The New Game of Luxury: Gen Z in China

The concept of luxury has come a very long way from the bejewelled and fur-clad fashion definitions built up over centuries of stereotypical styles. Gen Z in China has given a radically new definition to the concept by putting a new face on the luxury consumer and on the luxury brands themselves.

Being able to capture Gen Z in order to win over other audiences has been referred to as the new game of luxury, particularly in China. 

Though they may not have the lion’s share in terms of purchasing power, winning over potential consumers belonging to Gen Z is crucial for luxury brands. As the first fully digitally native generation, let’s not forget how this age group has always been surrounded by computers, smartphones and social media since their earliest memories of childhood.

In China, Gen Z can be said to have grown up within a truly global environment. However, with nationalist sentiment on the rise, members of this generation have come to shift their preference for western brands such as Adidas, Nike, or Volkswagen, to pay more attention to Chinese counterparts like ANTA, Li-Ning, and XPeng or NIO. 

Understanding why this generation holds significance toward luxury marketing in mainland China is key, simply due to their ability to sway the preferences of the wider collective of millennial consumers. Successful marketing for Gen Z very likely means being able to engage other audiences with even greater purchasing power. 

As the members of this generation continue to grow, they are not likely to change their brand preferences any time soon. This means that luxury brands must become relevant to Gen Z today, if they plan on building brand loyalty for tomorrow and beyond.

What is Gen Z’s definition of luxury?

The big “L” still represents quality craftsmanship, but as one might have guessed considering consumer preferences, luxury demands a lot more than just a well-made product.

Luxury brands as defined by Gen Z in China are super customer-centric, with every aspect of their product of service personalised where possible. Local brands wear their origins proudly on their sleeves, while global brands find creative ways to communicate a distinct Chinese flair.

“Luxury” also means having a well-established and active online presence as well as providing outstanding digital experiences. To do this, a brand in this space is able to evolve its digital marketing activities alongside trends in technology, entertainment and social concerns.

Who is the Gen Z luxury consumer?

This generation of luxury consumers expects brands to reflect the increasing pride they take in their national heritage, even as they remain open to global brands. Regarding luxury as more of an investment, they have been described as a positive and forward-thinking generation that has expressed more hope for the future than previous generations.  

Gen Z in China loves to try out new apps, platforms and technology, and is always on the lookout for new, meaningful experiences. They place much emphasis on sustainability and social responsibility, and will go out of their way to do in-depth research on a brand in this respect before making a purchase.

It will be hard to change these consumers’ minds after finding out a brand’s shortcomings in the sustainability department, for example, or after a bad customer experience. On the other hand, Gen Z finds it easy to switch brands once they find something better or more intriguing, and will look to Key Opinion Leaders to discover the next big trend.

What should luxury brands do to win Gen Z in China?

It has become standard for luxury brands in China to leverage the influence of millennial and Gen Z spokespeople, brand ambassadors and creative directors. Recognising the dwindling amount of time Gen Z spends in brick-and-mortar stores, these brands need to understand that they no longer have as much control over the way customers perceive or understand them.

Knowing how much time Gen Z in China spends on pre-purchase research and comparisons, luxury brands need to ensure that the information these consumers seek is easily found in all the right places.

Rather than focusing on the products and services themselves, luxury brands will have to nurture loyalty by focusing on their brand stories. The values that they stand for and the driving force behind the entire customer experience they provide has to shine through every aspect of their marketing. This can be done in three ways:

1. Creating a community

This can be done online via social media, particularly when communities are built around the Key Opinion Leaders whom Gen Z looks up to. Physical spaces can be made more hardworking by opening them up to relevant activities that complement the brand’s values. If a brand stands for wellness and self-care, for instance, a branch might also be doubled up for use as a workout studio.

2. Meaningful reward programmes

Membership in a luxury brand’s community can provide access to rewards that resonate with what matters to Gen Z most, such as access to creativity workshops or eco-friendly initiatives. These programmes can go a long way towards helping this audience to identify with a luxury brand and feel like they belong with its community.

3. Emphasis on the entire brand experience

Gen Z aren’t fans of brands “without soul”; that is, copycats with nothing original to offer. Consider the entire buyer’s cycle as a whole, not just from the first discovery to the purchase but during every interaction with the brand.

From targeted ads to social media, to community engagement, every interaction is an opportunity for the brand to drive home what it stands for and why it is the brand of choice for Gen Z.

How do you win this new game of luxury?

Luxury brands that play to win in China must always be in sync with everything that gives Chinese chic a style all its own. Some of the methods used by luxury brands targeting Gen Z during the pandemic include:

  • Creating desirability by reinvigorating iconic products with fresh materials, designs, colours, and collaborations
  • Leveraging the metaverse with services such as providing virtual fashion for avatars (see how brands like Balenciaga and Gucci are doing this)
  • Staying true to their authentic selves, which means not “acting young”, and focusing their storytelling on customer value


To be truly in step with what Gen Z looks for when it comes to luxury,  brands will need to keep up to date with trends on the ground. They will also need to have access to marketing expertise honed by significant experience in this market. 

Get in touch with the team whose experience comprises Gen Z’s favourite channels and social media platforms for discovering and interacting with luxury brands. Let’s talk about bringing your luxury brand to China, today.

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