The Chinese fashion market holds strong appeal for global companies looking to grow their business. While the east is full of promise, however, it presents a number of challenges for overseas clothing companies. The retail structure in China is distinct, reflecting how differently Connected Consumers here shop for fashion from other parts of the world. If global companies are to fashion a new market for themselves in China, they need to understand the Chinese consumer’s style of shopping.
One: Omnichannel shopping is more common in China than Europe
Almost all Chinese city-dwelling fashionistas (98%) shop for fashion both online and offline. This is significantly higher than the number of consumers in European countries doing this. In Germany, for example, 57% of all consumers can be identified as cross-channel fashion shoppers, while in the Netherlands it’s around 50% (source: GfK FutureBuy 2015). Fashion brands in China need to have a coherent omnichannel strategy.
Two: Chinese fashion shoppers are devoted to brand websites
Almost all Chinese fashion shoppers (93%) have purchased products in the past year via official brand websites, and 71% have bought products at least once a month or more often. Overall, brand websites have the broadest appeal for them owing to the fact that they are seen as credible and of a high quality. Consequently, Chinese consumers aren’t faced with the worry of purchasing a counterfeit or low quality product – a common concern for them. Having a strong brand-owned website is therefore absolutely vital for those western clothing companies wishing to crack the Chinese fashion market.
Three: Chinese fashionistas go online for information and inspiration
Chinese city-slickers don’t just go online to buy fashion but to obtain information about it as well. On average, they get information about fashion from five different touchpoints – with online touchpoints the most common. With a 41% reach, Chinese messaging app WeChat is an important source of fashion inspiration and information about the best fashion deals and discounts. Despite online touchpoints being the most common source of fashion information, offline touchpoints such as TV ads have a significant reach among Chinese consumers. In the past six months, almost four in ten (38%) have obtained information about fashion in this way. Overall, TV is the second most used source of information after WeChat and the most trusted source of information after brand-owned websites. This underlines the need for brands to have a strong presence across both online and offline touchpoints along the purchase journey.
Four: Fashion shopping abroad is in vogue for Chinese shoppers
With 40% of Chinese city-dwellers shopping for fashion and lifestyle products abroad in the past year, accounting for 10% of all Chinese consumer fashion spending, this in itself appears to be a very fashionable thing for them to do. Neighboring countries prospering from this trend are Hong Kong (56%), Korea (50%) and Japan (43%). Europe has also benefitted with 45% of Chinese consumers shopping abroad for fashion doing so here. The top three European shopping destinations being France (27%), Italy (15%) and Germany (15%). So while western companies looking to enter the fashion market in China will want to be based locally, having a presence in other key countries popular with the fashionable Chinese could just help them to become and remain in vogue.
Five: Dressing to impress a key reason for fashion spending
More than half (59%) of Chinese consumers are prepared to spend more than they normally do when dressing to impress: on business attire. Their next reason to splash out more than usual on an outfit is for a business or cultural event, followed by for a date. Brands that cater for these occasions have the opportunity to impress themselves and have Chinese shoppers reaching for their very stylish wallets.
Chinese fashion shoppers really do have a style all of their own. Their omnichannel shopping behavior – from where they go for information and inspiration about fashion to where they go to make a purchase – is truly unique. Global fashion brands need to understand these distinct consumer trends if they want to become trendy and expand their business in China.