SHANGHAI: Chinese people are significantly more invested in their online identities than their Western counterparts, which offers brands more opportunities to connect with increasingly savvy consumers, according to an expert in Chinese consumer psychology.

On average, Chinese consumers spend more than three hours per day on WeChat, the multi-functional social platform, compared to the 20 minutes the average Americans spends on Facebook. Likewise, online opinion leaders (KOLs) are more influential than in the West, especially within cosmetics and beauty categories. (For more on China’s different online identities, read WARC’s exclusive: Online identities in China vs the West and implications for brands).

“China’s digital landscape is evolving rapidly. But timeless cultural truths – that is, a regimented, rules-bound offline world – ensure the relationship between individuals and their online identities remain highly compartmentalised and emotionalized,” said Tom Doctoroff, Chief Cultural Insights Officer at brand consultancy Prophet, in an exclusive story for WARC.

“Compared with day-to-day reality, [the internet is] a blank canvas of self-expression. That’s why Chinese people are so emotionally engaged with the images and experiences they share with the “like-minded” – that is, people who “matter” because they have the same interests.”

This motivation implies two imperatives for brands. First, they must provide a platform for emotional release and creative liberation. Second, they must provide social currency and peer endorsement on a scale unimaginable in the West.

“In China, pride is never separated from purchase. Self-image is inextricably linked to consumption because: a) there are relatively few ways to express identity given society’s conformism and b) brand choice represents forward advancement,” Doctoroff said.

Doctoroff advises brands to look toward four key principles when engaging with young Chinese online: encouragement to break through traditional barriers or ‘old world’ expectations, empowerment to try new things, opportunities to project their status and offering a gateway to ‘greatness’.

“Purchases need to reinforce the new generation’s aspiration to maintain a modern, multi-faceted identity. They want to project discernment in relationships, evolution of social consciousness, worldliness, and contemporary “health and wellness” practices.”

Sourced from WARC