Chinese e-commerce platform Taobao announced it will being increasing support for niches business as a way to target China’s millennials.
Like their American and European counterparts, the young middle-class demographic gravitates towards unique and off-beat products.
The Alibaba-owned platform laid out a plan to capture the millennial market at the Taobao Merchants Summit held in the tech-forward city of Hangzhou this week.
“Taobao is undergoing a major change, and [its user base] is getting younger and younger…,” Alibaba Group CEO Daniel Zhang said during his keynote speech at the summit. “This means the platform needs to become ‘younger’ as well, to serve the next generation of merchants and buyers.”
“The key to ensuring Taobao’s vibrancy and sustainability is continuing to generate new, cutting-edge ideas and reducing the barriers for innovation,” he added.
The platform has data to backup its initiative: Last year, about 480,000 Chinese consumers purchased items, such as apparel, furniture and jewelry, from an independent designer each day, according to a report by Taobao and CBNData released earlier this month. The keyword “original design” was searched more than 170 million times on Taobao in just the last quarter of 2017, the company said.
“Taobao is undergoing a major change, and [its user base] is getting younger and younger…” Alibaba Group CEO Daniel Zhang said. “This means the platform needs to become ‘younger’ as well, to serve the next generation of merchants and buyers.”
Taobao CEO Jiang Fan said that the push is part of a broader goal to make the platform more inclusive and innovative.
The initiative also overlaps with its plan to increase sales for 2,000 designated categories, including plus-sized fashion, children’s furniture, handicrafts and athletic gear. Sellers in those categories tend to be the same ones sought by young consumers.
The announcement reflects a larger cultural shift occurring among China’s youth.
A recent report by the Financial Times on Chinese millennials said that despite pressures to follow in their parent’s footsteps, they are increasingly envisioning a different version of the “good life.” The social phenomenon caused by similar bigger issues — rising housing costs, increased competition in the workplace — is unfolding in parallel in the U.S.
The cultural evolution in China is embodied in “sang culture,” an ironic, self-critical aesthetic present in internet culture, memes and videos. Sang translates to “dispirited” or “dejected” and is associated with giving up on ultra-ambitious pursuits.
A company founded in Shanghai, Sang Tea, sells products with cheeky, ironic names like, “My Ex-Girlfriend’s Marrying Someone With Rich Parents Fruit Juice.” Initially conceived a limited-time pop-up, the brand became so popular that is now available in several cities in China.