Shopping Where? The Chinese consumer has evolved in recent years from one who spends luxuriously without care and consideration to a more pragmatic and sensible customer, with an eye for detail and quality. Being able to spend on a worthwhile product or experience is one of the key traits of this consumer group. We’re witnessing the emergence of this new, affluent middle class in China, what we refer to as the ‘Mintropolitans’. Mintropolitans are also a demographic group that loves their travel and holiday. In a recent interview, Royal Caribbean International has suggested that the growing Chinese middle class will soon overtake the US as the world’s largest cruise liner market. According to Mintel’s The Chinese Consumer China 2016 report, nearly three-quarters of Mintropolitans take holidays, compared to just two in five non-Mintropolitans. Being well-travelled, they have access brands and products from all over the world and often display strong loyalty to brands that appeal to them, regardless of it being domestic or foreign. This has led to the growth of purchasing from overseas sources. According Mintel research, the majority of Mintropolitans purchase products physically from overseas stores and over three in five are sourcing them from overseas websites (Haitao). Experience is All One of the key themes that we talk about in Mintel Trends is the potential for brands to work on improving the experiential factor for customers. This craving for newer experiential offerings has even prompted the launch of lifestyle mobile apps that make this promise. For example, Reca is a membership app that offers middle class consumers the chance to acquire new experiences such as food and wine tastings, fashion parties and outdoor sports. In the travel sector… There is a stronger focus on creating not just more extravagant but many unique travel experiences. For example, the Intercontinental Shimao, which is due to open in 2017, is carved into the edge of a quarry and offers an underwater experience for guests. In the e-commerce sector… A barrier-free, intuitive user-interface is one of the top suggestions when looking to build an experience worthy for China’s middle class customers. Despite the buzzword being about convenience, brands should also look at offering unique shopping experiences online to keep themselves ahead of their competitors. Amazon recently launched two staffed pick-up locations in the US that further complements the experience of using their e-commerce services. Alternative Realities We know that Mintropolitans are heavy users of e-commerce and, in particular, purchasers of overseas products from online stores. We’re also seeing a noticeably higher likelihood for Chinese consumers, especially Mintropolitans, to embrace advanced technology if it increases their efficiency. Virtual headsets have seen a lot of usage in various sectors besides entertainment. Using this willingness to try out new technology to build a highly experiential purchasing journey and brands can potentially create amazing shopping experiences that cater to China’s Mintropolitans. In the travel sector… Chinese travel app Mioji is one such example in actively using virtual and augmented reality service to create an immersive experience for potential guests going on holiday. Travellers are able to make better decisions on their trip’s itinerary and enjoy the novelty of previewing the trip’s destinations via VR. In the e-commerce sector… The promise of virtual stores to add to the online shopping experience is one that has got the market excited. With Alibaba’s announcement earlier this year of combining VR to the e-commerce experience and their latest plan to connect this with payment methods, the e-commerce sector may just be on the brink of developing in a massive new direction. Delon Wang is the Trends Manager, Asia Pacific at Mintel. He oversees Trends content and Trends client servicing for the region. You might also be interested in: ‘Mintropolitan’ style-leaders key to driving sauce growth in China Encouraging Chinese consumers to wake up and smell the coffee Seamless spending: exploring a cashless society Is haute the future for China’s premium bottled water market?