Discussion and Conclusions

The trend of Chinese luxury is towards youthfulness. According to the data from this study, half of the luxury consumers are between 25 and 35 years old, compared to luxury good sellers’ target consumer, who is a 35-year-old adult with rich experience and unique aesthetic tastes. Therefore, courting younger consumers is the trend for luxury consumption and a weapon for luxury goods to seize the market.

Social media offers access to abundant and coveted traffic, and, by using it, many young consumers have been admitted into the realm of luxury brands. Most communication has begun to attract audiences’ notice and comments by producing creative novel short videos that include influential spokespersons.

As one way to generate consumer knowledge and build brand awareness, the online celebrity effect works on consumers’ problem recognition and information searching. A KOL’s position is seen to be one with expertise, so their visibility benefits the brand’s story and product. Thus, Proposition 1, The reputation of a KOL increases consumers’ brand awareness, is confirmed.

For an online community, its UGC is based on trusting acquaintances in social communication, and it is thus easier to acquire users in the process of transmitting information, which can effectively reduce consumer acquisition costs. A social network’s creativity is different from a traditional channel. Social network users do not want to see a perhaps air-brushed model’s face or a commercialized come-and-buy pitch. Users want to see organic, close-to-life photos and text that can resonate with them. The charm of social networks is their humanization of knowledge-sharing content (Shams & Kaufmann, 2016), which then has a greater impact on enriching and improving community content and connecting users.

Interacting and reducing perceived risk is the key to enhancing buying behavior. Thus, Proposition 2, Trustworthy UGC helps consumers better evaluate and make purchase selections, is confirmed.

In the process of transforming the market-based narrative method into a social narrative style, WOM’s information transmitters play three roles: to convey brand marketing information to their followers and potential consumers, to link personal reputation and trust relationship with marketing information, and to transform marketing information through the norms that have been established by the online community. The WOM information conveyed by online opinion leaders not only represents them but also is a result of interaction with the community and is shaped by community norms. Online understanding of the complexity of a community culture, targeted online WOM marketing activities, and how to find the right WOM narrative strategy contributes to the successful implementation of online WOM activities.

The influence of online communities is expanding, and its integration of comments into the e-commerce platform indicates the luxury sector’s increased focus on transparency in its marketing strategy. Product reviews are one of the most important branding opportunities available, so to make the best use of WOM, brands must invest more time and energy creating online WOM and e-commerce commentary content. Presently, content is constantly evolving and is no longer limited to text comments. More interactive ways, like live broadcasts and videos of product introductions, product comparisons, and luxury cosmetic teaching, are available. UGC allows brands to interact with young people, and a large number of young users are also inspiring other young people to join the platforms, which lays the foundation for the construction of luxury brand culture content. Therefore, Proposition 3, Acquaintances and word of mouth have a positive influence on customer decision making, is confirmed.

Study Implications

The results of this research fill a gap in the literature on luxury brands’ implementation of effective social media marketing strategies to influence consumer purchasing behavior. First, this study could be a reference for Chinese consumers’ motivations and psychological activities when they make purchase decisions. The exploratory interview recorded how the respondent consumers consider luxury consumption and under what conditions they are most likely to purchase.

Then, social media’s influence from KOLs’ promotion to WOM effects and interactive online communities reflects the different forms of interactivity that serve various functions in consumers’ information searching and alternatives’ evaluation and selection. This finding can enable a luxury brand to choose the right combination of interactivity forms to include in a social media marketing campaign to influence consumers’ different stages of purchasing behavior.

As stated, the rise of UGC in the mainstream media not only facilitates consumers’ initiatives to obtain information but also allows them to become producers and disseminators of information, processing, and communication. Compared to previous research findings, this study reveals that the WOM trend is increasingly important to the brand; therefore, interactive UGC on social media should be emphasized.

Limitations

In spite of the examination of social media’s influence on consumer behavior and preference provided by this study, there are still some limitations. Only 30 respondents were sampled for the qualitative research, which is inadequate for this research. The majority of respondents are millennials who live in first-tier or second-tier cities; third-tier cities were underrepresented, which includes a large portion of Chinese consumers. In future research, responses from a greater sample size from a wider sample area need to be collected to validate these findings.

Finally, KOL promotion, UGC, and WOM have not been fully analyzed in every step of the identified consumer behaviors. Investigating those areas may have a deep influence on other consumer behavior steps, and more related factors need to be explored in further research.

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