Will Alibaba’s AR Makeup Technology Change the Chinese Beauty Market?


Earlier this June, Alibaba’s mid-year shopping festival, Tmall 618, saw record breaking sales for both domestic and foreign brands, many of whom surpassed benchmarks set by 2018 Singles’ Day. And with 2019 Singles’ Day just around the corner, the tech giant has set the bar even higher for this November’s shopping frenzy.

According to Alibaba, the platform will “offer new features and tools that enable brands to further engage with their customers through rich, interactive content and an omnichannel experience.” The new features have been dubbed, “Tmall Flagship Store 2.0.” One of the standout features includes AR-powered virtual makeup tools, with beauty brands like Tom Ford Beauty, MAC, and Giorgio Armani Beauty preparing to upgrade their stores with this new technology.

AR makeup tools is no longer a novelty in the beauty market. Earlier this summer, YouTube launched an AR filter and introduced their AR Beauty Try-On function. Beauty brands like MAC Cosmetics have collaborated with popular YouTubers to promote their products as paid sponsorships. Last year, L’Oréal fully acquired the Canadian AR Beauty Company Modiface, in the hope of applying the company’s AR and AI tools to their 34 brands, including Lancôme, Giorgio Armani, and Urban Decay.

As a rising trend, AR makeup technology is making its presence in the Chinese beauty market as well. One of China’s leading e-commerce players, JD.com, launched its self-developed AR makeup functionality in 2017. Elsewhere, the AR magic mirror developed by local AR technology corporation Paxi has been introduced to China’s biggest beauty product retail chain, the A.S. Watson Group Ltd.

The potential of AR technology in the Chinese beauty market, however, has yet to be fully realized. Led by big e-commerce players like Alibaba, Chinese e-commerce is on track to transform this technology into a “new retail era,” where online and offline merchants learn from each other and provide a brand new shopping experience for consumers.

AR

Key features of Tmall Store 2.0. Photo: Courtesy of Alibaba Group

As a Nielsen report points out, offline shoppers will use the Internet to compare prices, while online consumers will visit the physical store to know more about products. As a part of the new retail strategy, AR makeup aims to provide an offline try-on experience with online shoppers and further stimulates their online shopping impulse, which could be important for the e-commerce platform, Tmall, and their brand flagship stores.

According to a JPMorgan study released in October, “China is now the second-largest beauty player in the world, with online sales now representing a quarter of the market, as brands have been able to reach customers outside the most developed Chinese cities.” A large base of Chinese online shoppers, however, want a “real” shopping experience that can compete with the physical store experience, and Tmall’s Flagship Store 2.0 is positioned to meet their needs.

This is not the first time Tmall has used AR technology to promote its creative retail modes. As early as February 2018, Tmall partnered with the mall operator Intime to launch a “Smart Ladies’ Room” in Hangzhou’s West Lake Intime shopping mall. They offered a pair of “magic mirrors,” an AR-powered digital screen that “lets shoppers virtually try on and purchase cosmetics.” Alibaba has also launched a magic mirror in its Maybelline Tmall pop-up store, as well as the Korean cosmetics Innisfree store before, to test the AR makeup tool market.

After more than one year of testing the market, Tmall has prepared to apply their AR makeup techniques to a wide range of online stores. Given Taobao and Tmall’s giant influence in Chinese e-commerce landscape, it is likely that Alibaba will release the untapped potential of AR technology in the Chinese beauty market. Here’s what beauty brands should focus on to grasp this lucrative opportunity.

AR makeup tool offers customers many more options than to simply try on makeup in a fun and innovative way. Without the concern of hygiene issues or the tedious process of removing layers of makeup, customers can quickly and easily try on as many different products as the wish. The AR technology can also save them the trouble of traveling to bricks-and-mortar stores and expands their room for choice. For brands, AR makeup tools saves them the cost of hiring a large team of sales assistants, because customers can enjoy the self-service try-on process. The aim is to improve a consumer’s overall shopping experience, which will hopefully further increase the transaction conversion rate, and help bring about increased profits for merchants.

Another reason why AR technology is especially important to the Chinese beauty market is the rising spending power in Chinese low-tier cities and suburbs. According to Invesco, the consumption growth in low-tier cities is catching up with first-tier cities, and low-tier urban residents are increasingly pursuing high-end products and looking for novel shopping experiences. For beauty brands that have not yet entered these low-tier cities, Tmall’s AR-powered online store can help them getting closer to this underserved and growing consumer base. Thanks to the AR makeup technology, customers who have limited or no access to these brands can now try on their products and see what works for them. Moreover, it’s also a smart strategy for Western brands to test the local market before launching a physical store.

Before devoting themselves to Tmall 2.0 stores, however, brands need to be prepared. As Jiang Fan, the president of Tmall and Taobao,  said the upgraded stores “would allow for an even more cutting-edge and seamless shopping experience,” which makes the boundary between online and offline shopping more blurred. Also, according to McKinsey’s “China Luxury Report 2019,” for online purchases young consumers — millennials and Gen-Z’s — “are demanding superior experiences through personalization and easy try-on.” Therefore, brands need to transform their traditional digital marketing modes into a more “personalized” strategy. With the help of the AR makeup tool, beauty brands may be able to provide individualized service on online stores as good as offline stores. For example, AT makeup technology can offer too many choices. But instead of leaving customers in the sea of different-color lipsticks or eye shadows, brands can offer some personal makeup recommendations as well as promote their products.

It may take some time for Chinese beauty customers to fall in love with the virtual experience of AR makeup tools, but the potential is promising, as long as Tmall and global beauty brands can provide potential customers with a “real” and convenient shopping experience this emerging technology promises.





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Goldman Sachs Analysts report US$3 to $4 billion left Hong Kong for Singapore


This week, Goldman Sachs estimated that US$4 billion in deposits has left Hong Kong for Singapore between the months of June and August. Though the Goldman Sachs report drew no links to the political turmoil that has embroiled the Lion City’s rival financial hub, the capital outflows do coincide with rising tensions and anti-Chinese government protests in Hong Kong.

Goldman Sachs analysts Gurpreet Singh Sahi and Yingqiang Guo reported through an ‘Investment Note’ on Monday 4 November 2019 that “Modest net outflows from local currency deposits in Hong Kong and the net inflows of foreign currency deposits in Singapore”.

“Any recovery will be constrained by weak business investment, however, as the city’s political crisis has done lasting damage to its reputation as a stable and autonomous financial hub,” – Capital Economics Research Note

In July, hedge fund and wealth managers had remarked that Singapore has become direct beneficiary of the political unrest in Hong Kong with a surge of queries from clients to move funds to Singapore.

Ocean Financial Centre, OFC, Keppel Land

Yesterday, J.P. Morgan’s Harsh Modi, co-head of Asia ex-Japan for financial research was asked if he’s seen deposits flow from the Chinese-ruled territory to Singapore and he told CNBC that, “But yes, Singapore banking system — FX deposits have been going up quite sharply in the last two, three months, it is fair to expect that there is a shift in asset flows from the financial sector.”

Hong Kong economy weakest since 2008 Global Financial Crisis, Retail Sales worst since 2003 SARS outbreak

Last Thursday 31 October, Hong Kong fell into its first technical recession in 10 years when the city’s economy shrank 3.2% in July-September 2019 meeting the technical definition for a recession when the economy contracted for two consecutive quarters amidst increasingly violent riots and rising U.S.-China trade war tensions. This has been the weakest Hong Kong has been financially since the the 2008 global financial crisis. With the growing civil unrest, Hong Kong businesses have either closed or put employees on unpaid leave in key shopping districts as tourist arrivals to the city plummeted. Retail sales fell record levels  in August, the worst since tourist arrivals dropped during the 2003 “Bird Flu” Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) crisis

Meanwhile South China Morning Post found some correlation to the Goldman Sachs investment advisory, citing that Monetary Authority of Singapore data showed foreign-currency deposits by non-bank customers grew by 52% to a record S$12.8 billion ($1.63 billion) in August 2019, compared to S$8.4 billion in the same period the year before.

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) showed that local-currency deposits declined in August by 1.6% from the previous month, the biggest drop in more than a year, to about US$873 billion). However, the HKMA insisted that the fluctuations were “normal”. HKMA also reported that investment income fell to US$2.58 billion from US$5.7 billion in the April-June quarter.

Protests peaked on Tuesday 1 October 2019, when police had a shooting incident during when an 18 year old demonstrator was shot. Workers in the financial district held a march the next day denouncing police brutality.

 

 

 

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Alibaba’s Singles’ Day is a Global Event


Singles’ Day, also known to as 11.11, is the largest e-commerce day in the world. In 2017, gross merchandise value (GMV) accounted for $25.3 billion, while in 2018 Alibaba has reported record sales of more than $30.8 billion in 24 hours. Basically, during the 11.11 shopping extravaganza, Alibaba sold more in one day than other countries have in an entire year. And according to McKinsey, Singles’ Day has exceeded considerably “the overall growth of online retail in China.” However, analysts remarked that the annual growth rate has declined from 36% in 2017 to 27% in 2018. Basically, despite strong sales and robust revenue growth, the stakes remain high for Alibaba.

In fact, Alibaba’s dependence on Chinese consumers alone can’t keep up with the company’s ambitions of world domination. Jack Ma’s dream of hitting “gross merchandise volume of $1 trillion in the fiscal year that ends March 31, 2020,” and creating 100 million jobs and serving two billion customers can be achieved only by expanding its global footprint. And according to Ad Age, during the 2017 event, Russia, Hong Kong, and the U.S. were the top markets outside mainland China to buy products during Singles’ Day, with bestselling items “mobile phones, wool coats, and knitted sweaters.”

In 2018, 237 brands surpassed “RMB100 million in GMV (roughly $14.2 million), including companies such as Apple, Dyson, Kindle, Estée Lauder, L’Oréal, Nestlé, Gap, Nike, and Adidas,” according to Essential Retail. On the other hand, international brands are tempted by Singles’ Day because they want to reach Chinese consumers and expand their corporate footprint in a market rich with opportunities. Evidently, global brands understand that the participation in Singles’ Day comes with “a billion-dollar sales opportunity.” Consequently, in the past years, the number of Western retailers that have taken part in the event has increased.

As stated by McKinsey, since 2017, Singles’ Day has become a global, multicultural affair as “multinational e-commerce sites offering big discounts and doing heavy promotion for the shopping event” got into the frenzy. Essential Retail reported that during the 2018 Singles’ Day event, over 40% of buyers purchased products from international brands, with Japan, the U.S., South Korea, Australia, and Germany leading the way.

Furthermore, Alibaba entered strategic partnerships with overseas players such as El Corte Inglés, the biggest department store group in Europe, international e-commerce Lazada Group (owned by Alibaba), Singaporean e-commerce platform, Shopee, and the U.S. e-commerce Shopbop. Seeing the global magnitude of Singles’ Day, it’s not surprising that international brands and investors want to win over Chinese consumers through a successful participation in the event. Given this, we’ve compiled a list with winning strategies that every global brand should use for Alibaba’s Singles’ Day.

Pricing strategy

McKinsey states that during the 2018 Singles’ Day, “The categories with the biggest price cuts were not only among the best sellers, but they also succeeded in driving additional market share.” Furthermore, McKinsey emphasizes that “parent and baby products, with an average discount of 33 percent, captured 18 to 19 percent of category sales in China, versus 6 to 7 percent on a normal day.” Additionally, skin-care and beauty brands, with an average discount of 30 percent, increased their share to 12 to 15 percent, as compared to the usual three to five percent.

However, retail experts highlight that there are differences between shopping in the West and in China. Therefore, coupons, sales, and discounts might not be the only ticket. “America runs on such a price-driven concept in retail, which is what ultimately upholds the whole concept of Black Friday sales. In contrast, China celebrates Singles’ Day with a fun and social experience through games and entertainment,” says Tiffany Lung of the research and tech firm Tofugear. This is an interesting concept as it highlights that a successful pricing strategy doesn’t imply on only big discounts. Actually, foreign sellers can use price anchoring (placing a higher-priced item side-by-side to a lower-priced product) and competitive price comparison to attract Chinese buyers. 

Deep niche marketing

It’s common knowledge that retailers can’t influence consumer behavior without understanding the needs, motivations, and psychological factors behind a buying decision. Therefore, the importance of knowing your customer can’t be downplayed. According to Carla Anderson, Solution Market Director, Oracle Retail, successful retailers “deliver the right product to the right location at the right time” to maintain brand loyalty. Instead of chasing a broader market, successful brands spotlight their niche consumers. This highly focused strategy cuts down costs while increasing community engagement.

Demographic segmentation                  

Evidently, Alibaba is set to win the minds of millennials and Gen. Z with Singles’ Day. Every aspect was envisioned to conquer the hearts of this massive group of young, tech-savvy consumers. From the “must buy recommendation list” that was designed to be shared on social media channels, to the use of video games and augmented reality games (Catch the Cat) to the treasure hunts that employ modern technology and the over-the-top two-hours Galas that brings together young artists such as Taylor Swift, the Chinese singer G.E.M, singer-songwriter Hua Chenyu, and Japanese actress Kana Hanazawa. Singles’ Day is made for a young, dynamic audience.

China has over 400 million millennials and they represent a major opportunity for brands. Naturally, Alibaba is betting big on this segment and international brands should follow suit. Additionally, brands shouldn’t ignore the progress made by the middle or “aspirational class.” As stated by McKinsey, “upper middle class will account for 54 percent of urban households and 56 percent of urban private consumption” in China. Equally important, the rise of the “She economy”  and the growing purchase power of women has boosted cosmetic and skincare sales. In fact, Estée Lauder was one of the top-performing brands ranking fourth in terms of sales in 2017.

Enhancing the mobile strategy

Over, 80% of the Singles’ Day sales were made on a mobile device. In today’s modern world, retailers can reach customers faster and in a more convenient way, but buyers are more disengaged and emotionally detached. Therefore, retailers need to enhance the whole shopping experience by employing modern technologies and unique mobile features. Live streaming, interactive games, VR shopping experiences, video marketing, and digital storytelling need to be incorporated in the communications strategy.

It’s safe to say that the world will “continue to see the globalization of Singles’ Day.” Moreover, the Chinese market will continue to lure international brands to Alibaba’s event. But not all Western retailers can adapt to China; thus, some astonishing misses should be expected while more astute global retailers that leverage the power of these strategies will succeed.





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App Watch: Can Plum Become China’s The RealReal?


Beijing-based startup Plum, a second-hand luxury resale app, achieved its Series B round financing this August, collecting $20 million from a group of VCs that includes Matrix Partners China and Qiming Ventures. Featuring a similar consignment and resale model to the U.S.-based luxury reseller The RealReal, Plum is one of the few Chinese resale e-commerce sites specializing in luxury apparel and accessories.

Founded in 2017, the platform has made a big effort to educate China’s consumers about the secondary luxury market. In September, the tech company re-introduced itself to the Chinese market with a new Chinese name, “Hong Bu Lin” (红布林), and upgraded services. The re-debut of Plum is also reminiscent of The RealReal’s, which raised $300 million in its US IPO. And, while Plum’s $20 million Series B funding might seem minimal compared to The RealReal’s $300 million IPO, market conditions in China suggest that Plum could now be on a similar trajectory to the one the breakout U.S. company took. With the rapid economic development of China through its expanding middle class, the second-hand luxury category, which has been undervalued years, is starting to look promising.

Having raised a total of $58.4 million in six rounds of funding, Plum has seen steady growth, as investors continue to bet on the platform. But some voices are skeptical about the scale and profitability of the luxury resale business in China, while also finding some of the platform’s procedures to be problematic. With challenges coming from both inside and outside the business, will Plum be able to step up and take the title of China’s version of The RealReal?

In China, consumer sentiment towards second-hand retail is shifting. While older generations attach a stigma to second-hand goods, younger generations are significantly more open to them. Meanwhile, an abundance of luxury goods located in the country is setting the stage for a prosperous second-hand market. For generations of Chinese, second-hand goods are associated with poverty and poor quality, particularly for Gen Xers and older millennials who have experienced the socioeconomic transition. However, younger millennials and Gen Zers who grew up in a relatively affluent environment weren’t born with this stigma.

Plum

Plum is selling popular vintage bags and jewelry from luxury brands like Chanel and Dior via collaborations with Japanese vintage retailers. Courtesy of Plum

But the success of second-hand sales in China is not only limited by stigma; it also has underdeveloped market regulations to blame. Chinese consumers are always worried about the authenticity of pre-owned luxury goods on the market, as counterfeit sellers are rampant in the country. Fortunately, the battle against counterfeits has seen progress thanks to efforts from stakeholders that include luxury companies, local e-commerce businesses, and the Chinese government. Alibaba, teaming up with Richemont and Chinese law enforcement, is proving the country’s determination to protecting intellectual property.

Though China is one of the biggest luxury markets in the world, the secondary luxury market is underdeveloped, only making up 2 percent of the overall luxury market in 2018. There is substantial room for growth in China’s market compared to the U.S. and Japan, which claim 31 percent and 28 percent, respectively. In 2018, pre-owned, high-end goods amounted to $1.7 billion (12.1 billion RMB) in China, according to the 2019 Chinese Second-hand Luxury Industry Report. It is still a modest number compared to the $6 billion US resale luxury market from 2018, but based on the fact that the yearly growth rate exceeded 20 percent over the last four years, the report anticipates an upgrading trend will continue.

The growing acceptance of pre-owned goods and a more regular secondary market in China has prepared the country for Plum, but it’s not enough to build up a mature trading chain without having the capability to speak to the domestic market. To make up for the supply deficiency during its initial stages, Plum is selling popular vintage bags and jewelry from luxury brands like Chanel and Dior via collaborations with Japanese vintage retailers. The supply from Japan not only enriches the inventory but also establishes the authenticity of merchandise on site. As Plum attracts many well-traveled Chinese consumers who are big fans of vintage luxury and frequent visitors to Japanese vintage stores, the platform should build up its reputation among experienced vintage shoppers. But for consumers who are new to the secondary market, the conditions and details of pre-owned items are their main concerns. Plum has thus incorporated a livestreaming feature as an efficient and powerful way to showcase items remotely. Consumers can interact with livestreaming hosts, ask for a detailed presentation, and even purchase the item while watching the livestream.

It’s the right time to break into the market, but the most critical issue awaiting Plum is how to drive sustainable circulation. Featuring a very similar consumer to business to consumer (C2B2C) model as The RealReal, Plum is positioned as an intermediate platform that connects consumers who exchange goods. Both sites aim at authenticating merchandise they receive from consignors while handling all sales processes, including photography, cataloging, pricing, stocking, and returns. They earn a certain percentage of consignors’ commission fees for sustaining this operation.

While the RealReal’s commission structure consists of tiered commission rates based on the values of the items and their consignor loyalty program, Plum charges a 20 percent commission rate for all items across the board. The RealReal also only accepts luxury brands, but unlike Plum, offers consignors higher commission rates for higher-price items. By contrast, Plum’s one-rate-fits-all policy is less compelling in motivating high-value merchandise consignments such as watches, jewelry, and high-priced handbags. Meanwhile, The RealReal delivers the message that “the more you consign the more you earn” to clients through its VIP program. Though Plum features a privileged membership that offers extra discounts for shopping, the program cannot organically increase customer stickiness and has nothing to do with the supply side, which is the most important driver of the resale business.

Plum must furnish clients with satisfying consignment experiences. Plum’s one-option shipping fails to bring consignors an exclusive experience that is consistent with its high-end positioning. Consumers complain about the opaque evaluating process of Plum on social media and contend that “it’s a friendly pre-owned luxury shopping destination, but not really a fair place for trade-in.”

Given the positive future of the second-hand economy in China, there will be several competitors and partners who would like to earn a slice of that market share. Players who are interested in the lucrative market should collaboratively facilitate a transparent system that can earn clients’ trust and educate the public about sustainable shopping the way The RealReal calculates and discloses how much the consumer can save by reselling. Undoubtedly, Chinese luxury consumers are ready for the secondary market, but the shopping and consigning experiences they expect are as high-end as the new goods they are used to purchasing. Investors should be careful about the current gap between consumers’ expectations and the products/services that luxury recommerce sites provide. The question also needs to be asked if there are enough consignors and customers for this emerging secondhand market to take root in China. Time will tell.





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What Your Luxury Brands Need to Survive Today


The question I’m asked most consistently these days is why has brand storytelling becoming so important? Shouldn’t the product and craftsmanship matter most in luxury? Here is the problem with that train of thought:

When established luxury brands try to reverse their sluggish sales and boost profitability, one usually sees a typical pattern. There’s too much internal focus on the product and not enough emphasis on building brand equity and creating value for customers — especially younger customers.

Many of these brands were successful with Baby Boomers and Gen Xers (in other words, consumers who are now over 40). For those generations, being associated with a “big” luxury brand was important because they were trusted and they symbolized aspirations, which is why, in the early days, most traditional brands focused on creating brand awareness through storefronts, billboards, and magazine advertisements. This traditional marketing was about awareness but not necessarily about content. Product execution mattered most: materials like gold for fine watches, diamonds in jewelry, or fine leathers in cars were the content, which is why brands tended to focus on product features as a way to differentiate themselves from their competitors.

But this strategy no longer works. Millennials, and especially Gen Zers, have different expectations and different value systems. For Baby Boomers, the sight of an expensive handbag was a rarity. There was only a handful of luxury brands to choose from, and information about these brands was relatively scarce. You had to take the time to go to the store to learn about assorted products and features. There were relatively few magazines back then that featured luxury brands, and the rare coverage only focused on a limited number of brands. In other words, 30 to 40 years ago, when many of the more established brands were growing, the market was relatively narrow, contained fewer players, and offered much less transparency to consumers.

Brands who can’t transition from a mature audience to a 20-35-year-old one will become obsolete.

Gen Zers have grown up in a completely different reality. They are surrounded by hundreds of brands, all of which are infinitely accessible. Instead of relying on a few magazines with limited information, they know details about every brand product via social media, influencers, and key opinion leaders. In a recent discussion in Asia, the general manager of a flagship store of one of the most iconic luxury brands in the world told me that almost 100 percent of young consumers entering his store already know what they wanted. He even added that younger consumers often know the products better (and in more detail) than his in-store staff. This generation does their due diligence. The store is now solely a place to confirm purchases and be immersed in the brand’s story.

This has important implications. The number of luxury brands has grown disproportionately, and the number of new products is growing at an even faster pace. And since consumers have more transparency than ever, the room to make a real difference against your competitors with standout craftsmanship has shrunk. In many categories today, even everyday products can achieve features, looks, or performances that are very close to what luxury versions provide. In other words, luxury brands need to differentiate more than just with their products. Don’t get me wrong: Quality products are still essential, but they are no longer the main factor in setting successful brands apart.

Other factors have now become more critical, like brand purpose, social currency, context, and authenticity. Branding drives all of these. This is why refocusing on building brand equity and brand storytelling is now non-negotiable for companies that want to survive a market that’s shifting toward younger consumers.

Most luxury brands have vague positioning. They focus too much on telling the story of their entire category, so that a typical positioning statement reads like, “We at brand X pride ourselves in making the most luxurious Y (i.e. handbags, cars, jewelry, makeup) for over Z years” and “our passionate experts craft all our items and use the best materials available on earth.” Does this sound familiar? The problem with these brand positioning statements is that they entirely disregard the customer. It is internal praise that has zero relevance with a young, digitally-native customer. That kind of brand story doesn’t provide any reason to buy the brand because it doesn’t tell people what’s in for them (as opposed to their competitor’s product).

And yet, aside from proper positioning, brands must also master something else: an emotional connection to the consumer. Without it, a brand can’t offer people an authentic experience, a social context, or a purpose.

Authenticity is a truthful story about the brand that consumers can understand. It simply can’t be faked, which is why a brand must know how consumers view it. Social context is essential because young consumers need to know why they should buy the brand. There has to be a connection to the zeitgeist as well as a “cool factor.” Brands that fail to create social currency can’t be relevant. This is why top designers, actors, fashion icons, and singers like Virgil Abloh, Pharrell Williams, Rhianna, or Zhou Dongyu have been so sought after by luxury brands or have chosen to create brands of their own. They’re all about emotional connections, but not every connection works.

There must be a logical connection between the brand story and the influencer. When Rhianna worked for Nivea, for instance, it was an odd fit, and the collaboration was seen as a colossal failure. But building her own Fenty Beauty line made more sense to consumers, and Rhianna has been successful with it. Finally, brands need to transmit a purpose to consumers, which is why brand positioning and brand storytelling is so critical. The storytelling needs to be done from the perspective of the customer where they are at the center of the story. Otherwise, there is no connection, differentiation, or value creation.

And while the brand story is crucial, that story is highly dependent on how well the store staff brings a brand’s story to life. Imagine you walk into a luxury brand’s store. Can you understand the brand’s rational and emotional positioning when you discuss it with a sales associate? Is the inspiration you feel consistent at all points during the sale? Do you feel inspired at all? If the answer is no or your impression is inconsistent, then the brand’s storytelling is weak. This is what sets great brands apart versus what quickly makes brands irrelevant.

Young, digitally-savvy Millennials and Gen Zers in China, who are responsible for more than 80 percent of the country’s luxury purchases, are the key to most luxury brands’ success. Brands who can’t transition from a mature audience to a 20-35-year-old one will become obsolete. That is why brand equity has become mission-critical.

Daniel Langer is CEO of the luxury, lifestyle and consumer brand strategy firm Équité, and the professor of luxury strategy and extreme value creation at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. He consults some of the leading luxury brands in the world, is the author of several luxury management books, a global keynote speaker, and holds luxury masterclasses in Europe, the USA, and Asia. Follow @drlanger





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How 5 KOLs are Taking Brand Audience Engagement to the Next Level


I’m always on the lookout for creative ways that brands are collaborating with Chinese influencers. Over the past couple of months, I’ve seen two types of campaigns become increasingly prevalent, the first being brand-sponsored fan makeovers, and the second, awarding fans the opportunity to attend exclusive brand events as the influencer’s guest. I’ve even seen a combination of the two! (see Gogoboi’s recent campaign with Porsche below.)

These two tactics are excellent because they drive increased engagement not only with the KOL’s account, but also with the brand. One of the biggest difficulties KOLs face when creating sponsored content is to avoid coming across as too commercial or giving fans the feeling that they are pushing products on them.

By having fans to express their love of the brand or getting them involved in the creation of the sponsored content, it makes it two-directional and takes the focus off of the KOL. Fans who are chosen for a makeover or to attend an event don’t care the content is sponsored — they’re simply excited to be chosen for what they might perceive to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

To demonstrate just how popular these types of campaigns have become, here’s how 5 well-known fashion KOLs have taken on this trend in just the last month and a half:

OtherFashion — Before and After FILA Makeovers

Before and after makeovers are always popular, and the fashion and beauty influencer Xiao Huanggua 小黄瓜 (@OtherFashion) takes advantage of that, recruiting her fans to be her makeover candidates.

Last week Xiao Huanggua published a post where she visited FILA stores in Beijing, Shanghai, and Chengdu and did FILA-style makeovers on over ten fans. Some of the makeovers were jaw-dropping, and of course, the campaign created a positive connotation linking looking better with wearing FILA.

Gogoboi — Makeover + VIP Guest at a Porsche Event

Top fashion influencer Gogoboi likes to hold contests for his fans to become his guests at exclusive brand events. Recently he selected two followers to join him for a Porche event. Prior to the event their outfits and makeup were styled by Gogoboi’s team. They then rode to the event in a Porsche driven by Gogoboi. When they arrived, they got to do the first photoshoot of the night with the cars. As Gogoboi’s VIP guests, they got better treatment than many mid-tier influencers did! Influencers inviting fans to participate in offline events is nothing new, but unlike a fan meet and greet, this was much more intimate and an incredible experience that any fan of Gogoboi would love to have.

Gogoboi

Gogoboi (middle) with the two lucky fans.

Ximendasao — Before and After Makeovers: Dorm Room Edition

At the beginning of the fall semester, WeChat fashion and lifestyle KOL Ximendasao (西门大嫂) selected one of her followers to receive a dorm room makeover. The article taught students step by step how to improve the look of their dorm room with only 500 RMB (approximately $71), a topic that is extremely relatable and useful for a large portion of her audience. While they didn’t feature the student in the article, they shared images of her dorm room.

Dorm room before

Dorm room before

Dorm room after

Dorm room after

What was interesting about this campaign was that, instead of holding an open call for participants, Ximendasao chose one of her fans from one of her private WeChat groups. At the beginning of the article featuring the makeover, she lets other followers know that if they hope to be selected for similar activities in the future, they had better join one of her groups. Creating private WeChat groups of super fans is a common tactic currently used by influencers and brands and is part of the trend known as “private traffic”.

Anny Fan — Louis Vuitton Twist and Cruise Event

On October 22, the popular fashion KOL Anny Fan sent a message out to her WeChat followers announcing the opportunity to be her guest at private fan event at a LV store in Shanghai. Those chosen will get to visit the store with Fan to see LV’s latest Twist and Cruise collections and have a photo shoot with a professional photographer. To enter the contest, fans had to send their names, contact details, a picture of themselves, and a picture of all the Louis Vuitton products they own. Fan says, “Show me your love of shopping!”

Shenye Xu Laoshi — Fan Makeover Live Stream with Adidas

And just days ago, the popular fashion and beauty influencer Shenye Xu Laoshi announced her upcoming fan makeover in collaboration with Adidas. Unlike the other campaigns mentioned here, this makeover was live streamed on Weibo’s Yizhibo platform, so fans could tune in to watch the makeovers taking place in real time.

Inviting followers to participate in makeovers and exclusive events has become such a popular strategy because it reduces the distance between the influencer and his or her fans and makes him or her appear more approachable. This is particularly important for top tier influencers whose engagement rates tend to drop the larger they become. What’s more, fans who are chosen for these campaigns will heavily share their experience on their own social media accounts, further promoting the influencer and the brand.





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China’s “Mini-Me” Culture is Perfect for Luxury Brands


During October of 2015, after 36 years, China announced the end of its one-child policy, thereby allowing mothers to birth up to two children. Now the South China Morning Post is predicting that “by 2020, the government would relax birth restrictions, ending the family planning policy.” This amendment has generated unprecedented changes in Chinese society, and young families soon took notice of niche markets that didn’t have a powerful impact on their spending habits before. A higher fertility rate translates into growth in specialized market segments like children’s apparel, baby-care products, and toys, while also ushering in social changes, like China’s emerging “mini-me” culture.

The birth of a child is a life-changing moment. It becomes a catalyst that transforms behaviors and interactions. Parents will prioritize the needs and desires of the child over anything else, and gradually, mothers lose themselves in motherhood, forfeiting their own identities. This psychological process affects every area of a parent’s life, including their fashion choices. As mothers naturally identify with their offspring, the temptation to dress their kids as smaller versions of themselves becomes an evolutionary bonding element. This is especially true of so-called “helicopter parents,”a slang term for modern parents that are overprotective and over-involved in their children’s lives.

Millennial moms are an obvious target for what appears to be a surging “mini-me” trend in China. That’s because young Chinese female consumers are more susceptible to peer pressure due to the country’s large social media penetration (50 percent) and the tremendous aspiration to become “bai fu Mei” (white, wealthy, and attractive) much like the country’s top female celebrities, Fan Bingbing and Angelababy. It doesn’t hurt that many Tier-1 and Tier-2 millennial and Gen-Z mothers are constantly on social media sites and can be viewed as “content creators” who easily incorporate their parenting and mini-me adventures into these platforms.

And now, “kidfluencers” can bring in big checks for their families.

Crystal Abidin, a digital anthropologist at Australia’s Deakin University, told The Atlantic that “with the rise of the influencer industry en masse, instead of the stories of children going through the process of trying out the products with their moms, they have been reduced to props.” And now, “kidfluencers” can bring in big checks for their families. Forbes estimated that Ryan of Ryan Toysreview was this “year’s highest-paid YouTube star, earning $22 million in the 12 months leading up to June 1, 2018,” and according to the mothering site SheKnows, Zooey Miyoshi from ZooeyintheCity “has a modeling contract and recently worked on Target’s exclusive Barbie collection.”

With the growth of the kidfluencer market, it should come as no surprise that the global luxury childrenswear market shot up to $6.6 billion in 2018. But in China, that growth was even greater, doubling over the past 12 months. That’s because the luxury childrenswear footprint is broader and more perceptible in China where young mothers have a higher disposable income and greater social peer pressures than their Western counterparts. And now, after seeing the success of the mini-me pictures that Kim Kardashian and Beyonce recently posted, the rest of the world is following suit, recognizing these posts as a winning social media engagement strategy.

Even without marketing campaigns or money-making strategies, there’s an addictive quality that can come with young mothers spoiling their children, and according to Chloé CEO, Geoffroy de la Bourdonnaye, “mothers take pride in seeing their daughters look like themselves.” Additionally, many say there is an ongoing infantilizing of culture and beauty standards in China. While in the West, marketing campaigns promote sexual attributes, in Asian societies, women try to look cute or “meng.” This fascination with everything childish, naïve, and youthful can be seen in the rise of manga culture, and the magazine Sixth Tone reports that international brands are often forced to “infantilize their businesses in order to connect with the lucrative Chinese market” due to the massive popularity of cuteness in China. Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, an associate professor at the New School in Manhattan, brought up a similar point in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, saying, “There’s the infantilization of women to look like little girls and on the flip side, [the pressure] for young girls to always look older— to wear bikinis and crop tops.”

For mothers, this has led to a matchy-matchy trend that’s becoming a lucrative segment, and foreign brands were fast to capitalize on those changes in modern China. One of those brands is Fresh Dinosaurs: a Spanish Children’s apparel company created by Jose Hernandez, Leni Muntaner, and Maria Hernandez. The creative trio kicked off their first collection at the Kids Fair Trade Show in Paris years ago, and now, following an aggressive expansion strategy, their clothes can be found all around Korea, Japan, China, and Hong Kong. Their fun and colorful designs have resonated well with Chinese consumers who favor ever-more-youthful styles.

Jose Hernandez told Jing Daily that Chinese consumers love the vision that Fresh Dinosaurs has for kids. “We are an unconventional and joyful brand that bends the stylistic rules,” he says. “Our colors are gender-neutral, and we make a conscious effort to promote the concepts of inclusivity and sustainability.” The Fresh Dinosaurs team is aware that a change has come to China, and consumers there have moved from the brand-obsessed phase into a more pragmatic period. This is backed up by a McKinsey report stating that Chinese buyers “are behaving like their counterparts in the developed world” now and are more “demanding and pragmatic than ever.”

This newly found pragmatism has meant good business for Fresh Dinosaurs. Leni Muntaner told Jing Daily that “China’s sense of style has changed during the past decade. Consumers are becoming more perceptive and sophisticated, and they are exceedingly prioritizing design and functionality over a brand’s name.” This advancing market sophistication is starting to allow niche brands to compete with international players and succeed in a cutthroat market that everyone wants a slice of since China’s “local buyers are the dream consumer: informed and educated heavy spenders,” according to Hernandez

Considering young, internet-savvy Chinese consumers’ appetite for all things social, we foresee nothing but further growth in the mini-me market in the future. Skeptics would be wise to look at the success of Baby Dior in China, which all started from a simple picture posted on the brand’s Weibo account by a Dior staffer of “a Lalei dressed in head-to-toe cream and lace Dior.” From that one image, Mothers quickly became addicted to the Baby Dior collections, and the company’s sales skyrocketed.





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Dolce&Gabbana Appoints New Asia Pacific CEO


In “Headlines from China,” we share the biggest news stories about the luxury industry in China that have yet to make it into the English language. In this week’s edition, we discuss:

  • Dolce&Gabbana Appoints a New Asia Pacific CEO
  • De Beers Invests in China’s ‘Me Generation’
  • Sina Launched New Virtual Fashion Social App ADA

Dolce&Gabbana Appoints a New Asia Pacific CEO – Sina Fashion
The Italian brand Dolce&Gabbana recently appointed Carlo Gariglio as the CEO for Asia Pacific region. He will be based in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Gariglio previously was the regional managing director of Japan and Korea for Salvatore Ferragamo and held executive positions in multiple luxury houses, namely Cartier, Alfred Dunhill, and Ermenegildo Zegna. This appointment is seen as the brand’s first comeback in the China market since last year’s serious campaign misstep.

In a recent interview, brand founders Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce disclosed that they are seeing a rebound from China market. However, according to data from Gartner L2 published this July, Chinese celebrity and consumers are still protesting the brand, based on continued declined engagement on Weibo. There are also still no product searches showing up on Tmall, JD and Net-a-Porter’s Chinese e-commerce site.

Fan Bingbing, who has long been the famous face of campaigns for Louis Vuitton, De Beers, Guerlain, and Montblanc, was fined by the government for tax evasion. Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

De Beers Invests in the “Me Generation” in China and U.S. – Fashion Business Daily
Esther Oberbeck, Head of Strategy of the biggest diamond maker, De Beers, told Reuters that the brand will roll out series of new marketing campaigns, targeting mainly the “Me Generation” in the U.S. and China. She hasn’t disclosed the marketing budget, but it will certainly exceed last year’s $170 million. The “Me Generation” refers to women buying jewelry for themselves, an increasing trend among millennials. It was said Chinese millennials account for 68 percent of diamond sales in China, a number that’s significantly higher than other global markets.

Sina Launched New Virtual Fashion Social App ADA – ifeng.com 
Sina launched a new app, ADA, on the App Store on October 25, which allows users to build their own 3D avatars and virtually try on cloths, plus an embedded buy button. They can also interact with their friends by taking virtual pictures and share styles with each other. Launched by the Sina fashion team, the app has landed collaborations with quite a few luxury brands, namely Armani, Christian Louboutin, Dior, Prada, and more. The goal is to build a high-quality community, so it has only sent out an invitation link to fashion or tech industry insiders to try out so far.





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What Marketers Need to Know about China’s Live Commerce


This post originally appeared on Parklu, our content partner.

Live commerce, the fusion of shopping and live streaming, is transforming the retail industry. It’s no secret that live commerce is hot right now. Actress Li Xiang’s recent Weibo sale success story is one case in point: Li recently used her own air conditioner to help Suning sell 30,000 air conditioners in just two hours. The live streaming effort resulted in a sales volume of more than 100 million RMB.

Last month, Taobao teamed up with well-known KOL, Wei Ya, to host a Livestream sale of Starbucks branded products and gifts. After a five-second countdown for the product reveal, 3,000 items were sold out in seconds, and in the next five hours of Wei Ya’s live broadcast, Starbucks sold nearly 160,000 beverages.

These are just a few examples. The list goes on: celebrity Aaron Kwok cooperated with personal care brand Simba for a sale on Kuaishou and sold 50,000 bottles of shampoo in just five seconds; actor and chef Nicholas Tse sold gourmet zongzi on Kuaishou; entertainer Wong Cho-lam sold 100,000 beauty masks on Kuaishou in 12 minutes, achieving a total of 660 million RMB in sales; and Dee Hsu, or “Little S”, sold a record-breaking 880,000 personal care products on Taobao Live in just one second.

Live commerce is becoming an increasingly common phenomenon, leading a succession of brands to adopt this marketing method. Parklu outlines below where to find the right platform, how to cooperate with hosts, and the types of promotions to consider.

Live commerce: 3 live sale cooperation models
1. Product seeding to boost brand awareness: This cooperation model is usually based on the needs of the brand. The vloggers use soft marketing methods to organically insert branded products into their own video content, and the brand receives exposure via the KOL’s established fans. This method is not recommended for smaller and medium-sized businesses.

2. Service fee + commission model: This is a more common method. The service fee includes the cost of matching the brand with the most suitable KOL, as well as distribution and promotion for the Livestream sale. Then there’s the actual sales commission, which is generally between 10 to 30 percent.

3. Pure commission model: This is generally the model that’s most suitable for small businesses, but the requirements are more demanding. This generally works well for Taobao stores with scores of 4.6 or higher. However, even the cheapest products still need to have a particular basic sales volume, and that can be difficult for the average vendor. The commission rate with this model is also very high—typically upwards of 30 percent, but the split is sometimes 50-50 or 70-30. Products with a high profit-margin are relatively suitable for this model.

Types of live-stream flash sale promotions
1. Viral products: When choosing which products to promote, brands should consider whether they’re a natural fit for the vlogger they’re working with, and then prepare three to five “viral” products. This means these products should be good looking, have the potential to be popular, and cost-effective for the brand. Bloggers should also consider having comparable products from other brands to make comparisons for their viewers.

2. Flash sales: Brands can consider preparing some products for flash sales with deep discounts for shoppers. Brands might lose money on these particular products, but these types of sales are mainly intended to lure users to stay tuned in to the Livestream.

Celebrities Zhao Wei and Li Xiang‘s live streaming

3. Limited offers: It can be extremely effective for vloggers to create limitations on either their supply or the amount of time of the discounts or the product’s availability because it puts pressure on viewers to buy before the time runs out. Because the host creates an atmosphere of “You can’t get this discount anywhere else, so buy it now,” viewers are afraid that it will be out of stock in the next second. Brands and bloggers also shouldn’t limit themselves to selling one item at a discount—they should feel free to get creative with their special deals to make a sale. Starbucks, for example, normally sells a Green Tea Java Chip Frappuccino for 38 yuan, but during their Livestream sales, they may do a deal where the first two cups are 72 yuan (which is already a discount), and the second two cups are free, which is cheaper than buy-one, get-one-free.

4. Free gifts with qualifying purchases: This deal is similar to the sales strategy of the typical gym membership; “As long as you buy a card today, I will send you a hat, a cup, a T-shirt, a wristband, a sports backpack, and an extra ten free experience cards.” The big gift bag full of fitness-related products will instantly make viewers feel that they are taking advantage of a good deal. So before the KOL’s live broadcast, they would, for example, showcase a series of free gifts such as a razor, a trimmer, bracelets, dental kits, pendants, portable chargers and more. These typically come with up to 11 items, so shoppers get 12 products for the price of one.

Where can brands and KOLs host Livestream sales?
Nowadays, nearly every platform contains a live commerce function, but some of the most popular include Douyin, Kuaishou, and Taobao Live. Additionally, WeChat and Xiaohongshu are both beta testing live commerce functions. Even Zhihu recently debuted this feature, but it was removed after just one day—their official response was that they were experiencing technical difficulties.

Taobao Live: These live broadcasts are fun, useful and informative. Taobao Live’s audience generally consists of consumers in third- and fourth-tier cities, and popular categories are clothing, beauty, maternity, and childrenswear and goods with store conversion rates of more than 65 percent. However, Taobao Live’s rules are very strict, with requirements for merchant qualifications, goods, and geographic location.

Kuaishou: Kuaishou is a very convenient platform to use as it supports multiple third-party e-commerce platforms, including Taobao, Tmall, Pinduoduo, Wudizhangui, and Youzan. Products that have a consumer unit price of less than approximately 300 RMB, have low gross profit margins, or are destocking items are typically the most suitable for the platform.

Douyin: Beauty brands and bloggers will be the ones who get the most out of Douyin because as an algorithm-driven platform, Douyin’s followers are less sticky. Thus, for certain product categories, Douyin won’t be as reliable as platforms like Kuaishou, where the followers are more loyal to particular KOLs.6





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WWD Apparel and Retail CEO Summit 2019 Takeaways China


This year’s WWD Apparel + Retail CEO Summit themed, Movers + Makers, included a host of leaders from different backgrounds from the retail and fashion industry. Topics ranged from disruptive business models and new leadership imprints to discussions on emerging markets and new generations. Below, Jing Daily highlights some key takeaways from the two-day event.

Kerby Jean-Raymond from Pyer Moss on Rethinking the Excitement of Retail 

As one of the hottest young fashion talents, Kerby Jean-Raymond, founder and creative director of Pyer Moss, believes that making a brand’s shopping experience unique at different store locations is key when it comes to forming a brand’s identity. According to Jean-Raymond, the most straightforward solution is to give different products to different stores. “Retail is about the scavenger hunt. Retail brands are in the end, not competing with other retailers or brands but Instagram,” Jean-Raymond said. “It’s about getting people to engage and get their attention.”

Calvin McDonald from Lululemon on Traction in China and Putting Community First 

CEO Calvin McDonald of Lululemon. Photo: Courtesy of Jeff Fried for WWD

CEO Calvin McDonald of Lululemon. Photo: Courtesy of Jeff Fried for WWD

Lululemon’s positioning as a platform that fosters physical and mental growth has found solid ground in China. The brand’s success there has been in large part due to China’s booming health and fitness scene. McDonald believes that an experiential brand should be fulfilled through four dimensions: stores, events, digital, and community. He noted the importance of igniting a community through experiences beyond the four walls of a store. “While others are trying to figure out how to make their four-wall environment experiential and hope for people to come in, we are looking at that as an end,” McDonald said. 

Additionally, McDonald believes Lululemon’s additional growth will be will in men’s, digital, and international expansion, especially in China. The brand has also created a high-end collaboration this year with the London-based fashion brand, Roksanda, to give their higher-value customers a unique offering. 

Alessandro Bogliolo from Tiffany & Co. on Balancing Growth in Emerging Markets with Legacy

Tiffany & Co. is at the center of an industry conversation, thanks to rumors that LVMH will acquire the 182-year-old American legacy jewelry brand. At WWD’s Summit, Tiffany’s CEO, Alessandro Bogliolo, remained humble about the brand’s revitalization success in all of its markets. 

The brand has moved from low single-digit growth to consistent double-digit growth of over 25% in mainland China over the last six quarters. This is due to a strategy that includes increased marketing spending in China, the collaboration between the New York marketing team with Tiffany’s local Chinese team, and a greater network of stores there. As of now, the brand has upgraded seven stores in China, recreating an authentic Tiffany experience without having to fly to New York City.  

In the end, though, Mr. Bogliolo commented that as a legacy luxury jewelry brand, Tiffany’s fundamentals are less about disrupting emerging markets, and more about executing the vision of the founder and to keep it relevant with younger generations. 

John McPheters from Stadium Goods on Redefining Resale Through Storytelling and Globalization

Stadium Goods' CEO John McPheters at WWD Apparel + Retail CEO Summit 2019. Photo: Courtesy of Jeff Fried for WWD

Stadium Goods’ CEO John McPheters at WWD Apparel + Retail CEO Summit 2019. Photo: Courtesy of Jeff Fried for WWD

As the premium sneaker marketplace leader, Stadium Goods’ success is fueled by a strong company mission.

Following its success in the U.S. market, the company headed to China with a mindset of localization. Stadium Goods’ domestic success lies in its innovative thinking and a solid grasp of omnichannel commerce and thoughtful activations. “Traditional ways of thinking about the omnichannel experience are about the store and e-commerce. We think of it as extended marketplace partnerships, pop-ups, initiatives and more,” McPheters said. At home, the brand has collaborated with high-profile singers and celebrities such as DJ Khalid and ASAP Ferg, resulting in high consumer engagement. 

In China, however, content strategy and channels are highly localized. Stadium Goods has partnered with Tmall since August 2016 and is also currently on the Chinese social media application, Little Red Book. The brand produces various content for China from short- and long-form video to weekly live broadcasts. “All these together are huge drivers for our brand,” McPheters said. In addition, he pointed out the importance of gamification and coupons in driving sales in China. In all, McPheters sees a large crossover in high-end fashion, sneakers, and streetwear and believes that we’re still the early days of this trend. 

Patrice Louvet from Ralph Lauren on Winning New Generations

Ralph Lauren CEO, Patrice Louvet, emphasized the importance for legacy brands to be on new platforms. In short, to be where the next generation of consumers are from a marketing standpoint and communicate with them in a way they want to be communicated with. For the U.S., Ralph Lauren currently is on the short-form mobile video app, TikTok, as an extension to gain traction with Gen Z consumers, though platforms such as WeChat are a key communication point for reaching the young Chinese as well. 

Louvet added that sometimes traditional brand marketing can still work its magic on younger generations with the help of new communication platforms. For example, when it comes to China, Weibo’s live streaming services together with traditional content from runway shows gained unexpected reactions from consumers. Ralph Lauren’s Spring 2020 runway show gained over 21 million views from young Chinese consumers via Weibo’s live stream. 

Guram Gvasalia from Vêtements on Growing without Losing Excitement

Vêtements Cofounder and CEO Guram Gvasalia at WWD Apparel + Retail CEO Summit 2019. Photo: Courtesy of Jeff Fried for WWD

Vêtements Cofounder and CEO Guram Gvasalia at WWD Apparel + Retail CEO Summit 2019. Photo: Courtesy of Jeff Fried for WWD

Guram Gvasalia, co-founder and CEO of Vêtements, takes an inquisitive approach when it comes to growing the company. Building a long-term relationship with the customer has become something rare today, but Gvasalia believes that brands should look beyond revenue numbers. “You can have one hundred customers who each spend ten thousand dollars at one hundred stores or one customer who spends one million dollars at one store. It is very important in my opinion to grow within a store,” Gvasalia shared. 

Gvasalia’s Vêtements will keep pursuing an organic growth path. “I think we live in the world today where it becomes too quick for things to develop and grow. Because of the Instagram feed, our perception of reality has become extremely short-term,” Gvasalia said. Putting the brand everywhere reminds people of the brand’s existence, but eventually takes away the excitement that comes with discovering the brand. In addition, Vêtements announced a new platform that will support young design talents, and where the brand will act as a Big Brother and mentor. The first part of the project is set to launch in 2020. 





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