As brands continue to target Chinese luxury consumers around the world, one segment that has been overlooked is Chinese foreign students. In comparison to their peers from Europe and North America, Chinese overseas students are increasingly wealthy — and keener than ever to splash and spend their (parents’) cash.
Last week in London, the digital marketing agency Emerging Communications and global payment company Adyen hosted an inbound Chinese marketing master class for luxury brands. According to research by Boston Consulting Group. Chinese students now account for over 40 percent of all international students to the United Kingdom. It also revealed at the event that the United Kingdom now surpassed the United States, a position it previously held for more than a decade, as the favorite overseas study destination for Chinese youngsters.
“When President Trump began his anti-China rhetoric it had little effect on student enrolments, worth $12bn annually to American universities,” Rocky Chi, Head of Planning, Emerging Communications, told Jing Daily. “However, trade tariffs, the outlawing of Huawei as a 5G network provider, and increasing Whitehouse threats to withdraw student visas and post-graduate work permits has seen a significant decline in enrolment numbers, and future students from China are now looking elsewhere for international study.”
And this trend only looks to grow. For example, a recent survey by Kai Tak Education of nearly 100,000 future overseas students, more than 20 percent of those surveyed preferred the United Kingdom to anywhere else. On average, 83 percent of Chinese millionaires want to send their children to study overseas, according to the event.
For London’s luxury brands, this influx of Chinese students could mean big business. So what do Chinese students want from brands? The answer lies in personal branding. Based on research by Emerging Communications, for Chinese overseas students, it’s all about them. “Chinese consumers want to know what your brand can do for them, and what wearing your brand will say about them to their friends and peers” explained Marie Tulloch, Senior Client Services Manager at Emerging Communications. “Chinese students want quality, they want unique experiences, but most of all they want to appear affluent and well-traveled to others.”
One common mistake for dealing with this lucrative segment for brands is assuming that they can be targeted through standard UK channels, and treated as any other group of young students. The event revealed, however, that young Chinese consumers rarely switch social media channels within the first four years of living abroad, with wealthy students remaining loyal to WeChat and Weibo. This will have to change if they want to reach them on their terms.
Accurately tapping into wealthy Chinese students could be a gold mine for British brands, whose spending power is incomparable to many of their Western counterparts. As of 2018, Chinese young high net worth individuals have an average wealth of 5.6 million dollars. Last year alone, prosperous Chinese parents spent over 2.5 billion dollars on London property for their little darlings. With more of these students set to descend on the British capital each year, luxury brands would do well to take note.
5 Takeaways: What Should Brands be Doing to Reach the Chinese Student?
1. Personal Branding
Focus on personal branding is essential. In London, for example, students want to demonstrate a connection to British culture through their own style and social media representation.
The Chinese student market doesn’t want cheap and cheerful — they want high quality and are willing to pay for it. Brands need to take note of this and create sustainable, long-standing products.
3. Solutions to overseas student life
Shown to brands in attendance at the conference was the 2016 British Airways commercial entitled ‘Flying the Nest’, that addressed many of the nuanced difficulties for Chinese students living abroad in the UK. This awareness led to an extremely successful campaign, exclusively targeting the parents of Chinese students visiting London. As has been seen in recent months, it’s critical that brands both understand and respect their market — and Chinese students are no different.
4. Health and wellbeing
The health and wellbeing market in China is exploding, and students have been among the first to back this trend. For brands offering skincare to luxury athleisure, Chinese students are a market not to be missed.
5. Cultural experiences
Unique cultural experiences that students can share with their friends and family back home in China are increasingly popular with the young Chinese market. The standard tourist landmarks and tours no longer apply — Chinese students want excursions that are exclusive, off the beaten track, and ahead of the game.