Julep has had an impressive 18 hours since entering the Chinese market by way of Chinese app Little Red Book.
Described as a “shoppable Instagram” for China by Ting Li, business development, fashion, at Little Red Book, the destination began as a place where users shared content about foreign fashion and beauty brands that they had no access to in China. Today, more than 7,000 brands across both verticals from South Korea to the U.S. are being discussed by 24 million registered users.
But sharing content was not enough for Little Red Book’s community, who, for instance, wanted access to purchase sweaters from Everlane or lipstick from Julep. Because of this, Li said the app started to partner directly with foreign brands to implement commerce so users could buy directly through Little Red Book. Companies throughout South Korea and Japan already sell through the platform, but Li is starting to target American brands such as Julep, which is one of the first to launch cross-border selling.
Julep opened up commerce on Little Red Book on the evening of Nov. 7 and by the afternoon of Nov. 8, three shades of Lip Mousse already sold out. By 5 p.m., The Zodiac Collection of 12 nail polishes sold out.
This isn’t uncommon, though, according to Shenyi Wu, creative strategy officer at Little Red Book. He said that for every 100 people who log onto the app each month, about 20 people make a purchase. The average time spent on Little Red Book is 15 minutes per day, and users open the app about 50 times per month. Average monthly active users are in the high-single digit millions, and 50 percent of this group has made at least one purchase in the past year.
The app works in two ways, Wu said. The first is that once brands see organic growth in terms of content and followers (all content is user generated and not posted by brands the way it is on Instagram), they can work with Little Red Book on marketing to spread the word even further to a relevant audience. The second is that brands can partner with Little Red Book to do e-commerce through a marketplace model. For the latter, Little Red Book handles all logistics from payments to shipping. Everlane is active on the platform, and Wu noted that since working with Little Red Book in both capacities, the brand has increased their Chinese audience on the app by five times.
For Julep specifically, Little Red Book selected a handful of products and colors they thought would resonate with Chinese consumers, and even updated color names to appeal to the local clientele. For example, a berry red Lip Mousse called “XOXO” in the U.S. was changed to “U.S. Office Business Queen” in China. A sepia taupe shade, “Ooh La La” was changed to “Influential Auntie.”
“It’s substantial numbers; it’s not like we sold out with four units,” said Jane Park, founder and chief executive officer of Julep, who added that thousands of each color were sold in about 13 hours time. “We expected this to last to end of the year.”
Park explained that Julep works with a distributor in China that represents the brand’s wholesale interests in the region. Little Red Book has on-boarded product onto Julep brand page and takes a cut of sales.
“It’s a perfect encapsulation of all the different reasons Little Red Book is trying to bring these brands that these customers don’t have access to in China,” Park continued. “There was so much conversation about us as a brand — and I had no idea. So we moved really quickly to launch in advance of Single’s Day.”
Julep, which started as a direct-to-consumer e-commerce company nearly a decade ago, rolled out its most significant offline presence to date when it entered 250 Ulta doors this summer. But tackling China is what’s next, said Park, starting with Little Red Book.
“Major brands that sell in China do animal testing, [and] China was not on our radar because we have a firm stance at julep against animal testing,” Park explained, adding that there is now an “experimental provision” that enables foreign brands to sell through e-commerce and not have to do animal testing. “That opened the window for us. It was a big deal to make sure this was all above board.”