BEIJING: Consumer trends in China are set to be shaped by a unique combination of the old and the new and the particular circumstances of society, according to new research.

Market research firm Mintel highlighted five key things it expects marketers will have to consider in 2018, including the impact of machine learning and AI, to which new, affluent middle-class consumers are increasingly exposed – and with positive results.

Almost half (46%) of this demographic, which Mintel terms Mintropolitans, are interested in learning about their household habits, Inside Retail Asia reported.

“Such technology is able to learn about an individual’s unique personality and preferences in order to create customised experiences,” explained Delon Wang, manager of trends/Asia Pacific at Mintel.

“Consumers will generally prefer opt-in choices and are likely to embrace machine learning if it makes their lives easier,” he said, adding that “As the desire for a seamless lifestyle becomes universal, we will see more aspects of life being incorporated with machine learning capabilities.”

At the same time as they are accepting the very latest technologies, however, Chinese consumers are looking to traditional Chinese philosophy, remedies and forms of exercise. Brands that can tap into this in terms of product formulation and marketing messages will find success, Mintel suggested.

This combination of computing and Confucius is illustrative of the pressures many consumers face in China’s rapidly changing and urbanising society.

Younger consumers, in particular, are looking for novel ways to deal with the social stress they experience daily, often choosing to go online to relax. In Mintel’s research almost two thirds of 20-24 year olds said they play online games to relieve stress.

They are also more exposed to external influences than ever before and that, combined with economic growth and increasing consumer choice, has weakened the traditional collective outlook. Consumers are becoming more individualistic, according to Mintel, and brands will have to offer products and services that “allow consumers to enhance who they really are”.

Underpinning all this is mobile technology on which Chinese consumers increasingly rely in every area of their lives, including interactions with officialdom.

“Looking forward, consumers will become comfortable with the idea of everything – regardless of how formal or official it may be – being available via mobile and will question brands that are unable to provide this option,” said Wang.

Sourced from Inside Retail Asia; additional content by WARC staff