time by themselves on individual hobbies or with their pets. Thus, their loneliness has become a strong driver of their consumer spending, catalyzing the demand for and development of convenient food, such as self-heating hot pots.

3 gen Z chinese drinking juice and smiling

9. Strong brand loyalty

China's Gen Z demonstrates remarkable brand loyalty once they establish a connection. They tend to stick with brands they are familiar with over new ones. Brands capitalize on this loyalty by employing customer relationship management strategies through social apps. WeChat mini-programs, for instance, embedded within WeChat without requiring separate downloads, provide users with various value-added services. These offerings include exclusive access to online events, priority restaurant reservations, and mobile games, all contributing to the cultivation of brand loyalty.


10. Omnichannel shopping habits

In China, Gen Z exhibits a multifaceted approach to shopping, known as omni-shopping, which involves seamlessly blending physical and online retail experiences. While online shopping is favored by 89% of this demographic, a substantial 62% still actively engage in both physical store visits and online purchases, particularly when acquiring clothing items. This inclination towards a hybrid shopping model highlights Gen Z's preference for immersive retail experiences that cater to their diverse needs and preferences. Brands must recognize and adapt to this behavior by offering integrated and seamless channels that allow for a fluid transition between physical and online shopping environments. This approach is crucial for effectively capturing and retaining the attention of China's discerning Gen Z consumers.


Conclusion

As this generation continues to exert its influence and purchasing power, understanding and effectively catering to their preferences will be key for brands looking to thrive in China's evolving consumer market. By embracing authenticity, innovation, and a deep understanding of Chinese culture, brands can forge meaningful connections with Gen Z consumers and capture the opportunities presented by this dynamic demographic.


If you have any questions on how to reach this giant consumer group, we at LEAF Digital are here to assist you.




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