MILAN— Chinese luxury e-tailer Mei.com, which is controlled by e-commerce giant Alibaba, organized an event here Tuesday to present the business opportunities in China for Italian luxury brands.For the event, Mei.com teamed with management consulting firm Bain & Co., which presented its latest research, “China and Chinese Customers in the Global Luxury Goods Market."Bain partner and report coauthor Federica Levato highlighted that Chinese customers represent 30 percent of global consumers of personal luxury goods, a market valued at 240 billion euros in 2016.In particular, the research noted that Chinese customers, who previously tended to shop for luxury goods exclusively when traveling outside of their homeland, are boosting domestic consumption of fashion and high-end personal items. This shift is motivated by the government’s strategy and the harmonization of prices around the world.Although 35 percent of Chinese customers are still interested in logos, in the next three years, 91 percent of them said they will look into more sophisticated products with a strong design component and 82 percent of them revealed they are interested in purchasing niche, emerging labels. In addition, 66 percent of those interviewed said they aim to increase their luxury shopping at outlets.In addition, Bain’s research focused on the fact that Chinese customers are becoming less “omnivore” and more “demanding.” This means they are more interested in exploring new product categories and brands. With the growth of the Chinese middle-class, Bain noted that a new type of customer is emerging, the “Wannabe,” who pays more attention to prices and looks for accessible brands and aspirational luxury labels’ entry products.According to Bain, the maturation process of Chinese consumers has been boosted by three factors. They include the overexposure of traditional luxury labels in China, which in the last 10 years opened a huge number of stores in the country; digitalization, and a new interest in luxury experiences rather than only in products.The research also pointed to the growing importance of e-commerce in China, where 78 percent of luxury consumers search products online before making a purchase. While previously they tended to shop more on international web sites, in the last year 50 percent of those surveyed said they have increased their shopping on domestic e-tailers. While only 8 percent of Chinese luxury purchases are made online, Bain forecast this percentage would spike in the next few years. According to the research, they will be boosted by Millennials, the rising middle class, as well as by the new generation of working women.“Along with the United States, China is definitely a priority for us and it must be for the Italian companies,” said Michele Scannavini, president of ICE, the Italian trade agency, who highlighted the importance of digitalization as a crucial tool to penetrate the Chinese market.In particular, Scannavini said ICE is developing a digital education program for small and medium-sized companies, along with creating partnerships with online platforms, including Alibaba, to increase the visibility of Italian goods on a global scale.
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