China’s Consumer Trends – What to Watch for in 2022

May 10, 2022
4 minutes Read
Dive into China's 2022 consumer trends: sustainable consumption, re-commerce, and the metaverse, driving a dynamic market evolution.
China’s Consumer Trends – What to Watch for in 2022

What’s trending this year among 1.4 billion consumers in the world’s 2nd largest economy? While the biggest change in China over the past few years was the massive surge in online spending, the consumer landscape continues to evolve in fascinating ways. Here are the key trends to keep your eyes on in 2022.

Sustainable consumption

Concern for the future of the planet is gripping people all over the world. China is part of that global cause and aims for carbon neutrality by 2060. However, the recent dramatic rise in eCommerce is raising some eyebrows. Successful eCommerce relies on fast, secure, door-to-door delivery, which leads to increased carbon emissions and packaging waste. China’s increasingly environmentally conscious consumers are looking for ways to shop green. They’re supporting companies that minimize waste and reduce our collective carbon footprint.

More and more Chinese brands are responding by taking climate change action. They’re shifting to clean tech and green materials and minimizing their climate impact through recycling programs and green investments. Alibaba Group, for instance, intends to work with merchants and consumers to reduce its carbon emissions by 15 gigatons by 2035. The Group’s logistics unit, Cainiao Network, opted for green, biodegradable packaging, reduced its use of packing tape, promoted box recycling, and encouraged consumers to recycle their packaging at 80,000 recycling stations across China. We can expect to see more green initiatives from brands and consumers throughout the year.

Say hello to re-commerce

As Chinese shoppers and retailers embrace sustainable eCommerce, it’s no surprise that second-hand marketplaces are flourishing. In the first half of 2021, sales on China’s second-hand eCommerce market reached a whopping 186.7 billion yuan (about $28.87 billion USD), with over 202 million consumers taking part. The “re-commerce” boom is driven by apps like Idle Fish that use social media style service to help buyers and sellers connect, build trust and make sales. The most popular items bought and sold are used electronic gadgets and pre-owned designer and luxury goods.

The pandemic helped catalyse the trend. De-cluttering helped make space and people used apps to sell things they weren’t actively using. Younger demographics with less disposable income are especially loving the trend. It gives them access to specialty items at lower cost and lets them support the circular economy: a win-win for pocketbooks and the planet.

Gaining clout and driving innovation

Chinese consumers under 40 – millennials and Gen Z – make up an important consumer class that’s growing in economic power and influence. According to Harvard Business Review, 79% of Chinese spending on luxury goods is done by this group. More technologically sophisticated educated and more educated than older Chinese demographics, their earning potential is growing – and they do everything online.

Even though Gen Z only represents 15% of the Chinese population, alizila reports that they account for 25% of spending on new brands. It’s no wonder Zoomer spending is setting trends in the eCommerce space. They’re driving innovations like sub-culture fashions, nutricosmetics, and gender-neutral perfumes. They have a penchant for self-expression through personalized products and Chinese culture and demonstrate high brand loyalty. Expect more specialized products and niche brands tailored for these groups in 2022 – along with even more product innovations.

Making waves in the Metaverse

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) in China are likely to make inroads in 2022. Ever since Mark Zuckerberg announced that the metaverse marked “the next chapter for the internet,” China’s largest tech and web players have been joining the fray. Alibaba, Baidu, ByteDance and Tencent have been filing applications for trademarks in the Metaverse space in record numbers – reportedly 16,000 applications in early 2022.

Chinese tech and media giants have already been experimenting with AR and VR in commercial spaces and Chinese virtual KOLs are driving interest and sales. Virtual icons include Vocaloid singer Luo Tianyi and meta-human Ayayi, who has appeared in campaigns for Louis Vuitton, Givenchy and Guerlain.

Other factors are helping build momentum. For instance, there’s increasing regulatory support for new and emerging tech, the country has vast, reliable 5G networks, and there’s been a boom in affordable consumer AR and VR equipment and software. Virtual shopping experiences could be the next frontier for Chinese retailers and consumers.

Tap into the trends

Merchants on, or entering, the Chinese market and looking to reach new consumers should keep an eye on 2022 trends as they motivate Chinese shoppers and shape consumer spending. On the horizon is a growing consumer class committed to a sustainable future and inspired by the endless possibility of the metaverse space. That’s not only a promising customer base, but an exciting focus for one’s marketing energies.