By  on February 28, 2011

Chloé just feted its fifth anniversary in China by live-streaming arunway show of its spring collection. And the house has anotherhigh-tech project in the works: it plans to launch a global e-commercesite within the next 18 months.

Chloé chief executive officerGeoffroy de la Bourdonnaye said the new site, which will permit ordersfrom China, is part of the house’s evolving online strategy. InDecember, Chloé started a Chinese-language blog, which it claims to bethe first of its kind from a Western luxury brand. The site,jesuischloe.com, includes company news and information about variousproducts and collections. Friday’s show, which took place at theShanghai Expo Center, was broadcast live on both the Chinese blog andChloé’s main Web site.

“It is a test, and it is a way toactually innovate,” said de la Bourdonnaye of the Chinese blog. “Thereis no grand plan of doing something with it other than allowing thecustomers who love Chloé to connect with us and participate in the eventin an interactive way, but there might be some other ideas coming up atthe end because we will take time to analyze the reaction. We are usingtechnology wherever it serves our purpose.”

The Chloé executivesaid the label has not been able to expand e-commerce initiativesoutside of Western markets because of a lack of suitable partners. Thecompany works with Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Barneys New York andNet-a-porter to sell products online.

“Honestly, the quality ofthe experience online has to be comparable to the quality of theexperience on the street,” de la Bourdonnaye said. “That is why we arenot in e-commerce in Japan. Even though Japan is the number-one market,we have no e-commerce there. We are starting to see some partners orstores which provide a luxurious experience, but so far we have notfound one.”

Helen Willerton, managing director for ChloéAsia-Pacific, said jesuischloe.com racked up 40,000 visitors in itsfirst few weeks of operation.

China has more than 400 millionInternet users, according to government statistics. Middle-classconsumers, the largest drivers of consumption in China, are almostentirely online, according to a 2010 McKinsey & Co. study.

Establishinga presence on the Chinese Internet is becoming increasingly importantfor retailers seeking a bigger share of consumers here, particularlythose living in second- and third-tier cities who have access to theInternet but not necessarily access to brick-and-mortar stores.

GiorgioArmani SpA, for example, launched an online store in China in November.Adidas AG and Uniqlo have flagship e-commerce portals on Taobao.com,China’s largest online shopping site, while Lancôme’s e-community site,Lancôme Rosebeauty, has become the third-largest beauty forum in thecountry, according to AdAgeChina.com.

According to a 2010 KPMGstudy, the in-store experience is still of prime importance to Chineseluxury consumers. The study notes that social media, including blogs,can be an important tool for retailers, including those selling luxuryproducts, to engage potential customers in China. One in five Chineseconsumers between the ages of 18 and 44 will not purchase a product orservice without first doing online research, KPMG said.

By theend of 2011, Chloé, which is part of Compagnie Financière Richemont SA,will have 13 stores in China. China will overtake Japan to become thenumber-one market for Chloé within two years, said de la Bourdonnaye,who declined to give any sales forecasts for the brand in China.

“They[Chinese consumers] are really catching up,” de la Bourdonnaye said.“It is changing extremely fast, and the sophistication of the consumer,they are not buying logo anymore as much as they are in Japan, or in theworld. We are not in people’s faces. We are in people’s minds. You needto get access to their minds or their hearts. It is a long-terminitiative. It takes time.”

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