Niche Brands Are Winning Over Consumers in Mainland China

·3 min read

SHANGHAI — For mainland Chinese consumers, discovering niche brands on Instagram is the new normal.

According to Asia retail distributor Bluebell Group’s report “2022 Asia Lifestyle Consumer Profile,” when asked if “luxury is now more about the niche brands that fewer people know about, but that offer great style and quality,” 89 percent of mainland China respondents agreed slightly or strongly with the statement, a 34 percent year-over-year jump.

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The results were based on a survey of 2,100 consumers age 18 to 45 in Asian markets who spent a minimum of 1,200 euros on lifestyle products in the 12 months ended March 2022.

“Across Asia, consumers equate niche with a well-defined area of expertise, an understated aesthetic or a more unique point of view,” said Group Communication Director Anne Geronimi. “In mainland China, one consumer defined a niche brand as one whose name is only known by insiders.”

Geronimi listed Berluti, Off-White and Penhaligon’s as top-of-mind labels respondents mentioned, which are already considered well-established in the Western market.

“Interestingly, Asian brands such as Japanese fashion brand Visvim or Korean beauty brand Hera were also mentioned in this category,” Geronimi added.

According to the report, 44 percent of respondents count social media channels as the most influential resource when purchasing premium goods, versus 31 percent who said they were influenced by official websites and 27 percent by family and friends. The remaining channel of influence comes from print media, blogs, influencers, in-store environment, international celebrities, sales persons and local celebrities. International celebrities are slightly more influential than local celebrities, especially in the jewelry and watch categories.

Despite conventional wisdom that mainland Chinese consumers use easily accessed Chinese social media to catch up on brands’ content, Bluebell’s report found that more than 84 percent of respondents follow their favorite lifestyle brands on Instagram. More than half of mainland China respondents follow both the brand’s international and local pages.

South Korea and Taiwan follow with 81 percent and 76 percent of respondents following “their favorite lifestyle brands” on Instagram, Japan counts the lowest, with 54 percent of respondents following these lifestyle brands on Instagram.

“Instagram is often thought of as a Western channel, yet we find that consumers across Asia do also look for and appreciate local content on the platform,” Geronimi said.

Despite the willingness to consider niche brands as the new luxury, Chinese consumers still firmly agree with the traditional idea of luxury. Big names, in-store service and a sense of status are what 94 percent of mainland China respondents look for when considering a purchase.

Forty-nine percent of respondents in Asia prefer to shop offline. Excepting big-ticket items, 31 percent of mainland Chinese shoppers prefer to shop online, the highest amongst the surveyed markets.

“The main drivers for online shopping are convenience, including avoiding crowds and fast deliveries, greater choice, and better deals,” said Geronimi.

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