The partnership was officially launched here Friday during Tmall and its consumer-trend division Tmall Discovery’s first European conference, dubbed “The Colors of Italian Beauty.”
Held at the city’s Teatro Vetra venue, the conference saw Alibaba’s senior management illustrating to 300 European cosmetic operators the trends and business opportunities the Chinese market can offer through the example of the four, recently-added Italian beauty players.
During the event, these companies staged a fashion show and installed booths to present their latest products, physically and through on-site screens and apps — such as the Magic Mirror — enabling attendees to try the makeup items digitally.
This represented only one of the digital implementations offered by Alibaba in its “New Retail” approach to business, which combines the best strategies of online, off-line and social media channels to enhance its customers’ shopping experience and enable the companies adopting it to track users’ preferences.
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“We aim to be more digital and experiment with new technologies to offer customized products and shopping experiences,” said Kiko’s chief executive officer Cristina Scocchia, underscoring that making makeup “accessible to all the beauty lovers around the world” is the prime mission of the brand.
The executive defined China as one of the fastest evolving markets and through the partnership with Tmall, she forecasts the company will “reach 50 million euros in sales in three years [in the region], increasing our presence in the East considerably.”
“It was a natural step to entrust our [vision] to the excellence of Alibaba and its online and off-line integrated business model to give every Chinese woman, everywhere, access to our Italian aesthetic,” echoed Deborah Group’s ceo Antonio Vanoli.
Diego dalla Palma Group’s ceo Micol Caivano enthused about the partnership, as well, and revealed the company has developed new makeup items dedicated to the Chinese market.
Throughout the conference, managers of Alibaba Group reiterated the company, whose ultimate goal is to be a bridge connecting the world to China, is not just an e-commerce one, but an “ecosystem,” offering services to support firms developing dedicated strategies to engage local customers and increase sales. Said services include customized insights on users, data-driven marketing approaches and even support in the development of products.
“Helping brands is the best way to get new consumers,” said Tmall marketing and operation department president Jia Luo. Aiming to reach two billion customers in 10 years, the group’s marketplaces draw 552 million active consumers annually in China, half of whom were born between 1990 and 1999.
“These are young people who want novelty and are not afraid to experiment. They don’t pay attention to the price but to service and quality. They want to acquire happiness and live a healthy life and we aim at fulfilling and meeting these demands,” said Luo.
“Chinese consumers are driven by quality products not available in their country — which for them are also more trustworthy compared to Chinese ones — and by the price gap,” continued Tmall import and export general manager Alvin Liu.
The executive said the new middle class of Chinese consumers, which counts 300 million people and is set to double by 2020, are driving the consumption of imported products. As a result, “cosmetics and beauty are the number-one category on Tmall right now,” surpassing maternity and baby products.
“Post-Nineties consumers have a couple of beauty cameras on their phones for selfies, they care about beauty and want to differ from older generations,” continued Liu, underscoring that if their predecessors used to favor high-end luxury labels, the new clients “want to find something unique and explore new local brands, bowing from Europe and the U.S.”
Listing skin care, niche products and men’s beauty as major trends, the executive referenced the case history of Spanish beauty products, which jumped from the 15th to eighth position in the rank of the most-sought-after items by Chinese consumers. In particular, Tmall’s best-performing beauty brand is Spanish label Sesderma, followed by Shiseido and Ryo. Alvin also referenced the success of ampoules, which boosted the business of Spanish pharmacy brand MartiDerm, increasing its sales by 27 times since 2016.
“There are many quality local brands in Europe,” continued Liu, hinting at the several small- to medium-sized Italian beauty labels that are not popular abroad. “Beside cosmetics, also personal care is very performing in China,” he added, mentioning the success of Italian toothpaste brand Marvis in the country.
China represents an opportunity for business in general. In 2017, the country became the world’s largest retail market, registering $5.69 trillion in sales. Overall, the online penetration is expected to account 33 percent of the sales by 2020.
The Chinese government is playing its part in enhancing the economy, opening the market to the world and meeting locals’ demands by hosting the first China International Import Expo, running Nov. 5 to 10. According to projections, the country will be importing products and services for more than $10 trillion in the next five years.