Chinese consumers

Why luxury needs China’s impact-conscious consumers

A new white paper from creative agency Tong and specialist China-focused luxury to travel publisher Jing Group, Tracking the Trends 2021, highlights the areas of growth that will go mainstream in Chinese consumer culture over the next 12 months and beyond. It covers four emerging areas: impact-conscious consumerism, short-form engagement, the culture of mega-collaborations, and the rise of Chinese creative communities. We bring you a feature from Jing Daily’s Gemma Williams on the new consumerism. Jing Group is a content partner of The Moodie Davitt Report.

Despite China’s relatively quick recovery from the outbreak, the upheaval of life in the wake of COVID-19 has given companies, governments, and citizens — particularly the young generations — an opportunity to rethink processes, practices and social interactions.

As a result, 2020 has shifted priorities. In China, we are seeing emotional responses to the crisis manifested in a number of areas, primarily: the body, community issues, and the environment. Together, this set of interests forms the rise of a new, impact-conscious consumer.

Furthermore, this shift is aided by a number of developments. Better education, increased communication, and connectivity on social media, and attention from KOLs are all catalysing this drift toward impact-consumerism. The proliferation of tech start-ups, apps, and platforms are facilitating change as well.

Whether it’s on the ground coalitions like ActAsia or Weibo’s online charity organisation, farm-to-table startups like Meicai, or innovation in fashion sustainability promoted by companies like Redress and Cheng Kung Garments, China is witnessing a rise in mindfulness.

This more considered outlook is being driven by demand from Millennial and Gen Z demographics. But will 2021 be the year mainstream consumers become more receptive to inclusivity, freedom for expression, and compassion?

Insights from Tong and Jing Daily in their joint trends report for 2021

Body: Care for What’s In and What’s On

Young shoppers are now keen to generate a sense of self-awareness through heightened care for health and optimised bodies, as well as supporting brands that rally around certain beliefs and purposes. Body positivity has been heightened during the outbreak, and some Chinese brands have been instrumental in promoting positive body messages and diversity.

Intimate wear company Neiwai has been particularly dynamic in this area — from hiring an older female ambassador to releasing inclusive campaigns that have featured same-sex couples. Their choice of wording too is particularly upbeat, yielding phrases like “fits a variety of chest sizes” and “comfortable.”

Yang Tianzhen, the former manager of Chinese celebrity and member of K-pop boy band Luhan, has now become an internet celebrity herself for founding plus-size label, PlusMall. Yang now advocates for body acceptance, positivity, and representation, and has appeared on the cover of Nylon China. Weibo influencer Lizlu has too found interest online by offering style tips for plus size women.

Previously, brands that have tried to meet this changing “demand” have been out of step. Some have found themselves accused either of “ethics-washing” or of being too progressive, as in the case of Tiffany.

But an area where we are seeing real, authentic transparency on a grassroots level is in relation to women’s issues and female products. The advocacy group Stand By Her inspired students to put a stop to period-shaming by offering free sanitary pad dispensers in toilets, which have now been rolled out to over 250 colleges across China.

According to Jenny Zhang, Strategy Director at TONG, it’s not surprising that younger consumers are committed to this area. “Age is definitely a factor in changing consumption in Femcare across China. Younger women have a different attitude toward personal care and feminine hygiene than previous generations. They are active, more open-minded and engaged with these topics,” she explained.

Brands must adapt to a much-changed consumer mindset in China, says the report

During the early months of the COVID-19 outbreak, female health workers were told sanitary products were not critical items; however, a local NGO rallied to have donations of sanitary pads and period underwear sent to frontline health workers.

Zhang pointed to a brand like LUÜNA Naturals, which is now gaining traction by breaking the stigma surrounding periods in China. “LUÜNA Naturals’ healthy and planet-friendly products and women-first mantra are responsive to consumer demand for real voices and social impact.”

Alongside breaking down barriers to perceptions of body issues, citizens are more careful about what goes into their bodies as well. The thirst for fresh food products has risen, while concepts like “farm-to-table” have started to infiltrate consumption trends. This has gone hand-in-hand with tech developments and speedy delivery apps.

iiMedia Consulting reported that during the two weeks from 22 January to 6 February 2020, the daily new users of mainstream fresh food platforms were more than 10,000. Among them, Hema, JD Daojia, and Dingdong Maicai had more than 40,000 new users on 6 February.

The Bottom Line: Together, the rise in body acceptance, healthy living, and body-related causes indicate that mindful and considered change is happening. Brands that wish to empower consumers need to ensure an authentic and long-standing alignment with such areas.

Heightened awareness of issues such as sustainability, tech and animal welfare are defining a new generation of consumers

Community: Standing With Wuhan Becomes the Norm

One of the most notable issues to result from COVID-19 was the initial outpouring of help for the citizens of Wuhan. Influencer Li Jiaqi was particularly active here; during a special livestream on the eve of Chinese New Year, instead of selling, he asked viewers to make donations, raising a total of almost US$11 million for Wuhan.

From big donations to small messages, brands chose to be sensitive to their consumers during this crisis rather than push out promotional messages. Global fashion names pledged millions to the city, while at home, Chinese brands crafted purposeful and caring messages for fans.

Beauty disruptor Perfect Diary broadcast safety recommendations, while Neiwai posted messages reminding their fans to stay healthy and strong on WeChat. Apparel line Bosideng donated 150,000 down jackets worth US$45.7 million to counter the cold weather faced by frontline workers.

Tech giants too were proactive and responsive during the crisis. Efforts included blocking vendors from increasing PPE prices and deploying drones to enforce the curfew. Despite this, some attitudes toward these companies shifted. Netizens on WeChat and Weibo have started to speak up to highlight the social unfairness of having access to a phone.

Incidents in which older people without smartphones are unable to access health codes are now being reported on. In August, one of these incidents concerning an elderly Harbin resident unable to scan his health code received 220 million views on Weibo. It featured compassionate comments such as: “Society really has to accommodate old people’s needs.”

The Bottom Line: From small and discreet to large scale, these outpourings from brands during COVID-19’s outbreak further reinforce the analysis that consumers in China are thinking laterally about causes and moments that relate to inclusivity of community thinking.

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Environment: Sustainability, Tech and Animal Welfare

Recently, China’s governmental policies have been leaning toward a greater appreciation of environmental issues. It announced a ban on single-use plastics earlier this year, which set the tone for a green recovery from COVID-19, including a commitment to carbon neutralization by 2060.

These steps have been complemented by initiatives from big tech conglomerates such as Cainiao’s Recycling Day. Additionally, the sustainable impact of fashion and a demand for more ethical production has been a driver in China’s consumption during 2020.

During October, Shanghai Fashion Week held its third annual sustainability conference in collaboration with the Copenhagen Fashion Summit. Luxury retailers too have been addressing recycling and packaging: The Balancing and Lane Crawford have both pioneered sustainable packaging and recycling initiatives.

The Alibaba Group committed to making 2020’s Singles’ Day more sustainable and set up 40,000 recycling stations; for every box recycled, consumers scanned a QR code to receive points on Alipay’s Mini Program, Ant Forest. By the end of the festival, more than 200 million people had participated in the 11.11 Go Green campaign.

“Since COVID-19, Wuhan has ended wild animal consumption, dog farming has been banned, and lawmakers have been calling for an expansion in wildlife protection.”

Finally, on this trend, younger consumers are also more concerned with animal welfare. The rise of the “cat economy” is chiming with grassroots organizations such as the fur-free movement ActAsia, which has been vital in pushing for a future that’s much more humane.

“Since COVID-19, Wuhan has ended wild animal consumption, dog farming has been banned, and lawmakers have been calling for an expansion in wildlife protection.”

ActAsia’s 6th Compassion in Fashion Forum at the Fashion Zoo festival addressed a live audience and reached an additional audience of around 24,000 listeners online. The forum also featured luxury’s leading cruelty-free name, Stella McCartney. Zhang noted that the COVID-19 outbreak had a huge impact on how China approaches animal welfare.

This shift is also being reflected in governmental change and legislation too. Zhang continued: “In July, China announced to finally remove mandatory pre-market animal testing for foreign ordinary cosmetics effective January 2021. This indicates a move toward a more humane approach to safety testing and a step closer to cruelty-free beauty.”

The Bottom Line: The final pillar, a recalibration on the wellbeing of the environment, is perhaps the most crucial. In China, this is coming from the top down and bottom-up, and as such, is having a powerful impact across the country.

While it’s true that this more thoughtful way of living has been accelerated by COVID-19, it was already fermenting in consumers’ consciousness. Now, it is funnelling Gen Z’s attention toward greater self-awareness, meaningful interactions, and environmental considerations.

standards, and as such, its consumers’ spend and attention have been even more vital to fashion brands and companies. Ultimately, the combined purchasing power of younger Chinese consumers is one that brands cannot ignore in this decade. Only the brands that are able to demonstrate an authentic connection to causes, or can genuinely build goodwill, will win favour during 2021.

*Jing Group is a content partner of The Moodie Davitt Report. To sign up for this white paper and other titles, click here.

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The Moodie Davitt eZine Issue 291 | 9 February 2021

The Moodie Davitt eZine is published 15 times per year by The Moodie Davitt Report (Moodie International Ltd). © All material is copyright and cannot be reproduced without the permission of the Publisher. To find out more visit and to subscribe, please e-mail

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