Luxury brands use well-traveled study abroad students to set trends
With direct access to the latest trends in a wide range of luxury brands, Chinese students abroad have become unofficial opinion leaders for their friends and colleagues. According to a survey conducted by China Luxury Advisors, 31% of Chinese students in New York and Boston accompany their friends and family on a shopping trip at least once every three months. 34% bought luxury goods and then returned to China with a similar frequency.
This unique demographic segment has attracted the attention of many retailers and brands. Bloomingdales and Bergdorf Goodman have sponsored Chinese New Year celebrations for local Chinese students, while brands host special fashion shows and even invite executives to give them advice on how to make a career in the fashion industry.
The influencers with the greatest appeal are the young Chinese hip to fashion
Many Chinese students studying abroad adapt to the description of second-generation rich children, otherwise known as fuerdai, born in the late 1980s or early 1990s by wealthy Chinese businessmen. They are easy to spot in the universities, dressed up from head to toe of luxury items, perhaps driving a Porsche near the campus. They are often seen as the embodiment of corruption in China.
But times have changed and many Chinese students have become more attentive to what they buy, according to Charlie Gu, director of China Luxury Advisors. They often look for brands of smaller independent designers who can demonstrate their personality and individuality.
Scarlett Hao is an NYU student with a strong following among Chinese students in the United States. Hao said he started sharing fashion content because he noticed that there were no strong Asian bloggers. He felt the responsibility of transmitting the concept of positivity of the body to his fans.
The gradual diversification of styles and attitudes between the Chinese at home and abroad means that brands can no longer treat them as a monolithic group. “In many luxury brands or shopping centers, we recognize student groups in a monotonous way,” said Nancy Hsieh, a luxury consultant at Goldlinq consulting firm. “They will provide sponsorships for the student association and a free shuttle service to their centers.”
But Chinese students abroad “want to be part of experiential events and activities that are part of the luxurious American experience,” said Hsieh. For consumers who are increasingly skeptical of celebrities, a campaign that uses mini-influencer students may seem more authentic.
Examining the fuerdai target is a long-term investment for luxury fashion brands
The luxury brand Clé de Peau Beauté has identified the fuerdai as a segment of consumers to target through their research. They also define the segment as composed of women under 35, born in China, who come from a family with more than $500,000 of annual household income and are currently enrolled in undergraduate or graduate programs.
To get more information from this target, Clé de Peau Beauté organized an exclusive event. He invited 15 Chinese students to a cocktail party, during which the tradition of the brand was presented and new products were launched.
“We know we could not have held a classic and boring focus group,” said Jennifer Coppolino, the director of market insights and consumer involvement at Clé de Peau Beauté. “We did not think they would be interested in sitting around a table, and, in exchange for a couple of hundred dollars, talking for a couple of hours. They are interested in luxury events, an opportunity that would be fun to tell their friends on Instagram, so we created an environment that’s more social.”
When asked about the results, Coppolino said that research “has influenced every aspect of the marketing world”, from product decisions, to store sales strategies, to WeChat programming.
“Sometimes it is difficult for brands to generate results, and some give up after the first attempt,” commented Gu of China Luxury Advisor. Regarding the generation of loyal sales aimed at Chinese students abroad, he said, “in the end, it depends on the long-term relationship.”
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