In a trend it characterised as representing a more "mature" outlook on luxury products, Mintel found that almost two-thirds (64%) of urban Chinese people identified "craftsmanship" as the word that best described luxury, compared to 58% who said "expensive" and 53% who said "status".
While these figures represented the average, the study also found a clear preference for quality over status and extravagance among respondents with higher incomes.
Of those with a monthly household income of more than RMB 25,000 (about $4,000), a full 71% equated luxury with craftsmanship compared to 61% of those earning between RMB 20,000 to RMB 25,000 a month (roughly $3,200 to $4,000).
In addition, only 48% of higher earners considered status to be important when buying luxury goods compared to 53% of those in the lower income bracket.
Extravagance and expense were also less of a consideration for those consumers on higher incomes – 46% of those with incomes above RMB 20,000 regarded these characteristics as the definition of a luxury product.
This compared to over half (51%) on a monthly income of between RMB 18,000 and RMB 19,000 and 53% of those with a monthly income of between RMB 12,000 and RMB 18,000 (about $1,900 to $2,800).
"Though status is still important to the Chinese luxury consumer, the trend towards luxury consumption for one's own enjoyment is clear," said Matthew Crabbe, Mintel's director of research Asia Pacific.
"This research highlights that the wealthier a consumer is, the more likely he or she is to appreciate luxury goods for their innate quality and value," he added.
The survey also provided evidence that Chinese brands are beginning to make inroads with Chinese luxury consumers, especially in the clothing and footwear categories.
While large majorities continued to regard foreign watches and cosmetics to be superior to Chinese brands (79% and 69% respectively), approaching half (43%) believed Chinese and foreign luxury clothing provided the same quality and 15% thought Chinese brands were better.
Similarly, 40% regarded Chinese luxury shoe brands to be on a par with their foreign competitors while 16% believed Chinese brands were better.
Data sourced from Mintel; additional content by Warc staff