Farfetch and Tmall’s Latest Influencer Collaborations in China

While e-commerce platforms collaborating with influencers to drive sales is nothing new, e-commerce platforms in China appear to be taking influencer partnerships to the next level. Recently, Farfetch joined forces with renowned WeChat influencer Mr. Bags to launch a co-branded Mini Program store, while top e-commerce live streaming beauty blogger Austin Li became the first KOL to launch a Tmall Global Influencer Store.

Mr. Bags x Farfetch

Since the early days of Mini Programs, WeChat influencers have been creating their own e-commerce stores. While some of them exclusively sell products from their own brands — for example, fashion influencer Becky Li — many of them, such as Gogoboi, have been working with the service providers like LOOK, who help them integrate their WeChat stores with a number of cross-border e-commerce platforms. Using LOOK’s technology, influencers can curate their shops from a selection of SKUs that the platforms have made available.

However, this recent collaboration between Mr. Bags and Farfetch is slightly different. This time the luxury e-commerce platform worked directly with Mr. Bags to create a custom e-commerce Mini Program called “包先生 with Farfetch.” The Mini Program is linked to Mr. Bags’ Official Account, allowing him to directly link the bags mentioned in his articles to the co-branded Farfetch Mini Program, making it possible for followers to read an article and purchase the featured products from Farfetch without exiting Mr. Bags’ WeChat properties. The Mini Program has been created specifically with this purpose in mind, only listing the exact items mentioned in Mr. Bags’ articles. The shop’s inventory is updated every Tuesday morning to reflect new content.

Unlike many of Mr. Bags’ previous collaborations which have been one-off drops of limited-edition capsule collections, it appears this one is meant to be long-term. Mr. Bags shared that oftentimes when he mentions lesser-known brands, or limited-edition bags in his content, fans who want to purchase the items get frustrated because those products aren’t available in China. The partnership with Farfetch gives him a safe and trustworthy way to make these products available to his readers. Similar to his previous brand partnerships, Mr. Bags steers clear of any of the logistics. Consumers purchase the products directly through Farfetch and the platform handles all of the customer service and shipping.

Austin Li (李佳琦) Opens First-Ever Tmall Global Influencer Store

Over the past year, Alibaba has been making big moves into the influencer space, focusing heavily on developing their own roster of homegrown talent. While influencers from a variety of platforms have been opening their own Taobao shops for years, during the recent 618 shopping festival popular beauty live streamer Austin Li launched his store “李佳琦海外专属店,” becoming the first Tmall Global influencer store known in Chinese as “达人店”.

It appears Li’s store is a pilot project for Tmall, and if it goes well, this store is likely to be the first of many. Unlike the influencer Zhang Dayi, who created her own beauty brand and launched the brand on Tmall, these new influencer stores are similar to the curated WeChat stores mentioned above. The influencer and his or her team can select products from a variety of brands to appear in the store from a list of SKUs, and then Tmall Global handles the supply chain including products, stock, logistics, and after-sale service.

While Li is known for his ability to sell out hundreds of Tom Ford, YSL and M.A.C. lipsticks in mere minutes, his store inventory goes beyond his usual beauty recommendations to include other personal care products like shampoo and vitamins, and even into household goods such as kitchen pots (which he sold 40 of within the first minute of the live stream launch of the store).

With sharp competition between e-commerce platforms and increasingly expensive user acquisition costs, it appears platforms are beginning to lock down partnerships with top-tier influencers who have large follower-bases and the proven ability to sell. For influencers, making the commitment to open a store with a large e-commerce platform is a smarter move than entering into a long-term partnership with a single brand. The e-commerce platform gives them access to a variety of world-class brands, allowing them to pick and choose items they like, and thereby retain their objective, trustworthy status in the eyes of consumers.

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Remo Ruffini, Moncler, and the Cult of Innovation

Hackathon’s are usually the domain of the geeks: 24- or 48-hour events where computer programmers, designers, project managers, and others bury themselves in a room with the goal of creating a usable piece of software or hardware. It’s become a rite of passage in the tech world. But now, these design thinking-based events are spreading beyond the incubators of Silicon Valley and into other industries looking to accelerate innovation.

This is what brought me to Milan’s Tortona district, an inviting neighborhood of industrial spaces, cozy osterias, boutique hotels, and home to some of the world’s most famous fashion brands, and where Moncler — king of the puffy down jacket — kicked off its first-ever hackathon on July 4th.

Innovation, however, isn’t something new for Moncler, nor is putting on an epic event. It’s part of their DNA, from the Moncler Grenoble flash mob that took over New York’s Grand Central Station in 2011, where 363 models decked out in Moncler ski clothing danced for an audience of fashionistas and curious commuters to Moncler’s Genius Project, where eight different designers produce a new collection each month, reshaping the company’s traditional one season, one collection production cycle in favor of a far more digitally-friendly monthly drop.

All of this has been driven by Remo Ruffini, Chairman and CEO of Moncler. Ruffini, who purchased the then failing brand in 2003, has since transformed Moncler into a brand worth billions by questioning what’s next, what’s possible (and by taking the company public in 2013). To kick off the hackathon, he stressed the importance of innovation for Moncler, and the great opportunity this event offered the company and its participants, adding: “Moncler’s strategy is based on uniqueness and uniqueness requires strong ideas and a working environment that knows how to embrace and encourage them.”

The hackathon would be the perfect place to prove this. It was held in a large event space next to Moncler’s main office. The idea was simple enough. Bring together a group of employees for a specific amount of time and task them to create new and distinctive solutions to a set of problems. And for Moncler, this was 450 employees from around the world — 32 teams from the Milan headquarters and 5 regional teams — and give them 24-hours to combine their different skillsets, and promoting collaboration, to generate and accelerate innovative solutions for 9 areas of strategic priority for the company, ranging from The Store of the Future to Early Detection of Successful Products to the Digital Boardroom.

Once the countdown began, and each team member — all sporting white pants and a white Moncler Hackathon printed t-shirts — got down to the design thinking business, I was able to spend a bit of time with Mr. Ruffini. We talked about many things, including the idea behind the hackathon, Moncler’s culture for innovation, and how both of these related to their evolving China strategy.

Moncler Hackathon

In this first Hackathon I did the least fun part: the judge. Next time, I want to be seated at the tables where the future is planned.” —Remo Ruffini.Photo: Courtesy of Moncler

Tell me about the Hackathon.

“I think something like this is quite new for our industry, and I believe we’re the first luxury company to actually try to involve only employees in its own hackathon. But I think it’s something very interesting for everybody — the employees, the brand. This could be huge.”

A couple areas you’re exploring with the Hackathon have to do with Moncler’s retail approach. What’s your current thinking on the value of brick and mortar stores in an increasing digital everything world?

“First of all, I think we are lucky because we have only 200 stores around the world. For our industry, to be a successful brand, that’s not a lot of stores. But having said that, I don’t think it’s only about retail sales. I think we have to now be multi-channel, including Facebook or Instagram or whatever. I also think we need to push more e-commerce as well. Now, you have to build a community, and to do so, you have to think omni-channel everywhere.”

Do you alter your communication by country?

“Culturally, just to give you an example, three of our five Regions are in Asia — Shanghai, Seoul, and Tokyo. It’s only a couple hours flight between them, but the culture is totally different in each. Given this, you need a robust vision, a robust strategy, but at the same time you must be as domestic as you can while also respecting your DNA. But thinking locally is very, very important, especially when you wanna talk to the customer. If you wanna talk to the customer in Milan or in New York, it’s not very different, but between these three it’s a different culture, different currency, and a different way of life. For example, five years ago, you would simply invite the customer to the store to see a new collection, but today it’s another world. You have to have the right CRM, you have to know the culture, but at the same time you have to be prepared that every year will now bring something new.”

Has this altered your approach to China?

“Not only for China, but all around the world. However, China is another world. It’s the only market with one digital platform, while the rest of the world is basically on another. We communicate on WeChat, which everyone in China uses for everything, but I feel that we’re not where we need to be at the moment. We will continue to work on this. In my experience, it’s better to lose some opportunities than make a mistake. This is our approach at the moment.”

Will you increase the number of stores in China?

“The thing today, I think, is not open too many stores around the world, but instead work to get the best location possible. Chinese customers are around 30% of our business right now, and my dream, especially with China, is to have all bigger stories in better locations. I know this is not easy. This is a big concern in China. We are an independent company. We cannot compete with the larger companies, larger brands. What I constantly study from the larger companies is real estate. Real estate is everything. However, I feel that travel retail — shops in airports — will become a bigger part of our retail in China. We’re currently planning to develop more of these in the next couple of years.”

Are you creating any customized items exclusively for China?

“We have one collection worldwide, but we do design three or four jackets per season for the Chinese market, because it’s important that people know that they can buy something only there. But I’ve felt, since day one, the importance to talk directly with my customer. I don’t want anything between me and my customer. This is a very important decision, because you have to be fast to the market. I have tried to make one collection, one idea, and hopefully this feeds what I imagine. Sometimes, it’s not easy. Sometimes, China wants more color, more brilliance, whatever, but I’ve tried to make the unity of all our ideas come from around the world.”

How has Moncler’s culture changed due to the Genius Project?

“Before the Moncler Genius Project, we were really classic, like every other company. But since the launch, I really felt that this was a turning point for Moncler — it changed our attitude, emotion, and the energy of the staff. Everyone had to start working together, and it really changed the energy and the mood of the people in the company.”

Is data playing an increasing role in what you do?

“I think today, working in our industry, it’s not just about collecting as much data as possible, but about how you use the data. Again, the world is so different, but we try our best. There’s your customer trends and statistics, retail, and now with e-commerce data is increasingly important. I think it’s one of the interesting, dynamic challenges in our industry today. But in the end, it’s more than trying to contact and connect with your customer, but to try to contact them with ideas.”

What’s next?

“We have our five-year, ten-year plans, but we’re flexible. We have to be able to adapt. For decades, everything was the same. A new campaign, photo shoot, an ad in a magazine, and then the store. Next campaign, exactly the same. In the last five years, it’s changed. It’s a new reality that has changed our mentality. But the key, I think, is to speak with the people in the streets, to get to know and understand your customer as much as you can. That’s the real thing.”

Twenty-four hours later, 450 tired Moncler staffers celebrated with the winning five teams, which were selected based on four key performance indicators for the company: innovation, business impact, feasibility and desirability. “Most of the projects presented were innovative and at the same time, with some additional work, achievable,” says Ruffini. “What made me happier is the sense of participation and belonging that I felt. And an extraordinary creative energy. That’s worth gold for any organization.” It’s too early to tell how these ideas will add to the brand. But one thing is certain — the home of the puffer down jacket isn’t slowing down or resting on its current success. It’s a global world now, and somewhere, winter is coming.

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How These 7 Luxury Brands Build Hype for Chinese Valentine’s Day

In the past few years, Chinese Valentine’s Day, a.k.a., Qixi, has proven to be a battlefield where luxury brands can win over Chinese consumers’ hearts. This year’s holiday will fall earlier than usual, on August 7, but many brands started planting gift ideas into consumers’ minds for sometime now. While it’s a standard to release exclusive collections via WeChat Mini Program, here are some different marketing strategies that luxury brands are utilizing this year to stand out:

Prada: Panorama & In-Store Experience
The Italian luxury fashion house Prada knows how to craft the ultimate Qixi experience, with both online and offline initiatives. The brand developed a pop-up WeChat Mini Program, providing a panorama experience for users to explore an illustrated virtual garden, where they can also unlock personalized love messages and purchase gifts from the capsule collection. Consumers can experience Qixi in-store as well.  The collection is available at selected Prada stores with special installations, including a temporary flower station, where customers may purchase flower bouquets created by floral artists up to the day of the festival. To build up buzz, on July 25, Prada will unveil on its social media channels, as well as on prada.com, a love-themed digital campaign casting young up-and-coming Chinese models, such as Chen Yin, Chen Yuanyuan, Yang Hao, and Zhao Jiali. Through a series of videos, each will tell their unique process of unwrapping a gift, the protagonists interact with Prada products and different species of flowers — from rose to tulip to peony, showing their personal interpretations of love.

Valentino: Hunger Marketing & Star Power
For Qixi this year, Valentino debuted a secret gift box with videos of two of their brand ambassadors, Zhang Yixing and Tang Yan, posing with the box while smiling mysteriously, with the words, “You are a wonderful risk. I will take you” above them. According to the brand, the box (priced at about $1455) contains three Qixi-edition items and gifts from the celebrities — just enough of an offering to tempt fans. The results show that many of them “took the risk.” The gift boxes sold out within 20 minutes after going live. For those who missed out, they can purchase special holiday items on July 18 through the brand’s WeChat Mini Program and Tmall.

Chloé: It Bag & KOL Marketing
Instead of launching multiple products for Qixi, Chloé focused on creating the IT bag by Aby Lock and in partnership with the inimitable Mr. Bags. Being one of the first brands to start their Qixi promotion early, Chloé launched the bag via WeChat Mini Program on July 15. Within one minute of launch, 66 of the bags (which were priced at around $2007) were sold, and all 199 bags in the limited edition sold out within 7 hours. The formula for selling out It bags can’t happen without star power, however, and in addition to Mr. Bags’ royal bag watchers and collectors, the post also included dozens of celebrities, much like the #cholegirls who showcase the bags by wearing them during their daily lives to create buzz.

Bvlgari: Early Release & Mobile Game
Italian jewelry brand Bvlgari was the first brand to release a limited edition on WeChat for the holiday — a post published on July 1 highlighting the Divas’ Dream necklace (priced from $1527- $2690) and the classic Serpenti Forever bags, which are available for purchase on the brand’s WeChat. Fans can take a quiz to get a gift option that matches their ideal definition of love.

Christian Dior: Mobile game
In a quite playful fashion, Dior asked fans to unveil its Qixi Dior Amour collection with a mobile game. Fans can play Cupid to match collection letters with a list of merchandise, from handbags, shoes, accessories like scarves, glasses, and jewelry. The brand has also invited four celebrities to be styled in Dior head to toe, including the brand ambassador, actress Angelababy, and perfume ambassador Wang Ziwen. Fans can purchase via online boutique and limited release in retail stores.

Louis Vuitton: Special products
For consumers who might want an “out-of-box” gift idea, Louis Vuitton has a wide variety of products, such as a music box, a toy in LV bag, and earbuds with LV logo. On their WeChat Mini Program, sections are divided by female and male; the brand also indicated which products are Qixi exclusive items, which makes it easier for the bag snobs to select from.

Gucci: Unique storytelling
Gucci has created exclusive items to lure millennials who would appreciate a good Greek story. Besides the double G symbol, Gucci’s Qixi edition included elements like a star, a heart, and a shooting star, which is believed to be a blessing from the God of Sky, Astraeus. There are also Sylvie styles handbags, wallets, shoes, and scarves available for purchase via WeChat Mini Program.

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Is Burberry’s Momentum Here to Stay?

With a new graphic identity, logo-rich products, and loads of investment in areas of retail distribution and marketing & communications, Burberry’s rebranding efforts are gradually rolling out under the leadership of creative director Riccardo Tisci, who came on board in March 2018. The transformation is now showing signs of rising popularity among Chinese consumers — the world’s most important luxury shoppers set to account for over 40 percent of global luxury goods consumption by 2023.

According to the British fashion house’s first-quarter FY 2020 earnings result, it scored a four-percent like-for-like (LFL) sales in the three months to June 29, which doubled markets expectations. Meanwhile, Tisci’s new collection, accounting for roughly 50 percent of the brand’s total offering at the end of this June (up from 10 to 15 percent in March), continued to record strong double-digit growth. Of particular note, the mainland China market saw sales grow 15 percent from the prior year, becoming the only source market that recorded double-digit growth.


The monogram-stripped giant Thomas Burberry Bear on the Xintiandi Taiping Lake in Shanghai.

In a nutshell, the latest earnings release indicates Chinese customers are falling in love with Tisci’s new Burberry. Zhang Chen, a 22-year-old male Chinese consumer told Jing Daily that he has started to notice the change at Burberry since last year when the brand set up a monogram-stripped giant Thomas Burberry Bear on the Xintiandi Taiping Lake in Shanghai. “That [installation] left a deep impression on me, which made me feel curious about this old brand, which I thought was for my parents’ generation,” he said. Today, Zhang owns a “Thomas Burberry Monogram” t-shirt (priced at $400), which happened to be the first item Tisci designed for the brand. He said he is also considering buying the brand’s “Monogram Strip E-canvas” bum bag (priced at $690), which he felt was “kind of cool.”

The importance of Burberry’s handbag and accessory category is also rising, which is very important for a luxury brand to win in the Chinese market, as consumers are very into “It” bags. Burberry’s TB handbag collection is gaining an increasing amount of attention from shoppers lately, according to Rita He, a veteran daigou agent who specializes in serving the country’s upper-middle-class buyers. “The runway TB bags are in demand by my clients, for example, and lately, the canvas tote bags are also popular,” He said. However, He was uncertain if TB bags could be considered as “It” bags, “because its desirability is still way behind some trending models including Louis Vuitton’s trunk bag, Chanel’s Gabrielle cross-body bag, and Dior’s saddle bag.”

Aside from product innovation, Burberry also devotes a significant amount of resources to communicate its transformation. In China, the brand is experimenting with the “drop” retail model on WeChat — learning from the commercial success of streetwear brands such as Supreme — to stir excitement and desirability. Burberry has also relocated and renovated some retail stores in major Chinese cities to ensure its store offerings are in line with the brand’s new DNA.

While Burberry seems to be on the right track to having a business turnaround, the question remains to be whether the current upward trend can be sustained in a tough business environment in which Brexit, the trade war, and the slowing Chinese economy are adding a various level of uncertainties.

Citi Research, in an investor note published on July 12, described Burberry as a bag full of high hopes. “We think the company will deliver stronger growth in the second half of the year given improvement in new product availability.” The brand plans to grow the offerings of Tisci’s new collection out of total share to around 60 percent by September and around 75 percent by fiscal year-end 2020. JP Morgan, however, shows more caution than optimism quite simply because of its timing, “The cycle is becoming tougher and we have never seen turnarounds succeed in adverse cycles. Plus, Burberry is highly exposed to the Sterling volatility around Brexit.”

Even Burberry itself is cautious on the outlook. The pick-up of Q1 LFL sales did not give the brand enough confidence to lift its full-year projections. What’s more important, Tisci is yet to prove that his design can have the halo effect to leather goods and across categories like what Alessandro Michele has brought to Gucci to truly underpin the brand’s turnaround.

The post Is Burberry’s Momentum Here to Stay? appeared first on Jing Daily.

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Sotheby’s Taps Chinese Couturier Guo Pei to Curate

By loosening our standards and democratizing even the most coveted of titles, we’ve forfeited the appeal of everything that could appear desirable. When everyone is a self-proclaimed diva or a playboy, how do we know a real one?

Luckily some institutions still use strict standards and rules to recognize the most gifted and remarkable talents. Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week — organized by the Fédération française de la couture, du prêt-à-porter des couturiers et des créateurs de mode (French Federation of Fashion and Ready-to-Wear Couturiers and Fashion Designers) — remains highly prohibitive, and only a handful of designers are invited to introduce their collections during this exclusive event. Beijing’s own Guo Pei happens to be one of them.

Famous in the West for her collaboration with MAC Cosmetics and for designing Rihanna’s 2015 Met Gala gown, Guo is a household name in China where she dressed the likes of Zhang Ziyi and Li Bingbing. Guo’s dresses are the epitome of couture. Theatrical, exaggerated, and superbly extravagant, her designs belong in a museum or Marie Antoinette’s flamboyant, aristocratic world. And this is the condition that makes them so appealing to the Chinese elite.

It’s no wonder that Sotheby’s, whose largest shareholder is now China-based Taikang Life Insurance Co., noted her rapid ascent and invited her to curate pieces for their auction Gold: The Midas Touch, which will open in October. The auction will take place in London and will comprise four of Guo’s couture gowns. This is an opportunity for the Chinese designer to showcase the heritage and craftsmanship of her native country and convey the artistry of her culture. According to Sotheby’s, “The auction celebrates the single metal which has compelled mankind for six millennia, building empires and destroying dynasties.” And gold evokes Guo’s most famous designs, figuring as a sort of personal trademark in her work. Some of her most elaborate gowns use gold and silver threads.

China has a long culture of high-end dressing. During the Tang Dynasty (618-907), fashion was luxurious and pretentious, with garments made of silk and expensive fabrics decorated with beautiful embroidery and refined embellishments. This was a sumptuous age of fashion exuberance that left a strong mark on the country. Later, fashion branched out across the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Women had a greater variety of garments, while groundbreaking techniques in working silk (hand-pleating) were made more readily available. The Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) introduced the beautiful Manchu robes to help illustrate social status and power. Then, in October 1949, Communist rule brought about an altogether new form of fashion with standardized tunics and uniforms. Considering China’s deeply structured fashion history, it’s not surprising that today the public craves freedom, authenticity, and self- actualization.

Guo Pei is crafting gowns reminiscent of China’s former splendor. Her success can be attributed to her fashion intuition and her ability to sense temporal changes in trends. She presented her elaborate designs at just the time when China was ready to embrace couturiers and gowns that take 50,000 hours to create.

Sotheby’s says that the auction will include, “Contemporary Art, Russian Works of Art & Fabergé, Design, Furniture & Decorative Arts, Asian & Indian Art, Sculpture, Old Masters, Medieval Manuscripts, Watches, and Jewelry.” Moreover, in September Guo will collaborate with Sotheby’s team during Asia Week in New York.  The “Xiao Jin” or “Little Gold” gown which was presented at The Metropolitan Museum of Art during China: Through the Looking Glass exhibition (2015) will also be on display.

“Working with a prestigious institution like Sotheby’s has always been a wish of mine,” Guo Pei says. “I am thrilled to make this collaboration a reality. Through Sotheby’s, passionate art lovers will have a chance to appreciate the true value of my couture creations.”

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What China’s Gen Z Really Thinks of the Fake Luxury Market

Not only are Chinese Gen Zers among the world’s best-informed consumers on intellectual property rights (IPR), their attitude towards buying fake goods are also more likely to be driven by morality rather than financial considerations.

These are two findings from a new report by the International Trademark Association (INTA), which researched consumer attitudes among Gen-Z consumers from 10 different countries. Titled “Gen Z Insights: Brands and Counterfeit Products,” the report surveyed young shoppers in China, Argentina, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, and the United States. The researchers asked 4,500 respondents to complete a 25-minute online survey. A total of 403 Chinese Gen Zers participated: 202 males and 201 females between the ages of 18 and 23.

Most strikingly, the survey revealed a significantly higher-than-average awareness of intellectual property rights among Gen Zers in China. Of the Chinese respondents, 99 percent said they had some knowledge of IPR, compared with a global average of 85 percent. Among the other countries included in the study, Japanese Gen Zers were the only other group with more than 90 percent of respondents claiming awareness of IPR.

The results perhaps prove that the prevalence of counterfeit goods in the Chinese market in recent decades has helped shape the younger generation — one which is simultaneously keen on trading up for legitimate products. Chinese Gen Zers were the fifth-most-likely consumers to purchase fake products, with 84 percent saying they had done so “at least rarely” over the past year. This was still above the 79-percent average across the 10 countries. However, 70 percent of Chinese respondents said they expected to buy fewer counterfeits in the future. Only respondents from Indonesia and Nigeria echoed this position in greater numbers.

While only 62 percent of all respondents to the INTA survey said a brand name was “somewhat important” or “very important,” China’s Gen Zers tend to take brands more seriously. According to the report, 74 percent of Chinese Gen-Z consumers said that a brand name was at least somewhat important to them.

Brands are currently scrambling to adapt their messaging to target Gen-Z consumers, who are set to become the largest generational cohort of consumers worldwide by 2020. This generation has grown up in a world where international trade in counterfeits is booming and digital piracy is predicted to reach $2.81 trillion in 2022. “The door is open to change Gen Z’s mindset and buying habits,” said INTA President David Lossignol, Head of Trademarks, Domain Names and Copyrights at Novartis Pharma AG in Switzerland. “The study alerts brand owners that they need to pay attention and adapt marketing strategies.”

In April, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress announced amendments to the country’s Trademark Law that target bad-faith trademark registrations. The amendments will go into effect in November this year and are intended to prevent individuals from seeking to register and hold trademarks with no intention of using the trademark.

Here are a few additional takeaways from the report:

  • Nearly all of the Gen Zers surveyed in China have a “strong respect for the value of people’s ideas and creations”
  • About 80 percent of the Chinese Gen Zers in the study think “it’s important to buy genuine products,” while the global average is 74 percent
  • Approximately 61 percent of Gen Zers buy counterfeits because they’re easy to find — something China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba is trying to put a stop to
  • According to the report, “China is one of the few countries where morals beat income — by five percent — as the key influences on Gen Zers’ opinions about fakes. In contrast, globally, income outpaced morals by 10 percent”

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Versace’s New China Face Tops June Celebrity List: R3

The June list of the Jing Daily x R3 Celebrity Index — a monthly ranking of China’s most influential celebrities based on the country’s most important social media platforms, from Weibo and WeChat to Toutiao and Baidu – has the country’s A-list actress Yang Mi topping the popularity ranking of Chinese celebrities after climbing up from third place a month ago.


Jing Daily x R3 Celebrity List in June.

On May 24, the Italian luxury brand Versace, which is now under control of the American fashion corporation Capri Holdings, announced Yang as its first-ever Chinese brand ambassador, stirring a heated debate over the actress’ compatibility with Versace, a brand that was inspired by the mythological Greek figure Medusa who stands for power, beauty, and strength.


Madonna (left), Yang Mi (central), Lady Gaga (right)

Even though the announcement excited the actress’s more than 100 million followers on Weibo, there was a sizeable amount of discussion centered around Yang’s suitability for the role of Versace representative. One reason online users disagreed with the use of Yang is that the brand’s past muses were powerful Western pop idols like Madonna and Lady Gaga, and Yang appears to have nothing in common with them. The Chinese actress is primarily known for her youthful, teen-girl look, despite the fact that she has a five-year-old daughter. Yet Yang’s massive ability to sell is likely the main reason for the partnership. In China, she serves as a brand ambassador for a slew of fashion and beauty brands, including Michael Kors, Stuart Weitzman, and Estée Lauder, and all these brands have seen sales pick up thanks to her outsized commercial value.


The following ranking of the 20 top celebrity influencers in June is calculated by using data from Weibo’s Fan Base (calculating Activity, Adorable, and Social Influence Indexes), Toutiao, Baidu, and WeChat.

Weibo assumes the most weight, as it’s the platform where fan engagement can be traced. The Baidu, Toutiao, and Wechat indexes are more based on search behavior. The data from Weibo helps indicate the commercial value of each celebrity, especially for the Adorable Index where fans actually use a pay function to express their admiration for a celebrity.

  • Activity Index: The Activity Index counts the number of interactions on Weibo, which is a statistical indicator of interactions (including forwarding, commenting, likes, replying to comments, and comment likes on Weibo) generated by the content posted by the star over the past 30 days (including posts and comments).
  • Adorable Index: This refers to the fans’ contribution to the celebrity. Weibo has a mechanism where fans can contribute their admiration to the celebrity by giving virtual flowers which aren’t free. The adorable index is generated from the number of flowers the celebrity receives monthly.
  • Social Influence Index: There’s a large number of users publishing microblogs daily that mention celebrities. These microblogs are read by other users, and the number of readings reflects the recent popularity of a celebrity. In addition, a large number of users search for celebrities on Weibo every day, and the search volume generated also reflects the recent popularity of those celebrities. This data adds up to the social influence index of the celebrity.

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Learning from Gucci’s Wild Success with Millennials and Gen Z

At a recent event, Gucci CEO, Marco Bizzarri, spoke about his brand’s success with young consumers. Their numbers are remarkable: 62 percent of Gucci’s $eight billion in sales last year came from consumers who were 35 and under (Millennials), and the brand’s fastest-growing segment is consumers 24 and under (Generation Z).

In the approximately four years since he joined Gucci, Bizzarri tripled the brand’s revenue and has made critical strategic decisions — like appointing Alessandro Michele as his creative director — while also giving the brand a more contemporary and category-breaking attitude. With its strong appeal to the world’s youngest luxury consumers, Gucci is on track to become the largest luxury fashion brand in the world if its growth trajectory continues at its current pace.

One of the key enablers of their success has been investments in technology, as seen in their ArtLab: a futuristic factory where artistic experimentation is blended with 21st-century production processes. As a result, the brand can transform ideas and concepts into products at a higher speed than many of their competitors, meeting the Gen-Z demand for quick and unique product drops while enabling creatives to implement their ideas much faster than ever before.

Bizzarri also smartly enlisted a “shadow committee” comprised of Gen-Z and Millennial members from around the world to meet with technology experts and discover new ideas and approaches. “These [young] people often know much more about certain things than you do,” says Bizzarri on the importance of involving younger consumers in the development process. But what exactly can other brands learn from Gucci’s uncommon methods?

Accelerated market speeds

We are living in one of the most exciting times for innovative luxury brands. Technological change and market disruption are both happening at a faster rate than ever before, and because information travels faster, consumers are better informed than ever. Therefore, the youngest consumers come equipped with the highest expectation’s brands have ever seen — a dramatic paradigm shift from just a decade ago.

Given this, permanent adaptation and reinvention are absolutely necessary now because consumers are less patient now. Thereby, technology becomes an enabler that optimizes processes, responds faster, and ultimately provides better and faster service. When consumers look for instant gratification, brands need to build preconditions so they can deliver against those expectations.

Brand equity and brand storytelling

Building up a strong brand story was one of the cornerstones of Gucci’s success, and with Bizzarri’s arrival, Gucci refocused sharply on creating brand equity. A brand’s storytelling is one of the critical drivers of extreme value creation — a concept the best and most relevant luxury brands have mastered. In the years between Tom Ford’s departure and Bizzarri’s arrival, Gucci’s positioning in the market became too vague and undifferentiated. This has changed. Now there’s a very distinct and consistent brand attitude expressed through artistic mastery, advertising, and in-store experiences. This helps create a cohesive brand message for customers all over the world, but especially among Chinese customers, who are much more brand-obsessed than customers from other regions. And the brand personality Gucci has created feels relevant to them.

Many brands focus too much on the product and underestimate the importance of rigorous and excellent brand definition and execution. This can make brands vulnerable and tends to lead to ‘one-hit-wonders’ instead of consistent success. Brands must combine great storytelling with excellent product execution to win over Millennials and Gen Zers these days. Given the quickly-evolving and highly-competitive landscape, a brand should undergo an audit to clarify its positioning at least every two years, if not more often. This is not to change a brand’s strategy permanently, but rather to ensure that the strategy is both differentiated and relevant enough in a market with ever-changing trends and competitors.

Listening to customers

In markets like China where consumers spend their daily lives on WeChat (doing a significant part of their brand interactions via digital channels) opinions change regularly. Therefore, listening to consumers is an indispensable part of brand research. Traditional market research methods aren’t working anymore because they’re too slow, imprecise, or don’t offer actionable insights in real-time. The infamous Dolce & Gabbana case in China demonstrated that perceptions can change within hours, and brands must be able to identify those changes as they happen. Social media listening is not sufficient for locating fast-paced shifts in consumer sentiment. Today’s best practices involve advanced data querying technologies (including AI and machine learning) that offer rapid pattern recognition and the generation of timely and relevant counteractions.

By making the target group part of the decision-making body, a brand ensures that the direction they take will resonate with those consumers. Too many brands still use “guessing and hoping” and then wonder why their marketing campaigns and product launches don’t achieve their objectives. Listening to young customers by implementing up-to-date technical infrastructures and integrating them into decision-making processes takes guessing out of the equation and lets a brand know for sure that their content will be relevant.

Gucci’s success in today’s market is unparalleled and stands as an example of how the correct combination of leadership, creativity, brand equity-focus, customer-centricity, and enabling technology can propel a brand to significant growth. Bizzarri and his team have done a good job at positioning their brand in a way that feels relevant to Millennials and Gen Zers, and since those demographics will only get more important with age, Gucci should have no problem prospering in the future.


Daniel Langer is CEO of the luxury, lifestyle, and consumer brand strategy firm Équité. He consults some of the leading luxury brands in the world, is the author of several luxury management books, serves as a regular keynote speaker, and holds management seminars in Europe, the USA, and Asia. Follow @drlanger

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Brands Must Deal with Counterfeits on Social Commerce

In recent years, the solution for luxury brands combating fake products on Chinese e-marketplaces has been something of a one-horse race – and that horse is Alibaba. With the evolution of different e-commerce models, however, the market for counterfeits is changing in a way that many in the West can’t even accurately gauge. A European browser search of the phrase “counterfeits on Alibaba” returns over 600 results, for instance, while “counterfeits on Pinduoduo” offers less than 200 — hardly an accurate reflection of the problems inherent to both platforms.

Although Alibaba and JD continue to dominate China’s e-commerce landscape, it may surprise many to know that third place (second in some accounts) has been taken by the social commerce platform Pinduoduo. For those paying closer attention to Chinese markets, they will know that over the past three years, the Tencent-backed shopping app for discounted goods has seen incredible growth, but it also had a checkered history with counterfeit listings.

When Pinduoduo debuted on the Nasdaq in July 2018, it was touted as China’s fastest-growing business. But by August, it faced an investigation from the State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) over its failure to challenge intellectual property infringements, and the company’s stock had fallen. Pinduoduo had to act quickly. It claimed to have removed 1,128 stores and taken down 4.3 million listings from its site. But this one week of action was a band-aid for a much bigger problem, and in April 2019, the company was blacklisted for the first time as part of the U.S. Trade Representative’s annual report into “notorious markets.” While Alibaba’s Taobao website was also condemned for the third year running in the same USTR paper, the report did at least acknowledge that their group “has taken some steps to curb the offer and sale of infringing products.”

The threat to brands’ profits and reputations because of social shopping apps such as Pinduoduo, Little Red Book, WeChat’s Weidian, and Taobao’s Xianyu is real, but it’s also just one part of a complex and evolving situation for luxury brands. Pinduoduo is well known as a platform for cheap goods and group discounts, and its growth has been fuelled by the mobile engagement and gamification technologies that are aimed at its reported 77.5 million daily users from the poorer regions of provincial China. Therefore, while it might seem as if the company, known as “China’s Groupon,” poses a lesser threat for high-end fashion and lifestyle brands, there are actually several reasons why it deserves closer scrutiny.

China cares about social commerce

Regardless of its current consumer demographics, China’s embrace of social shopping is growing. Apps like Pinduoduo encourage users to create profiles and then generate their own content in order to influence their networks into group buying and sharing for discounts. Its market has been projected to be worth roughly $150 billion by 2020, meaning that it will possess a noticeable part of the overall e-commerce environment. China appears to care deeply about social shopping, so luxury brands who hope to continue capitalizing on the 33 percent of the revenue that Chinese consumers contribute to the $1.2 trillion trade in luxury products simply must pay attention.

One of the appeals of social shopping is that it offers the safety and mutual reinforcement of a communal experience. Users can create networks and then share and promote Pinduoduo-listed products through WeChat, resulting in group discounts, competitions, and other incentivized purchases. This disruptive “team purchasing” idea has resonated particularly well in a culture where online commerce had previously been centralized by the Alibaba/JD duopoly. Shaun Rein, the author of “The War for China’s Wallet: Profiting from the New World Order,” states, “The potential of social commerce is huge because people like to buy what their friends recommend. Increasingly, in China’s e-commerce landscape, people don’t know what sales channel to trust, but if they see their friends purchasing things on social commerce sites, they are more likely to buy.” For cautious Chinese consumers approaching expensive branded purchases for the first time, this kind of peer endorsement is vital. Therefore, the social commerce model seems like a natural fit with luxury goods — but also a possible future home for fake listings.

The days of trading down may be limited

Pinduoduo is acknowledged as a place for lower-income shoppers to buy everyday goods rather than high-end brands, but that doesn’t mean the market might not have the capacity to support luxury items. Although many social commerce shoppers currently have the desire to purchase luxury goods, their limited financial circumstances mean that cheap “shanzhai” mass copies are more common purchases.

However, younger and wealthier Chinese shoppers in the current climate expect unique luxury items and are increasingly willing to pay for them. As these Millennial and Gen-Z consumers represent an influential segment on social media, the energy that they devote to promoting themselves and their purchases will likely drive purchase mimicry throughout the country. With continued economic growth and increased purchasing power — even in the provincial cities — the desire for genuine luxury products will become more prevalent, but so too will the appearance of counterfeits that are closer to the real thing; so-called “super fakes.”

As brands become more common and less exclusive in rural locations, the drive for more expensive products and higher-end brands may also increase. This process already started in August 2018 when Pinduoduo committed to an escalation of branded goods through a “Pavilion” that would push global brands out to the provinces (a big part of the platform’s buyer base). And further subsidies for farmers, poverty alleviation initiatives, and e-commerce training sessions suggest that the social commerce market will likely reach new heights in the future.

The West has been here before

When the first wave of e-commerce appeared in the ‘90s, it was a revolutionary new way for all brands to bring goods directly to customers. This was particularly important for the luxury sector because sales could suddenly be increased in untapped Asian markets. Distance and cost had made establishing brick-and-mortar retail units prohibitively expensive, but e-commerce presented a real solution. Many marketplaces were initially unregulated, though, and this led to waves of listings for counterfeit products, which destabilized profits. When brand protection initiatives like eBay’s VeRO program began later in the decade, it set in motion the marketplace-centric brand protection strategies that still exist to this day.

But if anything serves as a template for how social media will pose a future threat to brands in China, it’s what’s currently happening across the U.S. and Europe. Sellers of luxury brands such as Michael Kors, Rolex, and Gucci have migrated in droves to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, leading to record seizures and regular headlines. Sellers establish interpersonal relationships within private groups and then communicate via encrypted Whatsapp messages with buyers. It’s an approach that’s also found its feet with Chinese counterfeiters who use channels like WeChat, Instagram, YuPoo and TikTok as additional arms to reach both Chinese and international customers.

Managing disruption

Pinduoduo and other social commerce disruptors have shown that the conventional marketplace model of buying and selling counterfeit goods is changing. For luxury brands who want to capitalize on the Chinese appetite for expensive products while limiting the number of fake products sold online, developing social shopping awareness is crucial. Marketplaces and website domains enforcing against counterfeit listings remain vital, but the mobile, fluid, and engaging nature of these new platforms may give some indication as to why luxury brands need to also consider counterfeiting solutions that are culturally relevant and forward-thinking.


Fiona Gao is Head of Business Development at Pointer Brand Protection.

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