Nielsen: 4 must-know facts about Chinese luxury shoppers

With Golden Week coming up, Nielsen's Mainland Chinese Luxury Shopper survey results show that mainland Chinese luxury shoppers mainly read up on luxury goods on social media and independent online platforms.

With its results released today, the study surveyed 1,005 respondents in mainland China from August 14 to 22 about their luxury shopping habits and awareness.

They count as luxury travelers because they have traveled and bought luxury goods overseas in the past 12 months and plan to make similar purchases abroad in the next year.

To give a more representative picture of the Chinese luxury shopper, respondents in tier one, two and three cities in northern, eastern, southern and western China were surveyed.  For example, for northern and southern China, respondents from first tier cities Beijing and Guangzhou were selected respectively, whereas Shanghai and Chengdu were chosen respectively as the first tier cities for eastern and western China.

1. Social media and independent online platforms are major purchase influencers

60% of respondents visited social media and independent online platforms with user recommendations like forums as main sources of information when deciding which luxury goods to buy.   Half of the respondents said official luxury brand websites were also among their first stops for information.

Almost 60% of respondents said they enjoyed the ease of browsing through collections of luxury goods online.

Eva Leung, managing director of Nielsen Hong Kong and Macau, says this provides an opportunity for marketers to harness the reach of blogs and forums for targeted brand awareness campaigns.

"Companies cannot directly control messages about their brands in earned media but they have the ability to create a positive brand presence on these channels," Christophe Guillot, associate director of luxury and tourism, consumer insights at Nielsen Hong Kong, said.

2. Chinese luxury shoppers prefer to travel to nearby destinations

Getting the popular sources of information right is especially important since many mainland Chinese luxury shoppers go abroad for their shopping, with 97% of respondents saying that shopping is a key activity when they travel overseas.

90% of respondents plan their purchases before heading out and 38% know exactly which products they will buy.

Chinese luxury shoppers surveyed in the study tended to choose travel destinations at closer proximity of their hometowns.

Hong Kong and South Korea were the top two destinations for respondents living in southern China, followed by Macau and Japan.  In contrast, those who lived in the north prefer to travel to South Korea and Japan.

"Time and cost are considered the key factors for mainland Chinese travelers when selecting shopping destinations. The more distant the location, the more vacation days they have to take off work, which also means signing up for a more expensive travel package," Guillot said.

"These consumers would prefer to save on their travel expenses so they can spend more when shopping."

In general, respondents residing in southern China were nearly four times more likely to travel than the average mainland Chinese traveler surveyed.

3. Quality should be the buzz word for adverts

In terms of advertising, luxury brands targeting mainland Chinese shoppers should emphasise quality, design and brand heritage, according to the survey results.

56% of respondents link luxury goods to the word “quality” while 46% associate the goods with "fine design".  Meanwhile, "established heritage" mattered for four out of ten respondents in the survey.

Quality is also the major driver for luxury purchases by mainland Chinese travelers.

It is the main motivation for purchasing luxury goods for 45% of respondents. Other purchase drivers include the fact that luxury goods give consumers an image of having taste and being different, and the idea of luxury goods as self-rewards.

4. eCommerce has not yet overtaken physical retail stores in terms of popularity

With the advent of online shopping, buying luxury goods online seems to be a natural next step.  But it doesn't seem to be overtaking physical retail stores just yet.

45% of respondents bought luxury goods online in the past, with 77% of respondents knowing of websites that sell luxury goods.  But 48% of respondents were still on the fence about whether they would purchase luxury goods through online platforms.

As for the respondents' most recent purchase of luxury goods, only 2% of respondents bought those goods online.

26% bought their most recent purchase stores owned by luxury brands while 24% of the respondents bought it from a duty-free store at an airport.  4% of the respondents said they preferred to shop online for luxury goods in the future.

Those who have already shopped for luxury goods online say shopping online is more convenient and helps save time.