Cartier Bell Boys

PARIS — As high-end labels clamor for a piece of China’s online market — all the more important, with much of the world at a standstill — Cartier is drawing on its partnership with Tmall’s Luxury Pavilion to launch a new Santos-Dumont watch model on the Alibaba e-commerce platform.

Luxury brands are training their energy on China, which has emerged from the global coronavirus crisis as a crucial testing ground for new marketing initiatives and product launches. Dior debuted its Gem Clutch, a satin purse adorned with a jeweled flower, on WeChat last week before rolling it out in other markets, while Louis Vuittion promoted its summer 2020 collection through livestreaming on Xiaohongshu, a popular social-commerce platform.

In January, Cartier revealed it was joining Tmall’s Luxury Pavilion, becoming the first hard luxury label to open a virtual selling space on Alibaba’s e-commerce platform, four years after the Compagnie Financière Richemont jewelry house first set up an Internet site in the country.

The jewelry firm launched on the platform in February, coinciding with Tmall’s “Super Brand Day,” offering  limited edition black ceramic “Juste un Clou” bracelets — they were sold out in a minute, according to Cartier.

Online sales in China are driven by limited offers and blockbuster sales events, and as the country emerges from the COVID-19 lockdown, retailers are doubling down on efforts to drum up consumer interest in new products.

The limited edition Santos-Dumont watch launch marks a first for the label, which hasn’t offered an exclusive product to such a large audience, it said in a statement. Cartier executives added the effort was a means to tap into the country’s fast-moving digital landscape to forge ties with clients in “creative and contemporary ways.”

The company plans to continue upgrading its digital arsenal as part of a broader omnichannel strategy in the country, added Guillaume Alix, chief executive officer of Cartier China.

“Tmall is no longer only an online sales battlefield for the luxury brands, instead, it can provide brands with a super-performance marketing solution,” said Liu Bo, vice president of Alibaba Group and general manager of the company’s marketing platform business.

Luxury executives describe the online setting as similar to a physical mall, where brands have to angle for prime real estate and hold activities, like fashion shows or splashy new store openings, in order to raise their visibility, and adding extra services to draw interest in online offers.

When Cartier debuted on Tmall, it offered red box engravings and delivered orders to the first 288 clients, with its trademark ‘bellboys’, donned in traditional, red uniforms.