Womenomics: the female economy powering global luxury spending

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Tong Digital suggest ways for marketers to connect with female Chinese consumers, given their increased purchasing power.

In the words of Mao Zedong ‘women hold up half the sky’. Not only this but Chinese women now hold up entire industries. In a far cry from outdated stereotypical gender roles, the modern Chinese woman is an economic powerhouse who stands at the forefront of global luxury spending. Chinese consumers account for 30% of global luxury spending, and 70% of this growth has been led by China’s affluent middle class, millennials and female consumers. More financial and social independence, social stability and higher disposable incomes afforded means women are spending more on themselves, so luxury brands are raising the bar to satisfy their demands.

It’s a (wo)man’s world

A report from Julius Baer describes the face of wealth in China as ‘young, self-made, and female’. There are more women now than ever holding senior professional positions enjoying abundant financial freedom and purchasing power, and China has produced the highest numbers of self-made female billionaires - although if the wage gap compared with their male counterparts is anything to go by, it is an indication of the purchasing power brands can expect to come.

The catchphrase ‘Womenomics’ has been thrown around more and more, spurred on by the increase of female economic presence. It has become common practice for Chinese women to make considerable long term and heavy financial investments in products they consider beneficial to their public image. All in the name of self-improvement, be that cosmetics, jewellery, fashion, academic or health and fitness, spending on personal items and luxury goods is habitual behaviour amongst affluent urban women. Spending on personal experiences such as travel, group travel as well as solo travel, is seeing more growth among female consumers. Data from Ctrip shows that in China, six out of ten solo travellers are female (although girlfriend trips and shopping trips have not fallen out of favour, with 62% of hotel bookings made near shopping malls). International luxury hotels have opened their doors to these Free Independent Travellers (FIT) who include globe-trotting bloggers, adventurers and foodies. There's still a huge opportunity for brands to get to know this key market.

China, having dethroned the USA as the biggest global luxury player, is leading the way on the global stage. As of this year, Chinese women’s contribution to global luxury spending sits at an estimated $700 billion. Female consumers in China alone have a large stake in most industries. Women account for more than 40% of luxury car purchases in the Chinese car market and are changing the conversation around gender roles and high-end purchasing decisions, which is a statement in itself.

One example of a successful marketing campaign is Maserati’s campaign alongside Italian lingerie brand La Perla in Vogue Italia. These two brands seized the opportunity to target its female consumer base, affectionately known as their ‘Queens’, at full throttle. The campaign showcased Chinese women from several different professions posing alongside their cars in a series of powerful photographs accompanied by empowering quotes, such as ‘I chose the Maserati Quattroporte Sedan because it is perfect for high-end professional women like me; low-key luxury, and unobtrusive. ”

How to make a splash with the ladies

Brands often fall flat in their marketing messages to women in China, which is a known cultural hotbed of soaring successes and crashing failures. Everything from encouraging the ‘leftover women’ demographic to finding their ‘knight in shining armour’ to renaming International Women’s Day (to Butterfly Festival), as was the case of JD.com. These should be seen as a lesson for foreign brands who are keen to market to Chinese female consumers.

The commoditisation of holidays in China has propelled International Women’s Day on March 8 to become a national shopping holiday, known as Goddess or Queens Day. Chinese feminist activist Xiao Meili describes it as ‘consumerist feminism’. On top of this, Girls Day on March 7, was created to boost gender equality - and of course, create more marketing opportunities for brands. However, brands must tread carefully and considerately cater to Chinese women.

Lifestyle platforms such as WeChat, Weibo, Tmall and Little Red Book (or simply RED) are onboarding more and more Western brands, which helps brands start out in China. RED, in particular, is used by a majority of 88% female users, so it's the perfect platform to market to a female Chinese audience. Chinese women are keen to express their individuality and interests, and want to make a statement. Makeup and fashion for instance are versatile tools for self expression and empowerment for many women. Sharing this message as part of your brand story has potential to go far in China.

For further insights on how to reach this growing demographic of Chinese female consumers, or any queries about China market, don't hesitate to reach out to us.

Katherine Brown, Marketing executive at Tong Digital.

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