Burberry’s stellar UK performance showed how the weak pound can boost sales from international shoppers. We take a look at what makes many Chinese luxury shoppers tick

Chinese spending is going global

In 2006, China’s spending habits accounted for around 5% of the world’s luxury goods.

In just 10 years, this has grown to 31%, thanks to the country’s strategy to engage more with global markets following the 2008 Beijing Olympics, plus greater interest in travel and western culture by Chinese people.

China’s travelling population make up 24% of global luxury spend, with only the remaining 7% of spend occurring inside China.

With the number of Chinese people who own a passport expected to rise from just 4% to 12% by 2026, the desire to buy luxury items abroad is sure to increase as well.

A love of designer labels

We asked high-spending Chinese shoppers: “What would you spend $10,000 on, given the choice of a range of items and luxury experiences? Over 60% opted for designer fashion.

When we asked a number of affluent European and American shoppers the same question, 56% chose a luxury holiday.

It can be argued that many Chinese shoppers place far greater importance on luxury products than experiences.

But the majority are not interested in discovering niche labels or the next big thing.

They want established global mega brands such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Hermes.

A love of European brands

When asked: “What brands best represent luxury?”, many nationalities pride themselves on their own stable of luxury brands – Italians are considered to advocate Armani, Bvlgari and Ferrari, while the French often go for Chanel, Dior and Louis Vuitton.

Chinese shoppers however, also favour the French brands of Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Hermès, with almost 60% preferring to travel to France to buy these brands in their market of origin.

Although only 21% of Chinese shoppers say they go to the UK to shop for luxury, the number of Chinese visitors into Britain rose by 45% last year, spending £586m.

Again, with increased levels of Chinese passport ownership, visitor numbers to Europe and corresponding spend will continue to rise over time.

Buying luxury to make a statement

For Western shoppers, it is considered that many buy luxury products as a personal and private reward for something achieved.

For many Chinese shoppers on the other hand, luxury items are bought in order to make a statement about who they might be, how much they could earn and to demonstrate taste and style.

This difference is vital in understanding how to market to those people for whom status and how a product makes them feel is more important.

When asked: “Which luxury items constitute an expression of personal style?” 12% of Westerners selected home furnishings, whereas 22% of Chinese respondents opted for a luxury watch.

Friends often dictate style

Across Europe and America, a person’s style is influenced by the people around them.

Many Westerners turn to people in restaurants, bars or walking down the street for inspiration when trying to create a personal look.

In China, style is often influenced by friendship groups.

Social acceptability is all about adopting the fashion and cultural codes of the people you spend time with.

How brands influence these codes is vital for success.

Appreciating things social, mobile and digital

The majority of travelling Chinese that buy luxury goods are wealthy and second generation – 80% of whom are under 45-years-old.

Their spend has increased 10.5% compared with two years ago and many use social media, mobile and digital options to learn about brands and interact with luxury branded content.

There are huge opportunities for advertisers to create an affinity with the right content across the right digital channels, and feed an insatiable Chinese interest.

Tammy Smulders is managing director of Havas LuxHub

Tammy Smulders is managing director of Havas LuxHub