China to the discovery of design furniture
A growing economy inevitably focuses on luxury and beauty. China is no exception to this trend, and in recent years it has seen an ever greater number of lovers of design furnishing, with an increase in requests and sales of accessories by the best Italian and European brands.
From lighting to wallpaper, from kitchens to coverings, furniture is the largest Chinese market, with sales that in 2021 will hit $159 billion and that is expected to grow by more than 6% per year over the next four years. For the Made in Italy, which has always been a global benchmark in the sector, this is an opportunity not to be missed.
The trends of the design market in the country of the Great Wall
Among the best-selling products in the Chinese design market there are lounges and dining rooms, along with all their furnishings: from tables to sofas, from chairs to sideboards, from cabinets to furniture for entertainment. Supplies for these two rooms of the house alone will generate revenues of just over $60 billion.
One of the most interesting developments is the centrality of the web in the positioning and sales processes: this year 52% of the revenues generated by the sale of living and dining rooms furniture will come from online stores. This means that the web, with all its ecosystem of tools, will bring sales of about $31 billion.
Those are trends that confirm the maturity of the market and the possibility of opening up even more to international level actors capable of bringing a breath of fresh air and, above all, an exclusive and avant-garde touch. The numbers tell of an audience ready for change, for agile online shopping and eager to find the ideal solution specific to its needs and for an increasingly modern and evolving taste.
A snapshot of Chinese design enthusiasts
But what does this audience look like? By analyzing its peculiarities, lifestyle, income and preferences, it is possible to classify it into three macro groups: consumers eager for novelty, luxury devotees and middle-class buyers.
The first group of consumers is distinguished by high earnings and the desire to find furnishings of the highest quality, who seek solutions based on style and history, regardless of price. They prefer classic Chinese or ultra-modern design, made of experimental lines and technological innovation.
The second group follows its own taste and prefers artefacts with a significant cultural influence, whether eco-friendly products or simply a brand renowned for its special finishes. Also in this case the possibility of spending is (almost) unlimited.
The last group, which is also the most numerous at the moment, seeks excellent quality at a good price, avoids spending peaks but make regular purchases, preferring to renew furniture every few years. This is also the market segment most attentive to the latest foreign fashions, looking for the trendiest brands but without turning to the luxury ones.
Overall this is a an audience attentive to choosing good or excellent materials, aware of the value of each purchase and interested in rising or defining their lifestyle also through home furnishings, which becomes a new status symbol. A young audience, mostly under 40s, who turns to online sources to expand the range of available solutions and find as much information as possible on the products they want.
A winning strategy capable of leveraging online tools
And it is precisely from the web that companies must start for finding their own place in the Chinese design market. Young, agile buyers accustomed to new technologies need a positioning strategy that communicates consistently, telling the personality of the brand and the qualities of the products in a fast, interactive, creative way.
For this reason it is impossible to ignore the use of WeChat, the most populated Chinese digital platform (over 1.2 billion active users). To do this it is necessary to open an official account, prepare a dedicated editorial plan, with an appropriate advertising budget and the choice of mini-programs useful for direct sales, for building customers loyalty with entertaining content, and make them land on the brand’s e-commerce site.
E-commerce must be the pivot of a SEO & SEM strategy aimed at gaining positions in the results of Baidu, the search engine used by over 700 million Chinese people, making possible to increase brand awareness and intercept the audience interested in the reference products.
Also essential is an active presence on Little Red Book and Douyin, the social commerce platforms preferred by the design industry, which allow both to post creative content and activate direct sales functions, as well as make the most of the activities of Key Opinion Leaders, i.e. local influencers capable of shifting the perception of the product. In the first case, the community can count on over 100 million very active users, mainly women between the ages of 20-35, while in the second, which has 600 million members, prevail the presence of members of the Z generation, who favour entertainment and playful content.
Coordinating the management of all channels in a consistent and effective way is a must for anyone wanting to approach the design market in China with ambitions to grow in it.
Knowing the Chinese environment to become key market players
Getting to know the local context, as well as the local audience, is vital for playing your cards right in the hyper-competitive Chinese digital market.
The evolution of tastes and of the design market highlight the predilection for the neo-classical Chinese style, a minimalist and updated version of traditional furnishings with a strong cultural and historical influence, for contemporary Nordic design, which has conquered young people with its warmth and fashionable simplicity, and for minimalist design, which mixes precious pieces by renowned designers with pieces of art, making the environments exclusive and concrete manifestation of a luxurious lifestyle.
For everyone, or almost everyone, Made in Italy brands are a grant of quality and style: high-spending Chinese consumers want uniqueness, supreme quality materials and careful workmanship; all characteristics of fine Italian furniture.
The richest segment of the population devoted to luxury is the one most attentive to European brands, which dominate the luxury design industry. The challenge for these representatives of Western design is to conquer also the Z generation, or those in their early twenties, perhaps with specific lines and more accessible prices.
For everyone the chances of winning this challenge depend on the effectiveness of the online strategy, which determines the positioning of the brand and expands the sales potential, on highly efficient logistics and on after-sales support that live up to expectations, because exclusivity, refinement and status should not only belong to the products, but to every aspect of the brand. At least that’s what the Chinese audience wants.