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How can brands connect with the sophisticated luxury consumer in China?

Only a few years ago, the Chinese were novices in the world of consumption. They were either looking for big statement products to show off their status, or seeking basic functional benefits in products. But things are changing. A new determined affluent class of urban Chinese professionals has emerged. This demographic, made up of well-travelled and brand-aware individuals, has a taste for European design and quality and the emphasis has moved away from the functional and towards the emotional. So how can premium consumer brands capitalise on this new consumer trend?

Only a few years ago, the Chinese were regarded as novices in the world of consumption. But social change and a trend towards urbanisation have changed this on a scale seen nowhere else in the world. China’s middle class will help lift consumption share in GDP from 36 per cent in 2014 to around 50 per cent in 2015. Several years ago, Chinese consumers either sought out big-ticket products to show off their status. Today, however, millions of consumers are adopting the mainstream spending behaviours and patterns that we are familiar with among consumers in the West, with high brand awareness and loyalty.

With the sense of new found freedom, comes an opportunity for young affluent

Chinese to travel, absorb new cultures and adopt lifestyle trends. Young Chinese consumers are looking for a better and healthier life where they can enjoy advanced technology, products that showcase more subtly who they are, their values, and only naturally, an opportunity to indulge in self-reward for their hard work.

However recent research, from Nielson, indicates that its not just high net worth Chinese individuals who are trading up to premium, but average income households are also showing more interest in a wider variety of products they perceive to be higher quality and higher status. This new kind of Chinese consumer is engaging with premium products, brands and services that allow them to demonstrate their ‘unique taste’, according to McKinsey’s recent research of young consumers in Beijing and Shanghai, ’21 percent of people surveyed listed this as one of their key purchasing indicators‘. So what are the attributes that appeal to China’s new brand savvy consumers?

Chinese consumers tend to experiment with a variety of consumer brands before settling with one or two. They tend to be fiercely loyal, meaning producers must ensure a clear identify combined with a unique point of difference that marks the ambition of their brand. Another key attribute behind any successful brand in

this emerging market is to engender a perception of quality and durability. These remain fundamental qualities for Chinese consumers across the economic spectrum and premium consumers are no different. Furthermore, the Chinese consumer tends to opt for demonstrable evidence of high quality craftsmanship, and provenance over showy expressions of status.

During the communist revolution in China, not only was so much of the country’s own history and heritage torn apart, but there are also existing limitations to creativity that are imposed in the society. As European design is booming, it seems to have been able to fill this gap and allow the emerging Chinese consumer to express themselves in new and meaningful ways. In a way, adopting western brands, music, books and websites has helped fill this void and provided an alternative to being able to develop and create freely internally. It will be interesting to see how long this consumer demand and trend will be satisfied with western creations as an alternative and whether new design initiatives will emerge to respond to this thirst for more premium, high-end products as well as high quality craftsmanship.

Future of Design. Ben featured in DesignWeek

Ben was invited by DesignWeek  magazine to contribute to their Future of Design series which launched today.

Agencies from various design industry sectors were asked to say a few sage words on how they saw their specialism shaping up in 2016. This is what he had to say.

“Recent technological developments in data analytics, the internet of things and 3D printing, have meant that product designers are suddenly empowered with many new opportunities to explore and exploit.

2015 was all about measurement and this is going to continue this year. The excitement surrounding the endless possibilities that are facilitated by data analytics has led to an explosion of devices centred on the quantified-self: exercise, hydration, sleep and diet are now all commonplace activities we track.

Who knows what will come next in the £6 billion mobile health monitoring market? We’re thinking propositions for the bedroom, bathroom and living spaces. Devices driven by the Internet of Things will flood the market with products coming from both the start-up community and to a lesser degree from the tier-one brands, which are still tentatively looking to explore how they can drive mass market volumes and, more importantly, differentiate their products in a sea of connected peripherals.

3D printing is not new but the technology is evolving rapidly, costs are falling and we are hopeful that in 2016 the technology will breakout from its current geek-niche market, into the mass market. If it does, it will present a serious manufacturing option for creative, innovative and fast-moving consumer brands looking for faster time-to-market and higher levels of consumer personalisation.”

Click through to the full article to see what the Rodd team felt was the standout product launch in 2015.

Visit the DesignWeek website.

Read the Future of Design series here.

Mindfulness. 2016 Trends

This is the world of the Quantified Self where almost everything that can be measured – is measured!

Exercise, hydration, sleep and diet are all commonplace activities we track – so what’s next for the $9Billion mobile health monitoring market?

CES was alive with health sensor propositions, from Smart Bra’s to UV monitoring skin patches, but we think that mental wellbeing or ‘mindfulness’ (ironically perhaps, given the already not insignificant draw on our ‘head space’) is the next thing that Millennials will be exploring via their smart phone in 2016.

Think of apps as a gym for the mind, Headspace – described as ‘meditation made simple’. Pause by UsTwo is described as relaxation at your fingertips. Combine this with CES sensation, Muse, and you can have a connected mindfulness moment whenever the mood takes you.

Naturally, for the quantified selfer, there are stats on how many meditations you do per week, how long they were and what kind.

After all there’s no point in relaxing if you can’t document it.

To read more of our 2016 trend blogs click here.

To receive Intouch our monthly trend, technology and materials round up click here.

To discover how Rodd could help your business to use trends to inform product development click here.