Just released, Mintel’s Chinese Consumer Trends 2018 report explores the key consumer trends set to shake up China’s consumer markets next year. The report tackles themes such as ethics, sustainability, self-care, automation, individuality, and stress.
In 2018, consumers will prioritize better quality products that offer them greater personal life-enhancing benefits and make them feel good about their choice to support a brand that claims to offer a better balance with nature. Brands that demonstrate how the ethics behind their product or service provide concrete benefits to consumers, their families, and their neighborhoods will tap into this growing trend.
Over the coming year, brands that tap into traditional native Chinese philosophy, remedies and forms of exercise in product formulation and marketing messages will find success. Consumers will also be more engaged with brands that offer products and services that allow them to enhance who they really are, and experiment and express themselves however they choose, according to the firm’s team of trend analysts. More highlights detailing top trends from the report include:
Machine learning and AI are being embraced by consumers as they increase productivity, efficiency, and pleasure.
“Consumers are gaining exposure to different uses for machine learning and are beginning to have positive experiences with the technology,” says Delon Wang, manager of trends, Asia Pacific at Mintel.
According to Mintel research, 46% of Chinese Metropolitans (aged 20-49) are interested in learning about their household habits, suggesting that they appreciate the power of technology in monitoring, analyzing and reporting. Such technology is able to learn about an individual’s unique personality and preferences in order to create customized experiences. Through the use of everyday smart home devices and appliances, AI can help consumers create an improved environment to work, live and shop, Wang states.
“Consumers will generally prefer opt-in choices and are likely to embrace machine learning if it makes their lives easier,” Wang explains. “As the desire for a seamless lifestyle becomes universal, we will see more aspects of life being incorporated with machine learning capabilities. Supporting consumers desire for individuality and autonomy, we will see more personalized services and products available through AI and machine learning in the months and years to come.”
Higher levels of social stress are driving China’s youngest generations to demand more informal and playful interactions in both the virtual and physical world.
“Not only in the digital world but also in the physical world, young consumers are embracing less rigid and more playful ways to engage with their surroundings, which helps them feel more relaxed in social circumstances,” says Matthew Crabbe, director of research, Asia Pacific at Mintel.
An increasingly popular form of escape, many are fleeing to the virtual world to interact with friends and even strangers. According to Mintel research, 63% of 20-24-year-olds say they play online games to relieve stress, he says.
“Looking ahead, the youngest generations will be actively looking for ways to deal with the social stress they experience on a daily basis,” Crabbe adds. “On the one hand, consumers will embrace more activities that they can do by themselves without the pressure of relying on other people; on the other hand, they will want novel and playful solutions, both online and offline, that can help them to strengthen their relationship with the people around them.”
The Balanced Life
Consumers increasingly understand the balance between their own health and that of the environment and are demanding greener, healthier life solutions from brands.
“Consumers are increasingly in search of healthier, happier and more balanced lives,” Crabbe explains. “They want antidotes to urban congestion and environmental pollution, and greener, more people-friendly cities.”
Mintel research reveals that 58% of Chinese Metropolitans (aged 20-49) agree they are willing to pay more for ethical brands. However, consumers’ motives lie not in the pursuit of egalitarian principles, rather they are after benefits for their own health, he says.
“In 2018, consumers will prioritize better quality products that offer them greater personal life-enhancing benefits and make them feel good about their choice to support a brand that claims to offer a better balance with nature,” Crabbe says. “Brands that demonstrate how the ethics behind their product or service provide concrete benefits to consumers, their families, and their neighborhoods will tap into this growing trend.”
In seeking to express their individuality, consumers are absorbing alternative lifestyle influences and experiences from a globally-connected community.
Chinese consumers are becoming involved in creative work, choosing flexible working arrangements, traveling to unusual places, and living unconventional lives—including the 41% of teens who say they would like to live in an unconventional way—all the time absorbing new influences, says Joyce Lam, trends analyst, Asia Pacific at Mintel.
New technologies are accelerating this process, bringing ever more choice to consumers, and giving them more scope to explore their own sense of self. As consumers become more individualistic, the challenge for brands is to respond to their individual needs, she says.
“As growing incomes expand consumers’ product choices, they are empowered to choose between brands that offer products that help them express their individuality from around the world,” Lam adds. “Looking ahead, more brands will offer products and services that allow consumers to enhance who they really are, and allow them to experiment and express themselves however they choose.”
All We Need is Mobile
Mobile devices are blurring the lines of formality and consumers are embracing this change for the convenience it brings.
“Chinese consumers are relying on mobile technology to support various aspects of their lives and this is attributed to the speed and convenience the technology brings,” Wang says.
According to Mintel research, 87% of Chinese consumers in tier 1-3 cities used mobile payments in 2017, up from 69% in 2016. Mobile devices and apps have now entered the space of formality, and what would have once required face-to-face interaction or physical official documentation has now succumbed to the popularity of this multi-functional and portable technology, Wang explains.
“Looking forward, consumers will become comfortable with the idea of everything—regardless of how formal or official it may be—being available via mobile and will question brands that are unable to provide this option,” Wang says. “Eventually, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) will integrate with the mobile interactive space, complementing one another and enabling consumers to gain greater work-life efficacy and multi-tasking capability.”