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social media

Do Chinese fashion bloggers have what it takes for luxury brands to succeed?

Chinese fashion bloggers - Gogoboi (second from left), who was ranked as the number one fashion blogger in China by Exane BNP Paribas, attended the Swarovski BeBrilliant event in New York last year. (Shutterstock)
Gogoboi (second from left), who was ranked as the number one fashion blogger in China by Exane BNP Paribas, attended the Swarovski BeBrilliant event in New York last year. (Shutterstock)

Luxury fashion brands marketing to China’s affluent consumers can no doubt benefit by leveraging the huge social media followings of local fashion bloggers. However, this strategy can leave brands with more questions than answers. Investment company Exane BNP Paribas’ recent report, The Shopping Guide: Bloggers in China, which names China’s top 10 fashion bloggers, explores exactly to what extent these influencers can be helpful.

The report ranks China’s most influential fashion bloggers based on their number of Weibo followers, and some of the most familiar names come out on top, including Gogoboi (ranked #1) and Mr. Bags (#3). Their social media feeds cover a wide range of content that varies from blogger to blogger. For example, Dipsy (called Dixi in Chinese, #2), and Vogue China columnist, whose Weibo handle is weishaonian_k (#8) both post about seasonal collections, runway shows at major international fashion weeks, and Chinese celebrities’ cooperation with brands. Fashion columnist with the handle libeika (#4) and shiliupo (#10) are styling experts who pair products from different brands to show readers how to dress.

The top 10 Chinese fashion bloggers ranked by Exane BNP Paribas based on their number of Weibo followers
The top 10 Chinese fashion bloggers ranked by Exane BNP Paribas based on their number of Weibo followers

The report illustrates that thanks to their vast number of followers, fashion bloggers are equally useful or even better than media coverage and advertisement to create buzz in China, unlike in the West, where bloggers are less influential for luxury brands compared to celebrities and fashion media outlets. This is because the rise of fashion bloggers and the development of the Chinese luxury market happened in tandem. The report explains that fashion bloggers “have filled a void on the internet ahead of luxury/fashion brands and publishers” in educating Chinese consumers about different brands.

However, when it comes to actually transferring popularity from the fashion bloggers to luxury brands, brands have to pay attention to more than just a blogger’s number of followers. Luca Solca, the author of the report and the head of luxury goods at Exane BNP Paribas, said social media following is not a good enough metric to gauge a blogger’s value. “The number of social actions [likes, shares, and comments] and posts is a much better indicator of social media traction,” he said.

“The real ‘effectiveness’ of key opinion leaders (KOLs) also derives from their personality, specific writing style, visual style, unique skills or level of authority within the fashion industry,” said Patrice Nordey, the Shanghai-based chief executive officer of digital inception agency Velvet Group.

Examples of successful collaborations include Gucci’s turnaround in 2016, which can be said to be because of Chinese fashion bloggers who first caught on to the new designs and promoted them to consumers. Earlier this year, a capsule collection released jointly by Mr. Bags and the handbag brand Strathberry also attracted praise online. Not all matches are perfect though—when Gogoboi took over the Weibo handle of Louis Vuitton during Paris Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2015, Chinese internet users sniffed at Louis Vuitton’s choice as they thought Gogoboi’s style did not fit with the brand image. In his latest Weibo campaign for Fendi, the number of comments under his post also dwarfed the average level of engagement he is able to generate.

What is possibly the biggest reason for brands to be cautious about seeking a one-on-one partnership with a Chinese fashion blogger is the unclear relationship between sales and influencer marketing. After Gogoboi’s November Fendi campaign, the brand’s parent company LVMH reported in its 2016 annual report that Fendi saw sales growth in China’s market. The two events may be correlated, but such correlation does not imply causation.

chinese fashion bloggers - Givenchy’s “Mini Horizon” handbag order page on WeChat
Givenchy’s “Mini Horizon” handbag order page on WeChat

Mr. Bags’ recent collaboration with Givenchy is another interesting case. Turning WeChat into a social e-commerce site, Mr. Bags gave his followers access to buy his exclusive Valentine’s Day edition Givenchy “Mini Horizon” handbags. He reported that 80 handbags were sold out in 12 minutes, but it remains unknown if such an astonishing achievement can be completely credited to his influence or if it’s a result of “hunger marketing,” a promotional strategy used by brands to boost customers’ desire to buy their new products by limiting supply. This strategy has been frequently used by Chinese brands, such as tech company Xiaomi, and has proven successful in drumming up sales in the short term.

There is no doubt that Chinese fashion bloggers will continue to play a significant role in the luxury fashion industry. But one thing is clear: blogging is no longer a hobby for them. Apart from their large online following, they need to prove their real effectiveness and business value in the long run.

By Yiling Pan @SiennaPan

This article was originally published on Jing Daily, a Fashion & Mash content partner.

Categories
e-commerce

Digital luxury: Who are 2016’s winners (and losers)?

Balenciaga digital luxury
Balenciaga.com

Luxury was late to the digital party and for the most part hasn’t acquitted itself well ever since. Which is why the regular ContactLab/Exane BNP Paribas reports into just how good the purchasing experience is for consumers is always interesting.

The report looks at factors such as digital touchpoint like abandoned carts, customer service, ease of ordering and general communications, plus physical touchpoint like packaging, delivery and much more.

Last year it did this from a Milanese viewpoint and this year it was New York. So what did it learn?

Well, Balenciaga and Fendi topped the performance ranking this time after ContactLab did its usual practical tests. It bought and returned products from 31 brand websites and five multi brand e-tailers.

Kering (Balenciaga owner) and LVMH (Fendi owner) must be happy as they were joint first. Kering scored again in number three position as Saint Laurent (or is it YSL these days?) took the bronze medal. Chanel and Coach shared fourth place, just missing the medal-winners rostrum.

Dropping back this time were Cartier, which had scored well last year but was in eighth spot this time, plus former high-ranker Louis Vuitton at only number 17. Hugo Boss was a lowly 31. Gucci stayed at number 16.

Burberry and Prada both improved. But given that Burberry was only at number 13 when it prides itself on being very digitally-focused, that’s not great. And poor old Prada only managed a rise to number 27 so its much-talked-about digital turnaround obviously hasn’t kicked in yet.

What’s so interesting about this particular report is that it’s not about the things we often notice first, such as high profile websites or social media engagement; it’s purely about the nuts and bolts of buying and returning goods, because that’s what the customer does and that’s how the customer interacts most with a brand. Given that online accounted for all of luxury’s growth last year and is expected to do so for the next few years at least, you’d think the experience would be prioritised.

You’d also think luxury retailers rather than monobrands might perform better with their long traditions of customer service, but some of those don’t acquit themselves that well. Saks was only in 13th place, Nordstrom 18th, Barneys 26th and Bergdorf Goodman an unimpressive 35th.

Who was the top retailer? Net-a-Porter in sixth place. I must admit, the experience of buying from this company (and its Yoox arm) is generally excellent. It wasn’t always. Many a time I’ve paid extra for Saturday delivery from Yoox only for something to arrive on Monday. While Net-a-Porter once took five months to refund me for an item returned the day after delivery. It was only a small amount and I completely overlooked not getting the refund until it just showed up nearly half a year later.

But that was five years ago, since then the company has shown why it’s the luxury e-tail leader.

“Net-A-Porter is digital native and is extremely consistent in assuring a top luxury performance in the majority of the more than 100 digital and physical touch points we have been evaluating along the online purchasing process,” said Marco Pozzi, senior advisor at ContactLab. He added that US department stores came out better on the digital touch points (especially Nordstrom and Saks) but they’re “average or lagging on physical touch points”.

“It should not be difficult for department stores to improve packaging, fillers, documentation and overall care in order to give a more luxury and less Amazon-like feeling to online customers,” Pozzi said. “Of course this requires focus on the problem, and for sure additional costs.”

The stores do rate highly on returns though, especially Nordstrom, which is unsurprising as multibrand retailers have a long tradition of liberal returns policies while luxury brands themselves are frequently very unforgiving if you change your mind. However, ContactLab said Burberry and Cartier top the returns service rankings.

This post first appeared on Trendwalk.net, a style-meets-business blog by journalist, trends specialist and business analyst, Sandra Halliday.

Categories
business e-commerce mobile

Luxury brands are relatively primitive in the world of email marketing – report

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Despite the fact email is one of the most cost effective forms of digital marketing, and a proven route to drive traffic, only 30% of luxury brands are using it to its full potential, says customer engagement specialists ContactLab.

Its new report, conducted in conjunction with Exane BNP Paribas, suggests email marketing practice is relatively primitive in the sector, and reveals an opportunity gap surrounding better segmentation and personalisation of content, as well as integration with other channels.

It highlights brands including Burberry, Cartier and Armani as leading on its “Email Competitive Map”, comparative to others such as Cèline, Prada and Givenchy who are dragging behind. Unsurprisingly, such email performance seems to align with overall digital competency, according to the research.

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Other negative factors specific to email strategy include excessive frequency and an overwhelming commercial bias. But it’s brands who do not exploit data collection to achieve full segmentation that create the largest impression of complacency, it suggests.

Marco Pozzi, author of the research, says: “Achieving customer segmentation will always be a challenge but there remains a lot of room for luxury brands to differentiate in their emails and create more personalised campaigns. Simply sending generic content and treating all customers as one does not build a relationship with customers. Customer shopping habits have changed and they expect an integration of different channels as part of the omnichannel experience. ”

It’s not all bad news however, there are a few luxury brands who do already distribute personalised messages. Of those, Dolce and Gabbana is leading, followed by Armani, which addresses recipients according to gender/title, building a strong relationship with customers in the process.

Continuing on a positive note, ContactLab pointed out that, across the board there is good performance on email localisation (key languages) and structure (composition, visualisation).

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“With the modern customers having an overload of content and often bombarded with emails, brands need to ensure the emails they distribute are relevant and thus capturing the attention of the consumer,” Pozzi adds. ContactLab’s study suggests customers prefer a varied mix of content that isn’t too commercial. Hermès leads the way with a balanced mix of branding, commercial and store-focused content, it highlights.

The report outlines the fact email marketing offers opportunities for brands to receive large amounts of traffic via smartphones and tablets particularly. Time spent browsing on such devices is notoriously short, so targeted emails that stand out from the crowd are essential.

So what does the future look like for email marketing? Luxury brands need to review the different services they offer and integrate cross-channel communication. A small number of brands ask for ZIP codes and postcodes, which could be used in conjunction with store locators. Elements like ‘buy now’ buttons and links to shoppable apps should also be introduced. Right now, only Cartier includes a “Book an Appointment” tab and only Burberry offers a “Collect in Store” option. Technology to incorporate cross-channel communication through email is already available, so expect to see more of this sometime soon.

It’s worth remembering that although email is only one aspect of the ecosystem, the impact of effective digital marketing can result in a 40% increase in revenue. A separate study by McKinsey also shows that 75% of luxury consumers interact with at least one digital touchpoint before making a sale in the offline world. A strategic use of email that caters to the user’s needs must be implemented.