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Affluent aspirations:luxury in China

Heidi Lau, the head of research at  Microsoft Advertising Asia, is responsible for delivering market intelligence to sales teams and their clients across the region. Here she talks about how the luxury market is being driven in China.

Men in the Greater China Region are nearly 44 percent more likely to purchase luxury goods than women. Men in the region are also more generous than women, giving a quarter of all luxury purchases as gifts. Apparel and handbags are the most commonly purchased items, while the most money is spent on watches and jewelry. This does not mean women in Greater China are shy about purchasing luxury goods. Greater China – or mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong – is the second-largest luxury market after the United States reaching $34.6 billion annually, according to the Bain & Company Luxury Goods Worldwide Market Study for 2012. More than a quarter of luxury purchases worldwide are made by Chinese consumers, a number that is expected to grow to 44 percent by 2020.

On Thursday, we launched our latest study looking at the luxury market in Greater China. “Luxury Connoisseurs” reveals the role of online media in luxury purchase patterns, the effectiveness of online and offline media, and the preferred types of online advertising. The research also provides insights into important social nuances that define consumers – such as gender, age, and life experience – to explore the psychology driving the purchase of luxury goods.

Here is a look at the numbers uncovered by the research. More insights can be found in the infographic below:
· 72 percent strongly agree that the Internet is important for staying up-to-date with luxury brands.
· 92 percent use online sources to learn about luxury products.
· 81 percent use the Internet to make purchase decisions – relying on word-of-mouth via social media, recommendations from bloggers and endorsements from celebrities to support their intent to buy.
· After making a purchase, 23 percent share their experience on social networking sites while 43 percent prefer to share in a more intimate, one-to-one setting over Instant Messaging services.
· 61 percent would like to see more online advertising of luxury goods.
Luxury marketing truly shows how the Internet has revolutionized the consumer journey. From building awareness, to building an emotional connection through beautiful video and innovative ad formats, online media follows the consumer every step of the way.

Aside from the role of online media, the study also reveals new insights into the emotional motivations behind luxury purchases. Sophisticated shoppers generally have more individual motivations – they want to be part of the brand story and heritage. In comparison, ‘nouveau riche,’ or individuals with recently acquired wealth, tend to purchase luxury goods as a way to impress social groups and show a desire for a higher social position.

Here are a few tips for luxury marketers found in the study:
· Communicate to luxury consumers via social networks and leverage endorsements from online experts and celebrities.
· Provide communication or messaging platforms that allow luxury consumers to share purchasing experiences among a smaller peer group.
· Use interactive online ad formats to create rich experiences that allow consumers to more deeply connect with luxury brands.