Chinese travelers want personalized service

Chinese wealthy gentleman - China Elite FocusChina’s outbound luxury travelers spend $65,000 per household on tourism per year, including $34,000 on travel shopping, according to a new study from Marriott International.

Chinese outbound tourists have long been a high-priority group for luxury brands, but the demands and habits of younger travelers are changing quickly. The digital natives aged between 18 and 36 years old want a more personalized experience, including superior guest services and smart device integration.

China’s young luxury travelers go abroad between three and four times a year on average, primarily for leisure. While France remains the most popular destination in Europe, Japan is the preferred shopping destination given its proximity and favorable exchange rates, while Australia is the preferred leisure destination.

Australia has long been a developed economy, but it is less commonly seen as a haven for growth than North America, and luxury’s home in Europe has also pushed Australia to the back burner for many brands aiming to capitalize on China’s growing tourism rates. A strong presence in Australia could entice wealthy vacationers to make a purchase.

Moreover, western brands should be aware that summer travel is less common in China. National Day Golden Week travel in the early fall and travels for Chinese New Year are nearly two and three times as likely, respectively.

As with North America’s millennials, China’s young travelers get most of their travel information digitally, largely from official WeChat accounts, underscoring the platform’s importance. C-Trip, Qunar and Tuniu are also popular third-party platforms on which hotels should strive for good placement.

While the above generation is more closely defined by a desire for material goods, a reaction to globalization and advertising in the wake of China’s emergence from poverty, its young travelers strive for more adventurous travel. Hotels and retailers alike should tailor messages to these consumers to emphasize experiential components and offerings.

More specifically, over the next three years global travel is expected to increase 25 percent, while polar exploration grows 32 percent, adventure travel by 52 percent and road trips by 75 percent.

However, personalized service is still the biggest consideration in traveling for luxury travelers. Besides a liking for amenities, being able to choose pillows of different firmness and having a butler or personalized service through digital channels are also important. Seventy-three percent demand WiFi while 55 percent want smart TVs, while unique art and design are also high draws.

With luxury growth stalling around the world and quarterly earnings being largely at the mercy of Chinese tourists and which markets they enter, the country remains the top concern for marketers. As it transitions to a consumer-driven economy, China’s growth has fallen below the double-digits that were beginning to feel normal, but it still offers enormous opportunity.

Chinese residents will make 90 million outbound trips in 2020, with that number increasing by an additional 36 million over the following decade, according to a report by Euromonitor.

Outbound trips have increased on average by an impressive 13 percent since 2000, helping China overtake Japan as the second largest consumer market in 2011. With the significance and size of the Chinese tourist market only projected to swell, brands will need to develop a more nuanced understanding of the market in order to reach consumers. In particular sophisticated native advertisement campaigns in influential digital travel publications catering to China’s super-rich, such as the Shanghai Travelers’ Club (STC) magazine, give good results to reach China’s elite.

However, as brands cater to Generation Y consumers and look to the future, they must be as aware of generational differences in China as they are in the West.

In a reversal of the more materialistic tendencies of their parents, almost 95 percent of Chinese Generation Z consumers say it is essential for brands to be sustainable and environmentally conscious, according to a report by RTG Consulting.

The continued growth of China over the next several years will ensure that its consumers remain prime targets for brands for the foreseeable future, as even a slowed China exceeds the growth rate of western nations. As a result, brands will need to make a connection to this group, the first born in a fully modern China, in the interest of long-term success

Source: TheTopTier

Attracting Chinese shoppers to New York City’s luxury flagship stores

At the 5th avenue Cartier Flagship store, a Chinese customer in Gucci flip flops, Abercrombie & Fitch T-shirt and a Niuyue Mag Cap on his head is buying three gold “Tank” watches incrusted with diamonds “One for me, one for my wife, and one for my daughter, who is studying in Chicago”, he says with a big smile. “I’m also platinum member of the Shanghai Travelers’ Club”, he added ,“that gives me a VIP welcome in most of luxury stores here”.
Cultural training is imperative for New York-based luxury flagship store employees to build trust among affluent Chinese tourists and creating a custom experience for this group of travelers will help marketers gain brand loyalists, experts say.
Many luxury brands are focusing marketing efforts to Chinese consumers back at home, but with a rising wave of Chinese tourists coming to New York, it is important that brands cater to this group. Luxury marketers need to be more proactive to reach Chinese travelers by training employees and partnering with high-end travel services.
“New York flagships should be more aggressive in inviting and giving a fabulous experience to Chinese tourists,” said Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute, New York. “The city seems to be behind in attracting and nurturing Chinese consumers.
“New York has been slow to appeal to Chinese tourists, even though there is such as large Chinese population in the city,” he said.
“Retailers need to create personal, emotional connections with these consumers by nurturing them and caring for them, which will create a lasting impression.”
In the capital cities of European countries, luxury flagship stores get 50 percent of their value from Chinese tourists, per Mr. Pedraza.
Europeans have been smart in the way they care for Chinese tourists, who tend to buy in volume on shopping trips.
Meanwhile, the United States has not been as open to tourists in its efforts and may have suffered, given the economic times.

According to Pierre Gervois, author of “How U.S. Retail, Travel and Hospitality Industries Can Attract Affluent Chinese Tourists”, “The U.S. travel and tourism industry has understood the financial power of the new generation of affluent Chinese inbound tourists, and how it can give a boost to the country’s economy, but needs to improve the way Chinese visitors are welcomed and understand better the intercultural issues of marketing”
In the past, European tourists were key for New York-based retailers, but tourism from Europe is on the decline. Travelers from China are now the largest group of tourists in New York, and Indian tourists are another group to look out for in the next decade.
To get Chinese consumers into New York flagship stores, luxury brands should partner with high-end hotels, tour operators and restaurants to keep the brand top-of-mind, according to Mr. Pedraza.
But the marketing strategy for luxury retailers also starts in China, when affluent Chinese travelers are planning their NYC shopping trip, and use Chinese social media networks such as Niuyue Mag, with 200,000 registered members, giving shopping tips and specific insights to Chinese shoppers.
Also airports, limos and hotel concierges play a major role in influencing affluent Chinese tourists since these are all stops on the journey to New York.

“There is no question that luxury brands should be using print and their Web sites to attract tourists to their New York stores by showing the experience that they can expect,” Mr. Pedraza said.
“The travel industry is also a huge opportunity,” he said. “Luxury brands have to romance travel agents to get on the map within the travel industry.”
“Brands need to do a better job at creating these partnerships with travel-oriented brands.”
Once in-store, affluent Chinese tourists will need to be made comfortable. To do so, New York flagship stores should start by training their staff on the Chinese culture and traditions.
Stores should have, at minimum, Mandarin-speaking employees and may also want to train in other dialects from Asia.
“Employees should be well-educated in relationship building, not just to process tourist transactions, but to develop longtime relationships with the brand,” Mr. Pedraza said.
“There are luxury brand stores in Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong, so these tourist transactions are not a one-shot deal,” he said. “They can also be relationship building.”
Luxury retailers should be aware of the Chinese holiday calendar to understand buying habits during certain holidays and target Chinese consumers for in-store gift buying, per Ken Morris, principal at Boston Retail Partners, Boston.
The holiday calendar may also hint at the time when Chinese tourists are more likely to travel.
Training sales associates on cultural greetings can quickly build trust with incoming tourists and encourage foot traffic.
Stores should also offer in-store shipping options so that Chinese consumers can ship items home. This will eliminate the need to pay sales tax and leave the customer more room in their luggage, per Mr. Morris.
“Not only is the size of the luxury market in China significant, but it continues to grow with a burgeoning middle class aspiring to own luxury brands to demonstrate their wealth,” Mr. Morris said.
“New York is a unique, international city where tourists can readily find bilingual associates,” he said. “By focusing on hiring multilingual staff, a retailer has the opportunity to offer exceptional customer service and make the customer comfortable shopping in the store.”
Source: Luxury Daily

The power of China Union Pay cards readers

Wealthy Chinese tourists with money to spend don’t need an excuse to buy luxury goods, but they do need the plastic to facilitate their purchases. That’s why it wasn’t until Harrod’s installed special Chinese credit card readers in its stores earlier this year that the store could boast it had sold two bottles of £25,000 wine, and one £140,000 diamond to Chinese customers.
The store has seen a 40 percent increase in salesto wealthy Chinese tourists since installing 75 China Union Pay terminals into its London store.
Using data from VAT reclaim forms (UK sales tax can be reclaimed by visiting tourists at the airport), the luxury store has calculated sales to wealthy Chinese have risen to an average of £3,500 per tourist.
According to the recent statistics released by the ultra high-end travel club for rich Chinese “Shanghai Travelers’ Club”, 37% of Chinese travelers to the UK are ready to spend more than £54,000, and 12% of them is ready to spend more than £70,000 in London!
The increase is largely due to the fact that Chinese bank cards are not recognised outside of China because they use a separate card processing method via China Union Pay card terminals. According to one Chinese saleslady at Harrods, Chinese tourists visiting from the mainland have to bring “a lot of cash” when they travel abroad because so few places have CUP terminals.
In London, the only other store that has the terminals is Selfridges where sales to Chinese shoppers have seen “double digit growth” since the installation of CUP terminals last June, according to a spokesperson.
Making it easy for Chinese tourists to spend money with their domestic cards seems to be a no-brainer. Looking around the store, small groups of Chinese customers now feature prominently. So too do tour groups, who arrive at the store en masse. Harrods’ Mandarin speaking staff say they handle on average 20 to 30 Chinese visitors a day. During Chinese holidays like New Year in February, and two week-long holidays in May and October, coach parties with up to 70 tourists is standard fare.
Joined by telephone from Hong-Kong, Pierre Gervois, CEO of China Elite Focus declared “Luxury retailers should install China Union Pay readers and hire more Chinese speaking staff” He added “It’s the key to success to increase sales with wealthy Chinese tourists”
One Mandarin-speaking sales assistant told beyondbrics that Hermes is the most popular brand, followed by Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Dior. Speaking about their Chinese clientèle another spokesperson said, “they are some of our most discerning customers.”
On a recent trip to the store, one young Chinese shopper from Chengdu, studying at Manchester University, said Chanel was her favourite brand. Her male companion, who was carrying a giant Chanel carrier bag filled with her purchases, quipped: “It used to be Arabs who were the richest shoppers. Now it is the Chinese, isn’t it? Next, it will be the Indians.”