Retail in Asia


10 major channels influencing Asia’s luxury shopper in 2022

The way Asian shoppers are influenced when making luxury purchases in 2022 has transitioned from more traditional channels to digital marketing methods.

According to Bluebell’s Asia Lifestyle Consumer Profile 2022 study, social media remains the most effective channel for brands to engage and inspire consumers to purchase their products, with 44 percent of Asian consumers counting it among the channels that have the most influence on them in 2022.

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The second most effective channel for luxury shoppers’ brand engagement is through official websites (31 percent) and recommendations by friends or family (27 percent). Moreover, international celebrities are more influential than local celebrities, with 13 percent and 9 percent of respondents, respectively, admitting to their shopping habits having been influenced by famous people. The survey also identified that magazines and newspapers are influential to 18 percent of respondents, followed by online blogs and reviews, the in-store environment, and KOLs or influencers — all at 17 percent. Some 12 percent of Asian luxury shoppers are influenced by the salesperson when it comes to purchasing, the report added.

Interestingly, the type of luxury item being purchased also impacts what channel will be most influential for Asian shoppers. For the jewellery and watch category, consumers said they are typically less influenced in general as it is more personal, except through magazines and newspapers and international celebrities, where they are more influenced than other product categories. For beauty, fragrance and makeup, consumers are more likely to rely on online blogs and reviews than they are for other categories, according to Bluebell’s report.

As for retail channels, 40 percent of Asian shoppers said they purchase their skincare online, followed by fashion (28 percent), accessories and footwear (19 percent), and active lifestyle (17 percent), and jewellery and watches (16 percent), with the latter category requiring in-store visiting and buying.

So, is there much difference between countries in Asia when it comes to main channels of influence and their preferred shopping channels?

Breaking it down by market, RetailInAsia takes a closer look at the major channels of influence for Asia’s luxury shoppers and the channels in which they prefer to shop premium goods in 2022.

China: Social media remains top influencer

Social media is the major channel of influence in China. Some 52 percent of Chinese shoppers are influenced by social media when making a luxury purchase, according to Bluebell.

Source: Dior Weibo

French fashion luxury giant Dior is an active luxury brand on Weibo, one of China’s most recognised social media platforms, which allows its users to see what their friends and mutual friends are doing online. According to market research firm Alarice, Dior has worked with the platform to create 80 brand posts that advertise the company to luxury Chinese consumers. In addition, Weibo will also act as a storefront for a brand’s Tmall or JD stores, ramping up the social commerce experience for fans of the brand.

In addition to social media, 40 percent of Chinese shoppers said they are influenced by a brand’s official website, with 32 percent saying their purchasing habits are influenced by friends and family. Some 34 percent of shoppers in mainland China are influenced by influencers and KOLS, followed by online blogs and reviews (30 percent), international celebrities (26 percent), magazines and newspapers (22 percent), salespeople (19 percent), and finally, local celebrities (13 percent).

As for retail channels, approximately 42 percent of Chinese shoppers use a combination of offline and online retail when buying premium goods. 31 percent of respondents exclusively shop online for luxury goods, with just 27 percent of shoppers doing so in-store in 2022.

South Korea: Local celebs beat international stars

Compared to other Asian shoppers, South Koreans are the most influenced by social media when shopping for luxury goods. According to Bluebell’ survey, 60 percent of Koreans said social media impacts what they choose to buy, with 81 percent of Koreans admitting to following their favourite brand on Instagram. Specifically, 47 percent of Koreans said they follow both the international and local Instagram account of their favourite brands, with 28 percent and 26 percent following either the brand’s local or international account, respectively.

Luxury brands are establishing a connection between their business and local icons by posting updates of Korean brand ambassadors on their official Instagram. This is an effective tactic to increase market relevance and ultimately, localised sales. Louis Vuitton recently appointed Korean boyband BTS as its new brand ambassador, announcing the news on its Instagram account December last year. Businesses will continue to collaborate with local celebrities due to their powerful influence on Koreans’ purchasing decisions. It was reported that in 2022, 13 percent of Koreans are influenced by local celebrities in their  purchasing decisions.

Source: Big Hit Entertainment

Moreover, 34 percent of Koreans said online blogs and reviews influence their purchase decision followed by a brand’s website at 24 percent. Following that the statistics are family and friends (22 percent), magazines and newspapers (20 percent) and influencers and KOLs (20 percent), in-store environments (10 percent), salespersons (9 percent). The least influential factor on Korean shoppers were international celebrities (5 percent), as they are considered less relevant than local celebrities in Korea.

As for retail channels, 40 percent of South Koreans shop both in-store and online when purchasing premium goods. Some 25 percent said they shop online only, while 36 percent said they buy luxury in-store.

Taiwan: Family and friends over Instagram

Unlike South Korean and Chinese luxury shoppers, Taiwanese consumers are less influenced by social media when shopping for premium and lifestyle goods. Only 29 percent said they look to social media accounts for inspiration while shopping.

Those that do follow their favourite brand’s Instagram page (some 76 percent) revealed that most follow both a brand’s international and local account (69 percent).

Instead of social media, the most influential channel in Taiwan is a brand’s official website with 34 percent revealing a brand webstores’ influence on their purchasing.

Since going digital, global luxury brands including Louis Vuitton have opened localised Taiwan webstores, effectively tapping into this trend. Here, Louis Vuitton shoppers in Taiwan can shop in their local currency and language, enhancing the market engagement between foreign brands and the Taiwanese consumer, which increases influence overall.

Other brands have a dedicated webstore for different regions. For example, Balenciaga’s specialised webstore for the ‘Taiwan Region’. However, these brands still use English as their official store language, limiting the reach of the brand to English-speaking customers and showing less of a commitment to the local market.

Some 30 percent of Taiwanese shoppers said they are influenced by family and friends, 14 percent said they are influenced by magazines and newspapers, 8 percent by online blogs and reviews, and 10 percent said they are influenced by KOLS and influencers. Approximately 14 percent said they are influenced by the in-store environment. Some 13 percent are influenced by a salesperson or international celebrity, with just 5 percent influenced by local celebrities.

As for preferred channels of shopping for luxury, Taiwan consumers are found to be omnichannel shoppers, with 44 percent of those surveyed admitting they shop both on and offline when browsing for luxury goods. 40 percent of individuals said they shop in-store only, with just 15 percent exclusively online, according to Bluebell’s report.

Hong Kong: Digitally influenced, but shop in-store

Like China, social media is a major channel of influence in Hong Kong. According to Bluebell, 52 percent of Hong Kong shoppers are influenced by social media when making a luxury purchase, while 73 percent of shoppers in Hong Kong saying they follow their favourite lifestyle brands on Instagram. This can be either the  brand’s international (18 percent) or local (30 percent) Instagram account, or both as 52 percent of respondents do.

After social media, some 30 percent of Hong Kong shoppers are influenced by a brand’s official website, while 28 percent are influenced by the opinion of family and friends. Interestingly, out of all the Asian markets surveyed, Hong Kong ranked the highest for magazines and newspapers, with 24 percent saying print influenced their purchasing decisions, followed by the in-store environment (20 percent), influencers and KOLs (12 percent), salespersons (12 percent), and local celebrities (11 percent). Hong Kong shoppers are the least influenced by international celebrities, and online blogs and reviews – both at 10 percent.

According to digital marketing firm, Digital Business Lab, shopping is one of the main reasons that Hong Kongers use social media platforms, with 45 percent admitting to using Instagram as a shopping tool.

Source: Byredo

But social media doesn’t take away the influence of a physical store presence in Hong Kong either, according to Bluebell’s findings. Fragrance brand Byredo recently opened its first store in Hong Kong, expanding its retail presence in Asia, while high-end watchmaker Jaeger-LeCoultre announced the opening of a new boutique in Pacific Place, in July.

Across Asia, Hong Kong shoppers are also the most likely to exclusively shop in-store when buying luxury goods (49 percent), while 32 percent said they would favour both on and offline channels. Just 19 percent of shoppers would go solely online, the report added.

Southeast Asia: Let’s get hyperphysical

While less than other Asian markets, some 35 percent of Southeast Asian shoppers say that social media influences their purchasing decision when buying luxury goods. Moreover, 67 percent of Southeast Asian shoppers follow their favourite brands on Instagram, with 69 percent following the international and local brand account.

After social media, some 34 percent said they are influenced by a brand’s official website, followed by family and friends (28 percent), and the in-store environment at 26 percent, the highest ranking out of all Asian markets surveyed.

26 percent of Southeast Asians surveyed said they are influenced by the in-store environment, and 18 percent said they are influenced by a salesperson while shopping. This makes Southeast Asia a prime market for hyperphysical retail experiences, where luxury brands can roll-out temporary store designs and pop-ups that enhance the shopping experience via touch, taste, smell and sight.

In late 2021, Coach Singapore opened its ‘Tomorrow’s Vintage’ pop-up, the U.S. brand’s eco-retrospective store, paying homage to its past-time outlets via its yellow store design. Inside the pop-up, with vintage televisions playing, Coach’s renowned leather restoration specialist Debi the Restorer was also present, promoting the brand’s sustainability push. The pop-up featured Coach’s archival collection, which was available for purchase for those clientele wanting a nostalgia hit; a message that resonated with locals and could not have been achieved via social media or digital messaging alone.

Source: Coach

While social media and in-store retail has significant impact on Southeast Asia shoppers in 2022, little influence is found from magazines and newspapers (12 percent), and influencers and KOLs (11 percent), followed by international celebrities (12 percent) and local celebrities (6 percent), according to Bluebell.

As for preferred channels of shopping for luxury, Southeast Asian consumers are found to be the most omnichannel shoppers, with 51 percent of those surveyed admitting they shop both on and offline when browsing for luxury goods. Some 37 percent said they shop in-store only, with just 12 percent exclusively online, according to Bluebell’s report.

Japan: Not as easily influenced

Japanese luxury shoppers are the least easily influenced when it comes to luxury shopping, according to Bluebell. Only 34 percent of Japanese shoppers are influenced by social media, and 54 percent (the lowest among the markets surveyed) said they follow their favourite brands on Instagram (of those who do, a whopping 45 percent follow just the local brand account, with just 15 percent following the brand’s international account). Family and friends are the second most influential channel for Japanese shoppers (22 percent), followed by a brand’s official website (18 percent), magazines and newspapers (13 percent), influencers and KOLS (13 percent), the in-store environment (11 percent), international celebrities (10 percent), salespersons (6 percent), online blogs and reviews (5 percent), and local celebrities (4 percent).

As for preferred retail channels for shopping, some 39 percent of Japanese shoppers prefer to shop both on and offline, while 24 percent prefer to shop online only, compared to 37 percent who prefer in-store, according to Bluebell’s report.

With the lower social media followings in Japan, and shoppers’ penchant for in-store purchasing, luxury brands are making the most out of retail store openings in Japan. According to Statista, almost a quarter of all LMVH Group’s physical stores across the Asia region are located in Japan alone. On February 1, Louis Vuitton opened a café and restaurant in its new Osaka maison, marking the first time the brand ventured into culinary waters. The move signifies the weight physical stores and concepts carry in Japan’s luxury retail landscape for brands like it, and its competitors, moving forward.

The Takeaway

For luxury brands to be their most influential, a strategic social media strategy is crucial. Things like dedicated Instagram or WeChat accounts for Asian consumers to follow, rife with engaging and consistent brand content, as well as product information and storytelling, all bare influence of shopping behaviour in Asia right now.

Essentially, social media is the springboard to luxury sales. Coupled with an engaging official website and in-store experiences, brands from skincare to beauty, jewellery to watches, and fashion and activewear, have the potential to cater to the varying retail needs of consumers.

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Finally, an interesting point: local celebrities in Asia continue to gain influential traction over big-name international celebrities, especially in China, Hong Kong and South Korea, reaffirming the move by many major luxury houses in recent months,to appoint country ambassadors and localised brand faces in marketing campaigns.