Future Tech

China’s Gen-Z, millennials embrace on-demand home services as manicures to personal chefs flourish

Tan KW
Publish date: Thu, 09 Feb 2023, 04:51 PM
Tan KW
0 300,198
Future Tech

For the past few years, Jojo Wang has been enjoying services at home that she would have otherwise procured at spas, nail salons and restaurants.

“The key is the convenience ... and the time it saves. In fast-paced, first-tier cities, young people are busy and often don’t have time for a lot of their personal activities,” said the 33-year-old media specialist based in Beijing.

From manicures to personal chefs, Chinese are increasingly embracing convenient on-demand home services, a phenomenon reflected in surging advertisements on social media.

On Little Red Book, one of China’s most influential lifestyle sharing platforms, both the number of searches and posts tagged with home services at the beginning of this week was about four times higher than the same time last year, data from the company showed.

Content on in-home cooking started surging last June and peaked in November, with daily searches roughly 69 times higher than five months earlier. The number of posts offering home cooking services was 77 times higher over the same period.

Another user of home services, August Hu, has paid for masseurs, dog walkers and a personal trainer to come to his home in Beijing. For him, convenience is the main attraction.

“There is the option to go to the gym or massage parlour, but it really feels quite good not to travel and be able to go right to bed after a session,” Hu said.

Hu orders these services on various apps and says the charges are competitive: 50 yuan (US$7) per half hour for dog walkers, about 350 yuan for a two-hour massage, and 300 yuan per hour for a fitness trainer. Some of the house calls are cheaper than in-store prices.

“Technology is supposed to make our lives more convenient, and these services are a great example of that,” he said. “I don’t really care about being labelled lazy, so long as it gets the job done.”

Online services have sprouted up as the Internet economy has grown and young people’s spending power has increased, analysts said.

“People are willing to spend more for better and more personalised service,” said Miro Li, founder of Double V Consulting, a marketing consultancy in China.

“This kind of ‘home service’ is more private, which attracts younger consumers who value privacy.”

Chinese consumers, especially millennials and Gen-Z, are increasingly open to spending for pleasure and enjoyment, and more open to trying new services, said Li Yingtao, a consumer industry consultant at Analysys.

“The in-home services allow these curious people to try new things,” he said.

Typical customers might include those who are busy, expect high standards of service or would like to lead a “sophisticated lifestyle”, he said.

Service providers have expanded with the development of China’s gig economy, which relies on contractors and flexible freelance work - a form of employment the government has encouraged in recent years to help lower unemployment.

However, home services booked online are unlikely to grow into a large-scale market due to a number of limitations, Li said.

“It is different from (industrialised) consumer products because it still is a type of service that is contingent upon humans,” he said. “A person can only work limited hours and only go to one or two homes a day, considering the distance and traffic between clients.”

Customisation and “premiumisation” will be the future of these services, he said, because it is difficult to make it as inexpensive and common as food delivery.

Most people advertising services on social media are doing so as a side hustle or hobby that brings in extra income.

Since she began making house calls for manicures last year, Beijing-based college student Liu, who did not want to giver her full name, said her posts on Little Red Book had drummed up a good amount of business.

“It’s purely a personal hobby - I thought doing manicures is fun and started doing in-home manicures for some extra money,” she said. “I get a lot of orders, but I can only do one house call a day.”

Qing, a 43-year-old housewife in Beijing, also sees her house-call cooking service as an extension of a favourite pastime.

“I love cooking and I love kitchens. I want to see how other people’s kitchens look, and when I saw other people doing house-call cooking on Douyin, I thought I could give it a shot,” said Qing, who only gave her surname, adding that she has taken four orders so far.

“I don’t depend on this to make money. I have been a housewife for seven years since I became pregnant. I have three flats in Beijing and a car, as well as some savings from previous work. There’s no pressure for me to do or not do it - and it’s purely because of my love for cooking.”

There are several apps that offer specialised in-home services, such as Helijia, a provider of on-demand beauty services; and Diandao, a massage service that brings therapists to the doorstep - however, only in Beijing and Shanghai.

Some Craigslist-type platforms, including Dianping and 58 Tongcheng, also act as a broker for consumers to find service providers, while many advertise on social media platforms such as Douyin and Little Red Book.

Li, with Double V Consulting, said the upside is that service providers can be monitored and verified on these platforms to ensure there is no illegal business involved, while customer feedback and after-sale services can help control quality.

But there are still glitches in the market, such as “how to regulate the service providers” and “how to ensure the safety of both service providers and consumers”, Li said.

“There are no standards, licences or certifications to control the quality of services.”

Despite the convenience, some consumers say these services will never be able to replace in-store experiences.

“House call facials will not have the same atmosphere at a spa,” Wang said.

“Instead of the massage bed, you only get the service on your own bed. If I have ample time and the price is affordable, or if I am already out with friends, I might still prefer going to the spa.”



Be the first to like this. Showing 0 of 0 comments

Post a Comment