For those researching and analysing consumer behaviours expected in the coming years, “Gen-Z” has become the go-to term. More specifically, Gen-Zers are defined as being born between the years 1997 and 2012.
So what does Gen-Z mean for the Chinese market? You can look at it from different perspectives. There is much double-edged sword about Gen Z in China regarding marketing and brand management.
- They’re digital natives but have little interest in brands that only communicate with them digitally.
- They have seen China’s economy develop from an export-driven model to more focused on domestic consumption. Therefore, they prefer to buy national brands or brands that respect their country in all aspects, from slogans to marketing practices.
- They have no patience for artificial trends or gimmicky products—they demand authenticity, transparency, and a deeper purpose than just making money. It’s frightening how much they see through the BS of many brands (and people) they meet today.
Chinese Gen Z: A Definition
China’s Gen Z will become increasingly influential as shoppers, employees, and decision-makers in the next few years.
There are currently two distinct cohorts within China’s Gen Z: teenagers and young adults. These groups have very different interests and lifestyles, but they’re both poised to reshape China’s retail landscape.
Teenagers make up the first wave of China’s Gen Z, and they’re already driving significant changes in consumption patterns.
The younger Generation Z generation is frequently portrayed as the “new children of divorce.” This is because they are the first generation born after the government abolished the one-child policy in 2016. This means they are the last generation to have been taken into families where both parents have busy, stressful, and demanding jobs.
The difference between The Gen-Z Group
Teenagers have had to grow up quickly, so they’re often very independent and self-sufficient. They are also very self-aware and ambitious, with high ambitions and aspirations to attend top universities. Teenagers are driven by new values that prioritise self-fulfilment and experiences. This means they often prefer to shop online and spend money on social experiences they enjoy. They’re also very interested in fashion and beauty products.
Young adults have had very different childhoods from their teenage counterparts. They have grown up in a more relaxed, easy-going environment than the one experienced by their older siblings. Young adults, thus, are much more social and collaborative than teens and tend to care more about developing and nurturing their relationships with close friends and family members. They are also more interested in practical purchases like travel and home goods. In addition, young adults are driven by the community, connection, and collaboration values. This means they often focus on positively impacting and working in teams.
Why Gen Z Matters for China
Chinese Gen Z will be the biggest consuming group in the world, the largest generation in the workforce, and the most racially diverse generation in history, which is pretty much why they are worth studying. As the world’s most important Gen Z consumers, Chinese Generation Z will have $40 trillion in spending power by 2030, according to estimates. Moreover, China will be the primary source of that spending — the largest single source. As a result, the Chinese Gen Z will have an unprecedentedly enormous impact on the Chinese economy and China’s relationships with other countries. China’s rise to economic and political power has brought both opportunities and challenges for China’s Gen Z.
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The Rise of the Gen-Z Consumer in China
Chinese Gen Z are highly digital and bloomed in the era of social media and e-commerce. They are the first generation that grew up with the internet, and they comprise the largest group of digital natives. They have higher digital literacy and online spending power than any other generation and are likely to shape the future of the Chinese economy, Chinese businesses, and Chinese brands.
Chinese Gen Z avid mobile app users spend more time using apps than watching TV. In addition, they spend more time on the internet than reading newspapers or magazines, on social media than listening to the radio, and on apps than reading books. As a result, apps have become their primary source of information and entertainment. Responding to this circumstance, a growing number of television programmes have moved their channels from television to Douyin live stream in 2022.
The Consumer Behaviors of this Generation
China’s Gen-Z is a powerful, ambitious, and connected generation. Their different values and ways of thinking are reshaping the market.
- They have higher brand and marketing expectations than other generations. These young Chinese consumers want brands to be consistent with their values, authentic, and transparent. In addition, they expect brands to stand for something beyond profits.
- They are more collaborative, open, and connected than previous generations. They are more likely to engage with brands and share their opinions online, but only as part of a community they trust.
- They are highly digitally engaged and have a strong appetite for creativity, innovation, and self-development. Young adults are highly experimental with fashion, beauty, and lifestyle products. They are likelier to try new products and are less loyal to brands than previous generations. They are likely to use digital influencers, such as Tik Tok stars, to inform their decisions and buy products. Gen Z is also very interested in experiences.
Gen-Zers' Views on Advertising and Marketing
Chinese Gen Zers have the highest expectations of brands and marketing compared with other generations. Because they have seen brands fail and succeed and have a keen awareness of their strengths and limitations. They have higher expectations of brands and marketing because they are more sophisticated and demanding, and they have higher expectations of themselves because they are more confident.
Chinese Gen Zers grew up in a more prosperous China and families with more financial freedom. As a result, they spend more than Generation Y, born between 1981 and 1996. And, unlike Generation Y, they do not value saving money in their pockets because they love living happily rather than making much money. So compared with Gen Y, born between 1981 and 1996, they are more generous in spending. And they don’t like to save money in their pocket like Gen Y because they place more value in living happily than making a great deal of money.
Gen-Zers' Expectations of Brands and Marketing
Chinese Gen Zers have higher expectations of brands and marketing as they are more sophisticated, demanding, and confident. Customers are more likely to spend money on brands that share their core values. Chinese Gen Zers want brands to be consistent with their values, authentic, and transparent. They expect brands to be human, genuine, and “not sell out.” They want brands to stand for something beyond profits. Chinese Gen Zers have a keen awareness of the challenges facing brands due to the rise of Gen Z and the internet. They are more aware of the need for brands to appeal to Gen Z than marketers are.
Chinese Gen Zers are essential Gen Z consumers in the world. This generation is sophisticated, self-aware, and unique. Understanding what makes them tick is key to unlocking their potential as consumers. This group has very different values and shopping habits from previous generations. Companies and brands will need to adapt to keep up with the rapid pace of change in the Chinese market.