I’m Alex from Germany and have just started a work experience placement at Coley Porter Bell. Before coming to London I spent six months in China at Xiamen University to study Economics and Chinese, as well as travelling in my spare time. I gained intriguing insights into the Chinese culture, attitudes and especially their spending behaviour. What I found was the Chinese way of spending money on products differs greatly from the European way.
According to Reuters, the Chinese are the top consumers of luxury goods globally. They significantly buy more luxury goods overseas than domestically because the brands are often much more expensive within China due to tax reasons. Chinese people like to travel, since China opened up to the West, exit regulations are loosened up and the income in the county is rising. They come for shopping trips to London, Milan, Zurich and Paris and arrive with only one goal: to buy luxury goods and high-end brands.
Large amounts of money are spent on expensive bags, watches and jewellery for themselves or gifts for their relatives and friends back home. In the Chinese society it is a big issue to “not loose face” and their gifts should reflect the importance and respect for the recipient, so the amount on the price tag is a big issue.
The problem I see is that most marketers in Europe are not approaching Chinese customers effectively. They often fail to market and communicate their brand messages in a relevant way – perhaps due to the lack of Chinese language skills.
Last week I read in Marketing Magazine that most Chinese do not even know the important shopping districts in London because travel agencies carry Chinese tourists by coach to out of town fashion outlets, Bicester Village being the most popular. New and Old Bond Street as well as Sloane Square, are unknown places for most of the shoppers.
It feels that the Chinese consumers are underestimated by the UK in terms of buying power because I think they are increasingly aspirational consumers. Retailers and other marketers largely fail to tailor their messages to Chinese consumers – opportunities are unseen and very often completely missed.
I come from a small town in the Black Forest in Germany, where there are many souvenir and tourist shops. Even these small shops have Chinese speaking sales people or even Chinese sales assistants who are able to help Chinese shoppers.
When are European businesses finally going to see the importance of this profitable target group and start hiring consultants who have Chinese marketing and spending insights? Where are the company websites and online shops translated into Mandarin? We’ll see which businesses are faster to adopt and adapt then others…
Alexandra Rombach, Marketing Intern at Coley Porter Bell