US Insights

Get ready: 40% of Chinese consumers will be Centennials

Eric Tan

Chief Client Officer, China, Kantar Insights Division

Brands 12.18.2018 / 12:00


They buy for social, they buy to please themselves, they buy to find identity.

Centennials are already an economic powerhouse globally, as the population born after 1997 now accounts for 35% of the world’s total population.

In China, this cohort is generally a combination of people born between 1995 and 1999 (post 95s) and those between 2000 and 2009 (post 00s). They are quickly becoming the mainstream of Chinese consumers as well: by 2020, 40% of Chinese consumers will be from these two age groups – together they form the biggest Centennials population in the world.

To win them over, brands need to start study their behaviour and attitudes now.

Recently Kantar and QQ Ad jointly launched a “Buying Power GenZ” Whitepaper to offer brands some insights into this increasingly important consumer segment. QQ Ad is the advertising business unit under QQ App family, including social, e-gaming, music, online karaoke, short video platforms, etc., which covers the majority of young people in China.

What does consumption mean for them?

Buy for social

Many people from this age group are the only child of their families, as China’s one child policy lasted from 1980 till 2015. Even though there were some exceptional conditions to allow a family to have two children, such as if the spouses were only child themselves, the majority of post 95s and post 00s have no siblings. This has planted an especially strong need in them for socializing – they want to establish their social circles and find identity. The whitepaper found that 65% of Centennials are eager to connect with their friends. And consumption – what have you bought – has become a shortcut to get themselves into groups with similar interests.

My pleasure, right now

The second biggest driver for their consumption is to please themselves. More than 50% of Chinese Centennials agree “I spend money to be happy and enjoy quality of life”. They crave for the happiness and satisfaction “at this moment”. They rarely hesitate to buy what they like, and they are comfortable to use credit cards to buy and pay in instalments.

I am what I buy

Chinese Centennials believe their identities could be established through their in-depth knowledge and achievements in particular areas, such as animation, music, movie, gaming, etc. They are keen to pour energy, money and time into these areas to be an “expert” among their friends and be recognized for that. Their purchasing decisions are also aligned with this behaviour pattern. The whitepaper found that 23% Chinese Centennials had bought at least one co-branding edition products in the past 12 months; 26% Centennials said they would study whether a product is the same model their idols have used – they feel they are closer to their idols (and their ideal themselves) if they use the same models.

The value of social touchpoints in Centennials’ shopping journey

The whitepaper has pointed out that a typical shopping journey for a Chinese Centennial included:

1) Exposed to a new product through their friends and classmates’ social sharing or recommendation;

2) Research and know more about the product through social platforms, such as Qzone  (QQ空间), social shopping app RED (小红书) and WeChat Moments (微信朋友圈);

3) Compare goods and solicit opinions through social groups, such as QQ groups;

4) Share or recommend their purchases through strong and more personal social connections on digital platforms.

The whitepaper has found that social touchpoints play pivotal roles in all stages of Centennials shopping journey. Compared with older generations, they are 1.5 times more likely to know a brand through a social touchpoint and eventually buy it. More than 30% of Centennials will do research of a brand/product to know more about it. They trust the information they obtained through their social interest groups, where there are a lot of active Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) of specific areas.

Even Centennials’ buying activities have moved onto social platforms to some extent – Daigou (代购, proxy buyers), WeChat Moments and social groups have become increasingly popular shopping channels. Last but not least, Centennials are eager to share their shopping result or/and experiences because these sharing will contribute to their “identity building” efforts – they will help establish a clearer identity for them.

Celebrities and KOLs are commonly used in marketing in China. The whitepaper has found that celebrities and mega KOLs are useful only in the early stage of Chinese Centennials’ shopping journey as 30% said they will be influenced by celebrities and mega KOLs. During the later stage of shopping journey, however, mini KOLs or amateur influencers have more meaningful impact on Centennials because their narratives are closer to everyday life. Brands should include mini KOLs or amateur influencers into their marketing investment mix to optimize their return on investment.

Connect with Centennials at happy moments online

Chinese Centennials find their happiness in their interests – electronic gaming and sports as well as online video shows have occupied a big share of their entertainment. Data has shown that gaming has become an effective channel for Centennials to learn new information about consumer electronic gadgets. In terms of content, they apparently pay more attention to IP-based contents (contents have registered intellectual properties, such as seasons of reality shows/online novels/gaming/movies) compared with older generations. Newer cooler interactive technologies have also become powerful tools to lure their attentions.

* Electronic gaming: juvenilize your brand

Chinese Centennials grow up with electronic games and they see gaming as part of their generation. By blending properly into games, brands will be seen as part of the culture of younger generations and become relevant to their lives.

In our in-depth interviews, many Chinese Centennials mentioned their experiences of “meeting” brands in games. Mercedes-Benz has been embedded into the mobile game Honour of Kings (王者荣耀) to establish its brand as an icon of long history and classic.  

* Technologies: empower brands to offer cooler funs

Centennials like to play, especially those interactive experiences that they can participate to have fun. The whitepaper showed that post 00s are two times more interested in new technologies, such as AI and AR, than post 90s. These new technologies have also empowered more marketing opportunities as well. For example, Pepsi Coke have launched “emoji cans” in China which could work with QQ app. If the emojis are scanned by QQ apps, they will become animations and dance to music on users’ smartphones. Technology combined with innovative ideas can converge online and offline worlds to create a young and fun-loving brand image. This will effectively close the gap between young Chinese consumers and established brands.


Chinese Centennials are always ahead of the curve. In the war to win their increasingly scarce attention, brands should be bold enough to be a step ahead of the curve too. Win the social touch points, win the Centennials’ hearts.

Source: Kantar TNS, Kantar Millward Brown

Editor's Notes

To speak with the author or for inquiries, contact us. Follow @Kantar and sign up for our insight alerts.

Latest Stories

Retailers taking the biggest hit from COVID-19 are largely based in the mall.

Growth benefited from a comparison to very weak growth in the year-ago period when the government shut down.

COVID-19 and its effects on retail dominate discussion of Costco’s future.

Just 24% of US consumers expressed interest in the Apple Credit Card last month.

The Latin American retail sector has outperformed all other categories.

Related Content