Understanding Chinese Millennials spending behavior

Winning Over Chinese Millennials: Trends & Spending Habits

The transition from traditional media consumption to digital channels has uniquely positioned Chinese millennials as highly tech-savvy consumers. Today, this consumer demographic covers 31% of the country’s overall population size.

With a consumer base as massive as 415 million, this age group has naturally emerged as one of the key contributors to the nation’s rapid economic growth.

In this post, we’ll discuss how China’s millennials are influencing market trends within the country and the strategies foreign brands can utilize to gain the patronage of this consumer group.


Who are Chinese Millennials?

These consumers are born between the early 1980s and the late 1990s. Unlike previous generations, many Chinese millennials have come of age during the digital revolution in China. They’re the first generation to grow up with the internet and mobile technology at their fingertips.

In the West, Millennials and Gen Z are considered the “Me” generation. These age groups rejected authority and were motivated to follow their passions. While China’s young generations share some similarities with their peers around the globe, their spending habits and preferences are more different than you’d think.


JD's booth in a Chinese trade expo with young consumers

JD’s booth in a Chinese trade expo with young consumers (Source: China Daily)


First of all, Chinese millennials aren’t burdened by student loans and often receive substantial financial support from their parents. This financial freedom allows them more disposable income. Most of them have an average monthly salary of $1,817, as reported by Business Insider.

On top of that, these Chinese customers were born during the era of the One Child policy in China. Because of this, many of them are doted upon by the older generation. As the sole inheritors of familial expectations, Chinese millennials have become more globally-minded than their predecessors and are more financially stable.


Key Consumer Figures of Chinese Millennials

Before we analyze Chinese millennial trends even deeper, here are essential statistics about this consumer group that you should know about. These figures are crucial for your market research to craft a compelling and audience-specific digital marketing campaign.


  • 71% of China’s younger generations prioritize traveling
  • An average Chinese millennial spends over 40 hours a month on social media apps
  • 54% of this demographic utilizes digital channels to shop
  • The luxury consumption of Chinese millennials ranges from around 25,000 RMB yearly


Key Consumer Figures of Chinese Millennials


8 Chinese Millenials’ Spending Trends You Must Know

1.   Strong Preference for Luxury Goods & Limited Edition Items

It’s no secret that China’s consumer market has solid luxury spending habits. However, did you know this demand mainly comes from young Chinese consumers? With local millennials covering 58% of the country’s luxury spenders, it’s clear that this age group is the key driver of the market’s rapid growth.

These young people are more inclined to patronize luxury brand options than older consumers in China. In fact, global market players like Louis Vuitton and Gucci are increasingly popular among Chinese millennials and continue to gain the patronage of this consumer group.


Louis Vuitton Store in Shanghai, ChinaLouis Vuitton Store in Shanghai, China (Source: Declan Sun in Unsplash)


Besides popular luxury products, Chinese millennials also indulge themselves in relative luxuries. Their preferences can be seen through their apparent preference for expensive food products and fancy tea brands available in the local market.

They are also less hesitant than older consumer groups when shopping online for high-ticket items.


2.   Willingness to Spend Money For Higher Quality

China’s older generations grew up in the Maoist era, so it’s not surprising that they’re price-sensitive and prefer a good deal. In contrast, as we already discussed, Chinese millennials pursue high-end brands and luxury goods more openly.

Since they’re living in a more prosperous time than their parents, these digitally-savvy consumers prioritize quality and would pay extra for premium products that they deem superior in quality.

The economic optimism among Chinese millennials plays a crucial role in their spending habits. With higher disposable incomes than their parents at the same age, this demographic is more inclined to invest in products and services that enhance their quality of life.


3.   Growing Interest in Health and Wellness

The previous worldwide pandemic has made China’s consumer market more interested in pursuing a healthy lifestyle. While the wellness trend has always been part of the country’s cultural nuances, recent consumer behavior shows that locals are now investing more in their health.

It’s not just about addressing immediate health concerns but is also seen as a proactive measure to ensure long-term wellness. In fact, today’s local consumers aged 20 to 49 are willing to pay a premium for organic or natural products, viewing them as safer and healthier alternatives to conventional food items.


Young consumers in a shop that sells herb-infused coffees

Young consumers in a shop that sells herb-infused coffees (Source: China Daily)


The stress of urban living and competitive work environments has made mental well-being a priority for many millennials. Because of this, digital fitness apps, wellness tourism, and yoga studios have also seen high demand from this age group.

Brands that offer high-quality, health-oriented products and services can find a receptive audience among Chinese millennials. However, success in this market requires a nuanced understanding of local trends and consumer behaviors.


4.   High Consumption Rate From Low-tier Cities

Low-tier cities are often overlooked in favor of their more metropolitan counterparts. However, did you know these areas are full of Chinese millennials eager to connect with brands online?

Based on the data produced by the National Bureau of Statistics of China, there’s a higher concentration of young adults aged 25 to 30 in tier-three cities compared to the urban giants of Beijing and Shanghai.

You may not know, but consumers from these so-called “lower-tier” cities are just as engaged in online shopping as those from the nation’s most cosmopolitan areas.

For millennials residing in these areas, online shopping isn’t just about convenience. They often regard their virtual purchases as a statement of identity and status. And with the expansion of e-commerce platforms, it means that the demand for luxury and premium goods is no longer confined to top-tier cities.


5.   Increased Reliance on Mobile E-commerce

It’s no secret that nearly 99.7% of Chinese internet users access the web using cell phones. However, during the looming pandemic in 2020, it was the millennials who took the lead in the country’s adoption of a stay-at-home economy and helped local mobile commerce to thrive amidst lockdowns.

In a report from Statista, 48% of surveyed Chinese millennial shoppers confirmed that their primary method of shopping is through online channels. It includes social e-commerce platforms like Taobao, WeChat, Pinduoduo, and JD.com.


Leading channels to buy products in China 2021, by generation

Leading channels to buy products in China 2021, by generation (Source: Statista)


6.   The Rise of Millennial Pet Owners

China’s pet industry has seen explosive growth, with an estimated value of 472.3 billion RMB in 2023. This trend has become more popular among local millennials, viewing pet ownership as a key part of their lifestyle.

This demographic treats pets as family members, prioritizing their well-being and spending generously on pet food, healthcare, and lifestyle products.

Royal Canin, a global pet brand, has successfully tapped China’s millennial pet owner market through targeted social media campaigns and collaborations with pet-focused KOLs.

The brand leverages WeChat and Xiaohongshu to educate pet owners on nutrition and health. They also use KOL campaigns to share personal stories about how Royal Canin products have benefited their pets.


Royal Canin on WeChat, Xiaohongshu and Douyin

Royal Canin on WeChat, Xiaohongshu and Douyin


7.   Different Travel Retail Consumer Behavior

Millennials in China heavily rely on digital platforms for travel planning and purchases. They tend to seek advice from trusted KOLs or peers online to complete their itinerary.

More than online advertising, their trusted channels are often platforms with user-generated content like WeChat and Little Red Book. Through these posts, they look for unique and personalized travel experiences.

When completing their overseas shopping lists, they don’t just consider souvenirs. They want exclusive items that are only available in specific locations.


8.   Personalization and Sustainability

Chinese millennials prioritize personal experiences and the ability to express themselves through their purchases. They seek out brands that deliver unique, tailored experiences primarily targeted to them.

They’re even willing to pay a premium for such distinctiveness, which is a spending habit not present in the previous generation.

Brands like Nike took advantage of this trend wisely. As soon as they entered the local market, the company started offering personalized sneaker designs, tapping into the millennial desire for individuality.

Starbucks also employed the same technique, launching sustainable, smaller coffee cups with stronger flavors to suit the preferences of younger consumers


New Products of Starbucks China

New Products of Starbucks China


Like the Gen Z population, Chinese millennials are also deeply concerned with social responsibility and sustainability. These days, they often go for products that align with their ethical standards over traditional brand loyalty.


Best Marketing Strategies for Engaging Chinese Millennials

●     Word-of-Mouth Marketing

As the first generation who grew up amidst the development of mobile phones and the Internet, Chinese millennials are more discerning about the products they buy online. They tend to search through social media and e-commerce platforms to look for feedback and other information about the brands they’re interested in.

User-generated content about your products, such as reviews, photos, and videos created by consumers, can serve as authentic endorsements for your brand.

The preference for user-generated content among this consumer group is partly why community-rich platforms like Little Red Book are becoming popular in the local market.


User-generated content on Xiaohongshu


●     Launching Campaigns with Key Opinion Leaders

Engaging Chinese millennials requires tapping into the platforms and personalities they trust and admire. One way to do this is by launching campaigns with Key Opinion Leaders in your industry.

These KOLs can sway consumer preferences and drive sales through authentic storytelling and product endorsements.

The international beauty brand Estée Lauder has seen tremendous success with KOL campaigns in China. By partnering with popular beauty influencers to showcase their products on Weibo and Xiaohongshu, they increased their local visibility and significantly boosted sales within the millennial demographic.


KOL collaboration for Estee Lauder on Xiaohongshu

KOL collaborations for Estee Lauder on Xiaohongshu


●     Utilize Live Streaming and E-Commerce Platforms

Live streaming has become a powerful tool for engaging consumers and driving sales in China. Platforms like Taobao Live and Douyin allow brands to showcase their products in real-time, allowing for interactive and immediate consumer engagement.

Last 11/11 Singles’ Day Shopping Festival, L’Oréal capitalized on live streaming by partnering with influencers to demonstrate their products. This campaign has generated record-breaking sales of 10.34 million orders for the brand.


L'Oréal live streaming on Douyin


●     Understanding the Market’s Distinct Regional Preferences

China is a massive country, which means that its millennial population is highly segmented. Take, for instance, the variation in consumer preferences across different Chinese cities.

In first-tier cities like Shanghai and Beijing, luxury fashion might be sought after as a symbol of social status.

Meanwhile, in second-tier cities, consumers might lean towards products that blend luxury with practicality and affordability.

Brands need to tailor their approach to fit these diverse consumer profiles. Foreign marketers must learn to think beyond major cities when launching digital marketing campaigns if they want to have a wider audience reach.


Quick Q&A

What is the average income of millennials in China?

The average income of millennials in China is $1,817 a month. Annually, this demographic earns around $21,804. Compared to the older Chinese generations, these young consumers are noticeably earning less.

What are Chinese millennials like?

Chinese millennials grew up during a technological revolution in China. Thanks to this, they’re tech-savvy and highly adaptable to global trends. In 2025, they’ll be dominating the working population in the country.

Why do we need to pay attention to Chinese millennials?

Chinese millennials represent a significant consumer segment in the world’s second-largest economy. They are tech-savvy, highly engaged with digital media, and have substantial purchasing power. These consumers are shaping trends across various industries, from technology to luxury goods.


Your Trusted Digital Marketing Partner in the Chinese Market!

As more millennials become a vital part of China’s workforce, their spending power also increases. You can also expect their consumer needs to evolve, prompted by the ever-changing digital landscape and industry trends in the local market.

At Sekkei Digital Group, our team understands the specific complexities of the Chinese Millennial market and the evolving trends that shape it. With our extensive industry experience, we offer the avenue to unlock your brand’s potential and become a leading entity in your target niche.


Sekkei Digital Group Services


Whether it’s crafting compelling advertising campaigns, utilizing social platforms, or collaborating with relevant KOLs, we have all the digital solutions you need. Contact us today, and let us help you navigate the intricacies of China’s business scene.


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