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Launched in 2009, Jing Daily is the leading digital publication on luxury consumer trends in China. Professionals seeking to understand China’s complex and rapidly evolving luxury industry look to Jing Daily for fresh and accurate insights. We publish up-to-the-minute news updates, reports on key trends, insights from leading industry figures, and in-depth analysis on this vitally important market.
Personalization previously only existed in a high-end couture world for private clients. Now, Italian luxury shoe brand Sergio Rossi grants a similar sense of privilege to a wider range of consumers and delivers it right to the fingertips of Chinese customers with a new WeChat campaign that showcases the brand’s ambitions to court digital-savvy Chinese consumers.
Launched on September 10, customers can access the personalization service through Sergio Rossi’s WeChat mini-program. The homepage includes an English-language video, demonstrating how consumers can design a shoe. They can experiment with a wide variety of elements to create their very own Sergio Rossi shoe – from the material, color and length of the heel to plate and customized letters. And the vehicle, the WeChat mini-program, empowers a one-stop shopping experience, from design and payment to social media sharing.
Participating customers can see how each customization option alters the price of their shoes in real time. Of course, design decisions need to be made carefully, as there is no refund or return option for the customized footwear once it is ordered. Thankfully, the mini-program provides a 360-degree digital preview, which can help customers gauge the look and feel of their personalized footwear.
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Following the likes of Longchamp, Gucci, Michael Kors and Fendi, Burberry has become the next global luxury giant to open an official WeChat mini-program. Launched today, the brand’s mini-program campaign takes the form of a social game in honor of Chinese Valentine’s Day – or Qixi – that this year falls on Friday 17 August.
Burberry’s new mini-program encourages followers to participate in a game with their partners, based on discovering different types of relationships. After a short quiz, with questions like, “Which shirt would you most like your partner to wear on a date?” (all Burberry, of course) couples are matched with one of 27 different “relationship outcomes” to describe their partnership – including “when cats meet dogs” and “the tale of ice and fire.”
Completing the game gives the user access to shop Burberry’s latest collection, including two new Qixi bags exclusive to China. For Chinese Valentine’s Day, Burberry has released its red “Belt Bag” and red “Pin Clutch”, which are only available in China on social platforms (WeChat and Weibo), burberry.cn and in mainland China stores. The exclusive Belt Bag is on sale for $2617 (17,900RMB), with the Pin Clutch retailing at $1637 (11,200RMB).
Josie Zhang, Vice President of Burberry in China, told Jing Daily,
“Mobile is now the largest digital channel for us in China. The WeChat mini-program allows the customer to experience our brand in a seamless and engaging way, which is perfect for social commerce.”
According to Burberry, the Chinese luxury customer is now demanding social commerce platforms that offer personalisation and responsiveness – to replicate an in-store experience.
“We’re expanding the leather goods offering and we launched the Belt Bag globally. The Belt Bag has performed extremely well in China, which is why we are releasing an exclusive red version. This is a very high-quality large bag at a higher price point and it’s been very well received, in particular in China.”
This is the first time Burberry has launched a China-only product, and comes following the release last month of the brand’s Q1 Financial Review. According to the report, sales in the Asia-Pacific region saw mid-single digit percentage growth, led both by Chinese customers shopping at home, and Chinese tourists spending in other Asia-Pacific destinations.
The launch of Burberry’s first mini-program is the next in a line of strategic ideas hoping to strengthen the brand’s Chinese social commerce presence. The British fashion house, however, is likely to have competition – as Chinese Valentine’s Day approaches, many luxury brands will be garnering for a slice of the lucrative mini-program pie.
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Commerce is changing in China at rates unseen in any other market. Possibly the biggest change is in the attitudes and shopping behaviors of modern Chinese consumers. These shoppers demand the kind of convenience technology can provide, yet are increasingly seeking meaningful ways to engage with brands in the real world.
Digital giant Alibaba’s “New Retail” strategy attests to this phenomenon. By investing in brick and mortar stores, Alibaba is pushing forward the integration of online and offline retail to create a seamless omnichannel consumer experience.
Their main competitor, JD.com, is embracing the trend too. The e-commerce company says it plans to open a total of one million smart convenience stores in the next four years, claiming that they will open an average of 1,000 a day in 2018. Many of these stores will be unmanned and allow customers to pay with facial recognition.
On June 16, China’s popular social e-commerce platform Xiaohongshu (RED)became one of the first of the smaller e-commerce players to join the giants in their journey into brick-and-mortar, by launching its first offline store RED Home in Shanghai. In just a couple of weeks, the store has proved popular with Xiaohongshu’s loyal online user base.
The store is a case study in the future of retail and how to create a space specifically designed for the young, modern Chinese consumer, incorporating the major trends of Chinese retail.
1. Socialization and community
Xiaohongshu representatives often emphasize that it is first and foremost a social platform; e-commerce is a secondary component added in response to the needs and requests of its community.
In an interview with Chinese tech media outlet 36KR, Xiaohongshu explained that the main goal of the offline store is not to increase sales but to be an experientialplace for its community to meet offline.
The store features a café and ice cream shop deliberately located adjacent to the home goods department, offering customers the chance to hang out and spend time with each other and the products.
The store’s inventory does not include all items available on the Xiaohongshu platform, instead featuring only the most highly ranked products from its app. In this way, Xiaohongshu is using the preferences of its online community to curate the offline store’s inventory.
2. Technological Integration
Constant exposure to new technologies and innovative social media campaigns have become an everyday part of Chinese consumers’ lives. Physical shops need to adopt these technologies and integrate virtual activities into real life, in a way that is practical for the consumer.
For example, beauty retailers including the Yves Saint Laurent store in Shanghai have added augmented reality screens that use facial recognition to enable customers to virtually try on different makeup looks. Beauty and skincare are the most popular product categories on the Xiaohongshu platform, and so this technology was also added to the app’s new offline location.
The core feature of the Xiaohongshu app is product reviews, an aspect that has been seamlessly integrated into the offline experience. Instead of the customer pulling out their phone to search for reviews online, the offline location offers screens located throughout the store. Customers can bring any item in the store over to the screen, and the screen will then pull up review posts about that particular product on the Xiaohongshu app.
For brands looking to foster a deeper connection with Chinese millennials, an experiential approach is the key. With nearly 80 percent of its users under the age of 35, this was extremely important for Xiaohongshu to keep in mind when creating its offline store.
In addition to the café and ice cream counter, the Xiaohongshu store also has a Lego building area. Following the vintage arcade game fad happening in China right now, the store has claw machines with prizes such as designer lipsticks.
The Xiaohongshu platform centers around a community who love to take photos of their lives and share them online. Because of this, the store aims to be a selfie-lovers paradise, having clearly been designed with social media in mind.
Interestingly, in an interview, Xiaohongshu shared that the staff responsible for designing the store had no previous offline retail experience. Instead, it was their years in online retail – especially in the fashion and beauty industries – that led them to think outside the box when it came to the store’s layout, décor and technological integration.
Xiaohongshu is not exclusively a luxury e-commerce platform and therefore its offline store cannot be completely comparable to that of a luxury brand. However, RED Home offers some key insights into the future of retail in China, showing how offline retail spaces can be designed in order to capture the attention of young Chinese consumers, integrating technology in a way that complements the behaviors of a brand’s target audience.
Chinese office worker Fan remembers when she carried both high heels and sneakers to work, how much her feet hurt after a long day of work on the heels and how her beloved sneakers saved the day.
Fan works as an HR Consultant in a tech firm in Beijing, she said she now wears sneakers in the office. “I can’t remember when it first started, but (wearing sneakers at work) definitely become more popular in recent years.”
Fan said fashion bloggers influence her choice of fashionable sneakers the most, and she shares the styles on her WeChat account. As she became more comfortable wearing sneakers inside and outside of work, Fan became more willing to spend upwards of $200 on each pair of shoes.
The stylish sneaker trend is starting to have an impact on the sales of footwear from traditional luxury brands. Analysts from investment bank RBC Europe wrote in a recent report that, “The casualization trend is benefiting categories like sneakers and down jackets at the expense of formal wear/formal shoes.” Last year Euromonitor pointed out that the high-end athleisure market is forecast to overtake China’s luxury market by 2020.
On luxury e-commerce platform OFashion, there is very little difference between the price of sneakers by luxury brands, and sneakers by traditional sportswear labels. For example, a pair of Adidas Yeezy Desert Rat 500 is marked at 3149 yuan ($492.8), Gucci’s Ace embroidered sneaker sells for 3880 yuan ($607.28), Air Vapormax Off White is 5090 yuan ($796.66), and Balenciaga’s Speed Signature Mesh Sock Sneaker can be purchased for 4980 yuan ($779.39).
Although this competition may not be good news for luxury brands, the impact it has brought on the sportswear industry is positive, allowing sneakers to be sold at a higher price and with a higher product margin than ever before. According to Erwan Rambourg from HSBC, this is, “the luxurization of sneakers”.
Gildo Zegna, CEO of Italian luxury fashion house Ermenegildo Zegna, attributed the rising price of sportswear sneakers to their rise in emotional value, “If there is one product today that is impulse driven and creates emotions among consumers, it is the sneaker (…) you are talking about people spending $100 to $700 on a single pair.”
Higher pricing has enabled sports brands to share the driving seat with luxury brands. Yet more alarming for luxury brands is a new culture of sneaker exchange – partially driven by emotions and impulse. Young consumers are viewing purchasing of limited edition sneakers in a similar way to that of a Birkin bag – many hold immediate investment value and can be auctioned for much higher prices.
Stock X, a trading platform designed to make sneaker exchange easier, allows buyers to put their sneakers up for auction, and others to buy in real time just like exchanging stocks. Users get their own sneaker portfolio, and track the value of their collection over time, comparing it to others. Two years since the platform was founded, Stock X regularly exceeds as high as $2 million sales a day – approximately 12,000 transactions. On Stock X, the option of shipping to China is now available, and as Fashion Network reported early this year, the company is moving towards further expansion in China.
It’s hard to say how much crossover there is between sneakerheads and luxury buyers, but the healthy growth of both industries are being heavily fueled by young millennials. As the growth of streetwear consumption in China surpasses other fashion industries, the increasing exposure to urban clothing will make consumers open to the option of investing in a pair of higher-priced sneakers.
Meanwhile, the changing structure has led brands to think twice about their production strategies. Paul Andrew, the creative director of Italian brand Salvatore Ferragamo, said in an interview with W magazine: “People wear sneakers so much now that the architecture of the foot has really changed. Italian shoemakers often use casts that are 30 years old, but feet today have become more spread out.” Now he adds a pad made out of memory foam to all of his shoes.
With racing games and a claw machine, it looks more like an arcade than a boutique. But the Coco Game Center housed in trendy Shanghai mall K11 from April 14 to 23 is actually a pop-up shop created by French luxury house Chanel. The racing game, for instance, has a double C logo steering wheel, and the prizes captured by the claw machine are Chanel cosmetics samples.
Chanel’s first game-themed pop-up took place in Tokyo in March this year, and excitement about it spilled over to Chinese fans on social media. When Chanel announced it was bringing the pop-up to China, reservations were booked out a week before it arrived.
The concept of pop-up stores was popularized by Japanese fashion label Comme des Garçons. Its founder, Rei Kawakubo, opened the label’s first pop-up store in Berlin in 2004. Since then, the fashion label has been making its mark around the world through pop-up stores.
The compound annual growth rate of pop-up retailing has been over 100 percent since 2015. By 2020, over 3,000 pop-up stores will have launched in China.
Beyond Traditional Retail
Pop-up stores’ spike in popularity can be attributed in part to the shifting tides of real estate. Traditional retail space is becoming more and more expensive but can feel outdated, making pop-up stores a more exciting alternative.
They allow luxury brands to unleash their creativity, building a branded world that consumers can fully inhabit. Impressive details stimulate fans to record their experiences and post them on social media. Done well, pop-up stores provide authentic social media exposure that money can’t buy.
Last year, Chanel launched its Chanel Café, inviting fans to taste branded dessert and coffee after first trying out some of their products. Around the same time, YSL invited fans to a yacht party, providing them with free makeovers. At both events, brands offered exclusive products for consumers to purchase.
Combining exclusive products and limited durations, pop-up stores are a textbook example of hunger marketing, which is particularly effective in China. Queues often generate excitement, rather than a sense of inconvenience.
Digital Pop-ups Are Now a Thing
Pop-ups are no longer limited to brands entering shopping malls. E-commerce sites are also hosting pop-ups both online and offline.
Luxury E-commerce platform Secooopened a pop-up store with lingerie brand La Perla last year in Beijing’s popular Sanlitun shopping district. Similarly, MyMM, a content-driven e-commerce platform, launched a ‘Trend hunter’ themed pop-up store in Shanghai, allowing visitors to touch the merchandise listed on the site. MyMM said the pop-up store benefits lesser-known brands on the platform, giving them a chance to test consumer response before investing in a physical store.
“About one and a half years ago, more and more e-commerce sites started to think about opening an offline pop-up shop. It has reached a near-explosive state this year,” Vincent Tan, the founder of a pop-up agency POPEX told Chinese media Netease Tech.
He argued that it’s become harder for e-commerce platforms to acquire new users online, and shopping malls have been struggling to attract foot traffic. Pop-ups are seen as a solution to both problems, leading online and offline retailers to increasingly working together.
Another recent development is e-commerce sites hosting virtual pop-ups on their platforms. Luxury brands concerned about cheapening their brand by selling online can experiment with e-commerce platforms by first trying a limited collaboration. On April 10 this year, for instance, luxury watchmaker Audemars Piguet announced its first online pop-up boutique in partnership with JD.com, which marks the 143-year-old Swiss manufacturer’s first foray into e-commerce. That gives them the opportunity to evaluate sales performance and consumer feedback before committing to a deeper, more ongoing relationship.
What’s the Future of Pop-ups?
While pop-up shops can be a useful testing ground for some brands, for others they may already be too cost-prohibitive.
Pop-up stores are meant to make young consumers excited, but as they become more commonplace, it’s getting harder to generate that engagement. Simultaneously, the cost of launching a successful pop-up has gone up as more PR and marketing staff are needed, and hiring a space is becoming more expensive.
For smaller brands, hosting a pop-up doesn’t necessarily help them survive and thrive. Guo Wanyi, a manager of a Chinese brand called Debrand said, “It’s not like a physical store where you can count on sales. Often times the purpose of opening a pop-up is not to generate sales, so you can’t necessarily get back the cost.”
For luxury brands, while pop-ups can help reach younger consumers, hosting too many can eat away at their uniqueness. Like online marketing, not ever retail pop-up retail store can go viral.
In January this year, thousands of developers gathered at WeChat’s Annual Conference in Guangzhou, anxiously waiting for Allen Zhang (??? ), the creator of WeChat, to disclose the new features coming to the most used app in China. We spoke with four strategiests who help brands with WeChat about what the new announcements will mean for luxury brands in the Year of Dog.
1. Create Better, More Original Content
One of the biggest announcements from the conference is that WeChat is going to launch a separate app for Official Accounts, typically used by brands, which will allow readers to access content more easily and for operators to better manage their content.
However, Zhang pointed out, there will be no Facebook-style newsfeed for subscription accounts. This is because the WeChat team truly believes in creating a decentralized system so that users can decide which content they want to view.
“This puts pressure back on brands to create consistent, great content,” said Preeti Kumar, head of digital strategy at 31Ten. Though WeChat said they will continue to refine the search feature, it’s not clear how the search algorithm in WeChat works. Brands can’t game the system, so they need to create quality content that readers will seek out and share.
While brands should be getting their content right before it is published, WeChat now allows for corrections of up to five Chinese characters on Official Accounts, enough to fix typos, if not factual errors. Kumar sees this as a small but important step in enabling brands to enhance the quality of their content.
Jenny Chen, the marketing manager of WalktheChat, believes the introduction of WeChat-native stores that run as Mini Programs within the app will be less important to sales than quality content. “Content and marketing campaigns will remain the key driver for e-commerce sales for luxury brands,” she said.
2. Ensure My Mini Program Strategy is Omnichannel
There has been an explosion in WeChat mini-programs since the capability was established last year. Look at the data: there are now 580,000 mini programs, with a combined 170 million daily active users.
Offline is the key playground, and it is where luxury brands can build an emotional connection with their consumers.
In the Year of the Dog “WeChat Mini Programs will be part of an overall omnichannel approach that has evolved for luxury brands”, said Jeff Fish, CEO of TMG Worldwide, a New York-based agency that helps global brands connect with customers on WeChat. He gave the example of QR codes included in retail spaces to seamlessly incorporate digital content.
Meanwhile, Kumar emphasized Mini Programs should be used for more than just sales. “It could also be used for enhancing the overall user experience by providing exclusive access, convenience, and customization possibilities.” She gave the example of Longchamp’s Mini Program that allows consumers to customize their tote bags, and Tesla’s Mini Program that provides drivers with information about charging stations.
Stepping back, Chen saw not just luxury retailers including more digital content in stores, but also tech companies leading bricks and mortar retail. “Both Alibaba and Tencent are focused on acquiring big retail stores and retail brands in 2018. We can expect both companies to restructure retail organizations and aggregate the data from both retail shops and e-commerce stores.”
3. Take Advantage of Better Ad Data
Advertisers have complained how little data WeChat Ads provides, making it harder for them to target specific audiences. Fish from TMG said: “This is getting better every day. The team at Tencent has devoted significant resources to producing better targeting and more visibility into actionable intelligence.”
However, their progress may be slow compared to their Western counterparts.
“I would not expect WeChat ads to become as sophisticated as Facebook or Google this year,” said Chen. “Brands could consider other advertising platforms such as Toutiao, which have a lot of active users in second, third and fourth tier cities, making them an effective way for big luxury brands to expand their reach. And Toutiao is less strict on the requirements on overseas entities running ads.”
4. Ensure My Website’s Store Accepts WeChat Payments
Seventy percent of customers mentioned brands’ own websites as their preferred online shopping destination because of the guaranteed authenticity and exclusivity, according to a China luxury consumer survey conducted by Bain in 2017.
All four experts agreed the integration of official websites and mobile payment should be a major focus this year.
“WeChat payments will be more systematically set-up on brands’ .com websites, giving a convenient and fast experience to Chinese consumers,” said Alexis Bonhomme, the co-founder and general manager of Curiosity China.
“We have been assisting luxury brands in hospitality and hard goods sectors to integrate WeChat pay into their websites since last year,” added Kumar, “and the demand is only growing.”
“Chinese customers are not used to inputting credit card information on websites, unless it’s JD.com or Taobao,” Chen said. “And it’s not just WeChat pay. Brands should also integrate Alipay to give the customer more China-Friendly options.”
5. Explore WeChat as a Customer Relationship Management Tool
Chen questioned if that is realistic this year. “Integration with global CRM will remain a a question since users behave so differently on WeChat,” she said. “Companies might as well establish a local team to carry out their China social media strategy.”
“Our focus has been on integrating [CRM service] Salesforce for brands, and treating WeChat as the main channel for China, but just one of many channels globally,” added Fish.
He gave the example of a luxury brand whose sales associates invite customers to join a rewards program, have them scan a QR code to follow the brand’s official WeChat account, then track then add the customer to Salesforce for managing personalized communication. Using WeChat as a CRM tool can help “clients feel like members of an extended family,” Kumar added.
Sustainable fashion became something of a mantra in the luxury fashion world this year. With Gucci announcing its fur-free plan for 2018, fashion brands in Mainland China and Hong Kong are also setting up their own sustainable fashion initiatives, but do Chinese consumers care?
Reclothing Bank (?????)
Zhang Na (??), an advocate for sustainable fashion in China, is the founder of Reclothing Bank. She began her fashion career after moving to Shanghai in 2004 and founded her first fashion brand, Fake Natoo, in 2008. Two years later, she created another new brand called “Reclothing Bank,” embarking on a journey into the sustainable fashion world.
Similar to the Los Angeles-based fashion brand Reformation, Reclothing Bank is a lifestyle brand that considers sustainability across the supply chain. What makes it different, however, is that Reclothing outfits are made from second-hand clothes.
“Our sales figures were poor at first because Chinese people generally don’t want used clothes,” Zhang said in an interview with Business of Fashion (Chinese version). Therefore, she had to reconsider the marketing strategy, redesign the used clothes, and describe them instead as “sustainable fashion (????????),” she said.
During Shanghai Fashion Week in October, Reclothing Bank debuted its 2017 collection, General Rejoicing (??). Reclothing Bank’s mission goes beyond “just recycling second-hand clothes”, Zhang said. “I would like to take this opportunity to remind people to stand in awe to nature.”
Another trailblazer in the sustainable fashion industry is the Hong Kong-based BYT, which uses leftover fabrics from luxury brands to create beautiful, trendy outfits. BYT made its debut at the EcoChic Design Award competition in Hong Kong in September.
BYT is co-founded by Christina Dean and Michelle Bang, who are both advocates for waste reduction in the fashion world, having worked at the NGO Redress.
According to the Redress website: “BYT has ambitious plans for its sustainability pillars – including up-cycling fashion’s excess, working with those disenfranchised in the industry and with Asia’s top sustainable manufacturing facilities, so that collectively, BYT’s collections are using the most innovative and sustainable processes available with their trusted partners.”
While there is plenty of supply side enthusiasm for more sustainable fashion, there’s still some resistance to it becoming a big trend in China in 2018.
The second-hand stigma
The clothing industry is the second-largest polluter in the world after oil. On one hand, traditional textile production requires massive quantities of water, which are contaminated with wastes harmful to the soil when they are discharged. Given the imminent threat of climate change, it’s imperative that brands do better.
Although brands such as Reclothing Bank and BYT are promoting sustainable fashion in China already, the full value of well-made, sustainable clothes is still a little abstract for most consumers. Why pay the same amount of money for a leftover, second-hand item when they could buy something brand-new for less?
There is a stigma against second-hand and upcycled items that is itself handed down from the previous generation, which endured decades of poverty.
Nonetheless, wearing sustainable fashion represents a new way of thinking — pursuing something simpler and more beneficial to everyone, not just the wearer, in the long run. As governments and global consumers demand more sustainable practices from industry, brands will need to convince Chinese consumers that it’s worth paying a little more for sustainable fashion. Luxury brands, with their greater attention to making quality, lasting clothes, are in a strong position to lead the charge.
By Huixin Deng
This article was originally published on Jing Daily, a Fashion & Mash content partner.
Alibaba’s Singles Day, China’s biggest online shopping holiday, is just around the corner. Last year, the e-commerce company’s online marketplaces Tmall and Taobao pulled in a total of $17.8 billion of sales within 24 days. Citigroup forecasted that sales in 2017 will reach $24 billion.
In the lead-up to the event this year, Alibaba Group has made great marketing efforts to stoke Chinese consumers’ anticipation for the event. It hosted a “See Now Buy Now” fashion show ahead of the festival, inviting a slew of Chinese celebrities to wear outfits and carry products provided by participating brands while performing on stage. The show was broadcast on a number of different channels, including China’s biggest online streaming site Youku and several local TV stations. Chinese consumers could watch the show on their mobile phones and place orders directly if they were interested in items shown by performers.
With the Singles Day shopping holiday, Alibaba has provided international fashion and luxury brands with a golden opportunity to reach out to Chinese consumers. According to Alizila, the company’s PR portal, the size of Singles Day has grown to more than 18 times that of Amazon Prime Day, and 2.5 times larger than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.
For luxury and fashion brands, the festival is the one annual retail event that they cannot miss if they want to get the most out of the Chinese market. Currently, top-tier luxury labels still refrain from participating in it. The event features lots of discounts and sales, which goes against the traditional pricing principles of the luxury business. However, we have seen an increasing number of premium labels decide to give it a try in recent years.
Some new labels such as Jason Wu and Opening Ceremony joined the festival this year, in addition to long-time participants including Ralph Lauren, Guerlain, and Estee Lauder.
The luxury fashion brands that do participate in Singles Day all use WeChat as a crucial communication channel, to inform consumers of their Singles Day promotions. The following are eight great WeChat campaigns released by brands that caught our attention:
Coach has rolled out a very nicely planned WeChat campaign to promote its Singles Day sales. On November 7, the brand published an article to introduce this year’s deals. Readers can also peruse a much more visually-appealing, interactive HTML5 page by following the link provided at the end of the post. Users can navigate through the HTML5 page to get detailed information, such as descriptions and discount rates, on each deal. When they click on items that they’re interested in, shoppers will be directed to Coach’s Chinese e-commerce website where they can place an order immediately.
To celebrate this year’s Singles Day, the fashion footwear label Stuart Weitzman is calling on its followers to purchase some of its most popular shoes to reward themselves, especially those who are single. On November 11, consumers will enjoy 20% off of any order that they place on the brand’s official e-commerce website. Stuart Weitzman’s WeChat campaign has done a good job of encouraging readers to purchase products. At the end of Stuart Weitzman’s post, consumers can click to enter the e-commerce site and order directly. There is also information on offline store locations for those people who want to visit a store and try on the footwear.
The Taiwanese luxury fashion brand Shiatzy Chen, which is often referred to as the Chanel of Taiwan, not only sees Singles Day as a chance to boost sales, but also to acquire new members to sign up on its online boutique store. In the brand’s WeChat post, it encourages followers to register in order to receive a promotional coupon for Singles Day.
The German affordable luxury brand MCM published a WeChat article on November 8, three days before the launch of Singles Day, to offer tips on what readers should buy from the brand and how to be prepared to score the best deals. The article has a direct link to MCM’s new WeChat boutique store, where followers can browse through the Singles Day deals and add interesting items to their carts. The sales event officially starts at 10am and ends at 9pm on November 11. Consumers can use WeChat Pay or Alipay to make purchases on its WeChat boutique store.
Capitalising on the Singles Day fever, Michael Kors released a WeChat campaign one week ahead of the festival where it listed a wide range of products for readers to purchase. Under every item that the brand promotes in the post, users can click a button that will take them to the Michael Kors’ Chinese online store for them to place orders right away.
Ralph Lauren has launched its promotions on both Alibaba’s Tmall and JD.com to participate in this year’s Singles Day. Its WeChat campaign, nonetheless, seems to be separate from the sales activities on e-commerce sites, with no direct links to facilitate purchases. The post on WeChat focuses on promoting “Polo Bear”-themed items to readers. Additionally, Ralph Lauren is also trying to drive more viewers to officially enrol in the brand’s WeChat customer relationship management (CRM) system. To encourage them to do it, the brand gives away a “Polo Bear” WeChat emoji as a perk once they sign up.
Another American affordable luxury label, Kate Spade, also requires users to enrol in its CRM system on WeChat to receive Singles Day coupons. Consumers can use them to purchase any Kate Spade products in any China store between November 3-12.
Following the official launch of its flagship store on Tmall earlier this year, Furla has participated in Alibaba’s “See Now Buy Now” fashion show for Singles Day. The goal of the brand’s WeChat account is to direct more users to purchase products on Tmall. The post explains in detail what steps Chinese consumers should take to pre-order from the “See Now Buy Now” fashion show.
Gucci’s strong momentum has continued entering the second half of this year. The Italian heritage brand delivered another spectacular earnings result earlier this week, reporting a 49% jump in sales in the third quarter. The Asia-Pacific region sales, led by China, increased 36%.
This higher-than-expected growth proves the continuous influence of the brand’s creative director Alessandro Michele in dictating the fashion taste of global consumers. Michele, who has helmed the house since 2015, is the hero behind Gucci’s latest turnaround.
In China, Gucci is leading the way in profiting from the recovery of the country’s luxury market in recent years. The bold and imaginative design has impressed and won over the hearts of Chinese millennial consumers. Aside from the impressive sales figure, younger generations’ high interest in the brand’s new product lines such as home decor, furniture and perfume, along with the constantly organic promotion by a slew of top-tier online influencers including celebrities Liu Wen and Yang Mi, and fashion bloggers gogoboi and Becky Li, are all signs of Gucci’s success with this demographic.
To Gucci’s CEO Marco Bizzarri, who, under his leadership, has put creativity at the core of the brand culture, this pessimism may not hold true. During the WWD’s CEO Summit on October 25, Bizzarri was confident enough to say that almost every consumer on the planet (no matter the age and nationality) is “Feeling Gucci”.
“Feel Gucci” is a term coined and defined by Bizzarri’s 16-year-old daughter, meaning, “feel good”. The term reflects the authenticity and the sincerity of the work of Alessandro Michele. Bizzarri further explained that the brand culture that he instilled, which now values creativity, instinct, and intuition, has made him firmly believe consumers’ enthusiasm that Gucci could continue strong.
“Creativity was put again at the center of Gucci,” he said. “[And] respect, happiness, passion, empowerment, inclusivity are values that foster creativity.”
Upon his arrival at Gucci in 2015, Bizzarri revolutionised the office atmosphere through removing all the black-and-white images of the brand’s deceased supporters like Grace Kelly and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. The change was meant to make Gucci set apart from its glorious history and bring in fresh ideas, creativity, joy and emotion.
The “Shadow Executive Committee” is another example of how he empowers a bottom-up idea transfer. The unofficial organ is where Bizzarri can listen to the opinions of lower-level employees. He disclosed that “Gucci Places”, the new travel app released in August this year, was the outcome of the committee.
“You need to listen to consumers, but not too much,” said Bizzarri, who acknowledged the significance of customer’s ideas but also the need to set some distance from them in order to avoid their opinions completely dominating the company’s vision.
He believes “intuition and instinct are ultimately more important than intellect and rationality”. He firmly stated that one of the best professional choices he made — appointing Michele, a person who was not even on the list of candidates for Creative Director — was based entirely on his intuition and instinct.
“[Alessandro] opened the door and was wearing the Princetown fur loafers,” said Bizzarri. “We were thinking the same way — for me, it was from a business standpoint, and for him, design. It was very much about empathy. You feel like you found the right person immediately.”
From Bizzarri’s talk at the Summit, it is clear that his approach to managing this 95-year-old iconic fashion label is to preserve the most human side of luxury culture, which prioritises creativity, instinct, and intuition over rational, strategy, and technology.
In today’s fashion world, the advance of technology and data science has brought assistance as well as distraction to the business. Some high-end brands tend to focus on the modern, superficial metrics such as social media and KOL (influencer) traffic while neglecting the real factor — namely, human creativity, that can differentiate them from rivals among consumers.
China’s second-largest e-commerce website JD has officially announced the launch of its first-ever luxury online platform, “Toplife”, according to a public announcement released by the firm on October 10. The new site is a full-price online shopping platform that allows international luxury labels to set up flagship stores selling products directly to affluent Chinese consumers.
Luxury labels including La Perla, Emporio Armani, Rimowa and Trussardi will be the first group of users on Toplife. More brands are expected to join the site in the coming weeks.
The development signals JD’s efforts to further compete with its key rival, Alibaba Group, to achieve a leading position in the country’s luxury market, a sector that Bain & Company expected to see growing around two to four percent to reach approximately $305 billion this year. In August, Alibaba inaugurated “Luxury Pavilion“, a new section within its business-to-consumer site Tmall for premium and luxury brands to connect with a pre-selected group of super-wealthy customers.
“Like Tmall’s Luxury Pavilion, JD.com’s Toplife creates a space separate from the e-tailer’s mass-market platform in order to provide the high-end online experience that luxury brands require,” said Liz Flora, editor of Asia-Pacific research at the New York-based digital intelligence firm L2.
JD’s Toplife and Alibaba’s Luxury Pavilion offer a great deal of similar service to luxury brands; both providing brands who work with them with additional offerings such as customer service, delivery, marketing and branding expertise.
Moreover, both platforms stress the need to connect online-to-offline (O2O) experience for luxury shoppers in China. Luxury Pavilion ultimately aims to test out Alibaba’s “New Retail” business model, which utilises new technology to create more customised and interactive shopping experiences for consumers.
Toplife, on the other hand, considered an O2O connection as an important step for JD’s luxury expansion going forward. Ding Xia, president of JD Fashion, told Jing Daily that “omnichannel solutions are definitely something we are experimenting with, especially for fashion where fit and look are so personal”.
“We are working on allowing consumers to order multiple pieces of clothing or accessories through our white glove service and keeping only the ones that are exactly what they want. That’s what a luxury experience needs to be, online-offline,” she added.
However, there are also remarkable differences between the two platforms of which luxury brands need to be aware.
Exclusivity or not
Alibaba’s Luxury Pavilion is an exclusive site to which wealthy consumers can only gain access if they are invited by Alibaba. Toplife is open to the public.
The sense of exclusivity created by Luxury Pavilion’s invitation-only mechanism seems to fit more with the spirit of luxury brands, who traditionally justify their premium pricing and top-notch image by offering an exclusive experience. Through inviting consumers who have demonstrated a certain level of purchasing power in the past, Alibaba helps luxury brands select customers they want.
When questioning if an open platform can fulfil the same need, Ding said: “Our unparalleled big data lets us identify those most likely to appreciate the offer and micro-target. JD has always attracted users focused on quality and service over price, so this is a natural fit for the high end of our user base.”
More autonomy and independence?
Compared to Alibaba, JD seems to give more autonomy to luxury brands. According to Ding, Toplife is a stand-alone luxury website that is separate from JD’s main e-commerce platform. Luxury Pavilion, on the other hand, is a sub-section of the Tmall site.
“Super luxury brands don’t want a small corner of an all-categories site, so we built Toplife as a stand-alone, truly luxury shopping experience,” said Ding. “Brands and consumers can see this is a totally different model that changes the game.”
In addition, JD emphasises that luxury brands have full control of how they want their flagship stores to appear.
Value-added logistics service
Luxury brands who work with JD’s Toplife can also use the company’s self-operated nationwide logistics network. Earlier this year, the e-commerce giant initiated a premium delivery service called “JD Luxury Express” to improve the overall shopping experience for their customers. Luxury shoppers from China’s major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Chengdu will receive their online orders in less than 24 hours by delivery persons who wear suits and white gloves.
Speedy delivery service is believed to be much valued by Chinese online consumers no matter if they purchase luxury items or not.
Until now, the launch of Luxury Pavilion and Toplife by Alibaba and JD respectively indicates China’s top two e-commerce giants both have recognised one of their major obstacles expanding in the luxury arena, that is, the lack of fashion and luxury DNA as a mass-facing platform.
As L2’s Flora put it: “Tmall and JD.com have struggled to attract official partnerships with luxury brands due to perceived brand image incompatibility.”
According to L2’s Digital IQ Index: Luxury China 2017, only 24% of luxury brands had official stores on Tmall and only 10% operated them on JD.com as of June 2017.