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Ways to upgrade night-time consumption

Author  :  LIAO ZHUOXIAN     Source  :    Chinese Social Sciences Today     2022-08-02

In the past few years, Chinese consumer demand has been transitioning from a functional need to emotional and cultural needs. As a result, night-time economy (NTE), featuring additional values including cultural creativity and emotion, is booming. In 2021, China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism released the 14th five-year plan for the development of various sectors, which points out that it is important to vigorously develop NTE, while building national-level night-time culture and clusters for tourism and consumption.

Many incentive policy measures have been adopted by the central authority, as well as local governments. These measures are created to untap the potential of night-time consumption, propel urban economic growth, and better meet the ever-growing emotional and cultural needs of Chinese people.

To develop NTE, it is necessary to offer not only various kinds of products and services, but also the right scene for quality consumption services. In essence, night-time consumption is the consumption of services and experiences, which is a psychological experience that can be boosted by constructing various scenes for consumption, improving customer experiences, and meeting their emotional needs. Consumption scenes are the core carrier of NTE. These consist of entertainment facilities, leisure activities, services, and a customer base. NTE carries not only the function of entertainment, but also the values of urban culture, tradition, and the values of the residents. A quality consumption scene which defines the values of space and aesthetics can generate a sound cultural environment, social foundation, and a huge consumer market for NTE. The creative development of NTE scenes can be conducted in the following ways.

Multi-tiered consumption scenes

The first approach is through creating differentiated, compound, interconnected night-time consumption scenes that can turn “great effects” into “great benefits.” Consumption scenes are not only where people shop, but also what people shop for. Thus, improving consumption scenarios should go beyond simply putting together products and facilities. Instead, it should function as not only an urban entertainment facility but also a lifestyle. Therefore, it is necessary to turn physical venues into “ecologies” that appeal to consumers with the help of creative design and content placement, which is effective both economically and socially.

Specifically, it is important to create differentiated NTE shopping scenes. Urban planning sectors are advised to establish different types of night-time scenes adapted to the locations, functions, and positioning of different neighborhoods. This may mean creating shopping scenes with themes such as culture, art, entertainment, life services, nature, and ecology. Proprietors should consider creating high-quality, special scenes with good taste, based on the features of their night-time products and services, which can help increase their popularity.

In the meantime, it is important to create compound night-time consumption scenes. Different facilities carry different social and cultural meanings, and when put together in a different way, they generate different cultural values. When creating consumption scenes, we need to assemble public cultural facilities and commercial facilities in a way that combines their recreational, cultural, commercial, and social values into one.

For example, a shop can be turned into a compound cultural space that not only sells books, but also functions as a library, cafe, gallery, and store that sells cultural and creative goods. The transition from a space to a scene can help the shop better attract readers as well as consumers. Art performance companies can also be turned into a compound consumption scene by adopting the “performance plus” approach, a night-time performance mode that integrates a natural landscape, performance, store, and local food. The “new shopping mode” is a fusion of night-time traveling, shopping, and entertainment.

Next, it is also necessary to bring online shopping into the conversation. As e-commerce flourishes on live-streaming and short video platforms, sales volumes also begin to increase at night. As the new mode of online consumption continues to increase offline merchants’ operating capacities, NTE merchants should also try to link offline with online shopping while improving their physical consumption scenes. This is going to help merchants construct “borderless” consumption scenes, which, in turn, helps activate the entire city’s NTE.

Night-time culture

Second, we should tap into the cultural resources of cities, and integrate them with popular culture, to transform popularity into lasting a value.

According to Terry Clark, a representative scholar of the theory of scenes, different scenes contain different cultural value orientations, which are the force driving people’s cultural consumption. At present, many popular scenes lack cultural characteristics and have serious homogenization problems. Due to the lack of cultural ideas, these scenes follow a single, empty form of expression, resulting in fleeting popularity and failure to drive consumption. With deeper cultural connotations, scenes will be more valuable and can improve consumer retention. Therefore, night-time scenes should be deeply cultural-themed and integrated with local culture, contemporary cultural trends, and artisanal cultural creativity, to turn popularity into lasting attractions.

To begin with, we should develop scene content by tapping into the local culture. Local culture refers to the ecological, folklore, traditional, and customary culture of an area or region, which is a condensed endogenous power and an important cultural tourism development resource. Through the excavation and refinement of local history and culture, scenes such as shopping areas, neighborhoods, and night-time merchants are built to reappear local culture. In these scenes, consumers can feel the local flavor and rhythm, as well as a sense of nostalgia.

Next, we should create scene characteristics with popular culture. On the one hand, night-time goods are more influenced by popular culture, and the demand for goods at a certain time will focus on one or a few products. Trendy brands, hot-selling products, and goods recommended by the public will attract the most attention, thereby having a self-fulfilling mechanism. The more attention people pay to them and the more praise they receive, the more chances they will attract other consumers. On the other hand, the main consumers for NTE are among the “post-80s” “post-90s” and “post-00s.” They lead the trend and bring great vitality to the nighttime. Night-time consumption scenes should respond to the needs of the popular culture, and include modern fashion elements, to create a landmark cultural scene for city nights.

In addition, we should refine the quality of these scenes with craftsmanship. In recent years, scenes combining business and art, or business and the cultural and creative industry, have become a prevailing trend. Businesses have entered the era of meticulous craftsmanship. There is an even greater need for craftsmanship in night-time consumption. This will bring the focus back to the original and innovative expression of scenes, and add professional, standardized details, to create distinctive new scenes that will give consumers a unique experience.

Smart Shopping

Third, we should build digital, smart night-time scenes, to make integration more flexible.

Smart scenes are a major highlight of NTE growth. Interactive, cross-sectoral, smart, and digital new technologies reshape consumption experience scenes and provide a broad space for the development of scenes. We expect new cultural consumption scenes which integrate art and technology will enter the development fast track during the 14th Five-Year Plan period.

To start with, we should promote the digital transformation of night-time scenes. Digital media allows cultural scenes to support dynamic displays and interactive participation, thus changing the situation of consumer-only participation and greatly strengthening interactivity and multi-dimensional participation. We should develop immersive scenes and experience projects, such as immersive exhibitions, immersive performances, and more. Through digital environment rendering, we can precisely define IP content, break the boundary between scenes and people, and form a sense of scene and immersion with strong visual impacts created by dynamic performances.

Meanwhile, we should maximize the application of science and technology in night-time scenes and expand the value created by scenes. Night-time scenes should actively explore the application of core technologies such as intelligent images, light field technology, naked-eye 3D technology, interactive experience technology AR/VR, 5G holography, etc., to bring consumers a new night-time experience with a combination of virtuality with reality, and a shocking effect. Cities at night are based on scenes supported by technologies, giving us environmental-friendly creative night-time shows such as art image shows, light shows, projection shows, and drone formations. China’s original architecture, scenic spots, culture, and art are integrated comprehensively to form intelligent scenes and create value for night-time touring projects. A night-time performance will also need to display cultural charm using modern technology and adopt the combination of “IP story as theme + sound and light + actors,” to build a mysterious, metaphysical, romantic, and exciting fantasy. In doing so, visitors can encounter a wonderful light and shadow show.

We should also cultivate a favorable ecological system for innovation in night-time scenes. Government departments should establish innovation platforms for “night-time smart scenes” and make resources such as technology, standards, and channels available to all. Night-time industrial alliances, associations, and other organizations should be encouraged to actively cultivate scene intermediary service agencies and enterprises, carry out turn-key projects in terms of technology integration, match the supply and demand for scene technologies, and offer other services. This will continuously improve the organizational efficiency of scene digitalization and intelligence.

At the same time, a special night-time industry guidance fund may be established in due course, to facilitate technological innovation, business incubation, and talent training for the implementation of high-quality scenes, to rely on financial means to encourage technological innovations in night-time scenes.


Liao Zhuoxian is a research fellow from the Institute of Industrial Economics at Hunan Academy of Social Sciences.







Editor: Yu Hui

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