They are smart, rich, global, digitally switched on, ready to engage and spend, and there are hundreds of millions of them – meet the Chinese millennials.
Investment bank Goldman Sachs characterises the 415 million-strong cohort as the most influential generation on the planet today.
If they were a nation, they would be the world’s third largest, and the most digitally active.
And there are many reasons for smart Australian businesses to get on board – now and for the future.
Businesses need to include Chinese millennials into their strategies to tap into their fast-growing consumer power across a range of products and services.
The businesses, whether a handmade soap shop in the well-visited Blue Mountains in New South Wales, an Australian university or a tech startup, will do well to incorporate millennials into their marketing strategies.
China is on the cusp of becoming not only the world’s largest economy, but also the biggest investor in research and development, and an innovation leader.
This will fundamentally disrupt the business-as-usual approach from small-to-medium enterprises to multinationals in terms of consumer demands, talent acquisition and the rate of innovation required to keep pace with trends.
Chinese millennials make up the lion’s share of international students and tourists globally, and certainly do in Australia.
They are twice as likely to travel internationally than their parents.
The smart Australian business will engage these groups for what they will become, as well as what they are right now.
Chinese international student numbers in Australia top 100,000 each year and comprise China’s bright, connected, ambitious and aspirational millennial leaders, who will one day hold the balance of power in China as the country continues its ascendance.
About 80 per cent of Chinese students who study in Australia are returning to China to pursue a career in a nation with an economy many times the size of Australia’s, and growing at three times the rate.
They know and love Australia, but largely do not have a rich Australian network to draw on, or to incorporate into their success path.
The savvy business will view Chinese millennials not as a cash cow for Australian universities but as a high-yield talent pool to tap into now and with an incredible return within five years, whether they remain in your business or not.
More than a quarter of Chinese millennials hold a university degree compared with 3 per cent of their parents.
The uptick in innovation and entrepreneurship driven by the Chinese government has seen millennials answer the call in droves.
Incentives have helped boost the pool of startup capital in China balloon from $32 billion to $338 billion, making the Chinese government the largest venture capital ‘company’.
Gone are the days in China when the most sought-after jobs on graduation were in government.
Now millennials aspire to gain a job at Alibaba, Tencent or any number of the Chinese “unicorn” companies (startup companies with a valuation over $1 billion), learn from the best and then mimic the trajectory of the iconic Jack Ma (Alibaba founder and executive chairman).
The smart business will be watching Chinese millennials as holders of emerging behaviour in China as it evolves from a “young person’s trend”, to business as usual (BAU) across generations in China and subsequently globally.
Business leaders in 2018 are overseeing a period where the rise or return of China to economic supremacy is overlaid with the rise of digital usage, two mega trends which combined require Australian business to have a digital strategy as well as a China strategy.
Australian businesses, however, have neither.
Rather their approach is integrated; there is no China strategy, just strategy in a China-led world. No digital strategy, just strategy in a digital world.
Businesses that wish to harness Chinese millennials, 94 per cent of whom have a smartphone, must have an integrated China digital strategy, which does not sit as an appendix to business as usual, but rather is a core function
Consumer spending of Chinese millennials is growing at 14 per cent, twice the rate of that of their parents.
The smart business will not mistake Chinese millennials as ‘ramen-eating’ university students who can’t wait to cruise their way through university.
Rather, it will recognise them as customers who may arrive in Australia needing products and services which cater to their needs as a student, homebuyer, investor, entrepreneur, traveller and influencer.
Andrea Myles is the CEO and co-founder of the China Australia Millennial Project, a marketplace of education experiences, innovation and strategy. She regularly assists Australian companies better engage the Chinese millennial market. www.australiachina.org