This article first appeared in Jing Daily
For the last few years, millennials have been the go-to generation for marketers, but that demographic is quickly approaching their forties, and Generation Z is now snapping at their heels when it comes to brand relevance.
Born around the turn of the century, Gen Zers are the first true digital natives: They’ve grown up online and on mobile devices, live through WeChat, and get their cultural references from KOLs. While they undoubtedly have the same passion for shopping as millennials, what sets Gen Zers apart is their desire for experiences, quality, and social enrichment. Brands need to stand for something more than luxury and exclusivity to appeal to this demographic, and several key shopping destinations throughout China have caught on to what it takes to get them into their stores. One of those is Shanghai’s Xintiandi plaza.
More than just a mall
Established in the early 2000s, Shanghai’s most popular tourist district has grown alongside Gen Zers. Described as an “urban traveler attraction that combines the past with the culture of today,” Xintiandi is ideally situated to meet the needs of an experience-hungry generation in search of shareable ‘daka’ (打卡) moments along with their luxury purchases. First used to describe clocking in and out of work, the word ‘daka’ has evolved to mean ‘checking in’ on social media with posts that show off healthy habits like going to the gym. More recently, it’s become a way to let your followers know you’ve been to the most talked-about destinations (using photos or videos as proof).
Xintiandi’s retail strategy is built around providing experiential spaces for customers, and its future is built upon Social House: a full-service shopping concept which is entirely on message for Generation Z. It’s designed to be a “diversified commercial ecosystem that incorporates shops, bars and restaurants, and social spaces,” allowing visitors to experience the latest in art, culture, design, gastronomy, and technology. Its ultimate aim? To “bring forth shared values of community.”
The creative and strategic minds behind Xintiandi know their audience, and they’ve invested heavily in areas that appeal directly to the Gen-Z market: experience, collaboration, and community. This is reflected in its revamped flagship shopping destination, Xintiandi Plaza. Launched earlier this year with the specific aim of providing a one-of-a-kind shopping experience, it offers visitors unique access to international brands — including the biggest Tom Ford boutique in Asia — workshops, pop-ups, and a platform where designers can share their work.
The Gen-Z sweet spots
So what are Xintiandi Plaza’s key attractions for Gen Z shoppers?
Pop-ups: From straightforward retail spots for Little B Perfume to more eclectic installations by visual artist Kim Ye’s home furniture label Kimmik, these pop-up stores are designed to give visitors unique opportunities to capture fleeting, art-inflected moments and purchase exclusive items.
Events: As part of the fashion exhibition Shanghai Fashion Zoo, 56 giant fiberglass pandas designed by artists from around the globe, including British artist Hayden Kays, French artist Françoise Lemaître-Leroux, and Thail designer Meow, were showcased at Xintiandi and supported by a design workshop at the Plaza. Through this, visitors were able to immerse themselves in an artistic ‘happening’ and become part of a growing design community.
Collaborations: The leading lifestyle, fashion, and beauty e-commerce platform LOOK teamed up with top fashion influencer Gogoboi to produce a pop-up collaboration with a décor that was inspired by Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Last Supper.” With fashion and accessories from more than 30 Chinese designer brands like Susan Fang and Xiao Li, the store gave visitors a designated daka zone by playing to a key Gen-Z lifestyle trend — selfie photo ops. Fashionistas and style-seekers could take selfies against the pop-up’s idiosyncratic backdrop and post photos to their favorite social media platforms.
Luxury brands: Those brands that are more about heritage and tradition have always been skilled at recognizing customer behavior because quality products supported by buyer-driven service is at the heart of their business. Now, Xintiandi Plaza has taken this sensibility to a whole new level by delighting and inspiring a new generation of shoppers with the most refined luxury objects in the world — but on the terms that they understand best.