SHANGHAI: Wealthy Chinese students studying abroad are an increasing focus for luxury brands, with label-loving students acting as key opinion leaders and personal shoppers in international Chinese communities.

According to a survey conducted by China Luxury Advisors and published in the South China Morning Post, 31% of Chinese students in New York and Boston escort friends and family on shopping trips at least once every three months.

More than a third (34%) also bought luxury goods to take back to China at a similar frequency. Likewise, in Australia, Chinese students often act as daigou – shipping popular international brands and products from fashion to foodstuffs back to China.

With China’s booming luxury market increasingly driven by wealthier millennials, brands are taking notice and directly engaging Chinese students studying abroad in the hope they will act as influencers to their social circles back in China.

2017 research by Bain indicated that Chinese consumers already make up just under a third of all luxury consumers as of 2016, despite China itself making up just 7% of the global luxury market.

High-end department stores such as Bloomingdales and Bergdorf Goodman sponsored Chinese New Year celebrations for style-savvy students, while some brands have even bought in executives to offer career advice.

Clé de Peau Beauté, a premium beauty brand, defines the segment as women under 35 who are born in China, come from a family with more than US$500,000 yearly household income, and are currently enrolled in graduate or undergraduate programmes.

Jennifer Coppolino, the director of market insights and consumer engagement at Clé de Peau Beauté, said the international student demographic was impacting their marketing strategy for China from product decisions to WeChat posts.

“We know that we couldn’t hold a regular kind of boring focus group,” Coppolino said in comments to the South China Morning Post.

“We didn’t think they would be interested in sitting around a table for a couple hundred dollars to talk for a couple hours. They are interested in luxury events, an opportunity that would be fun to tell their friends about on Instagram, so we created an environment that feels more social.”

Sourced from South China Morning Post; additional content by WARC staff