MILAN — Prada Group's new online strategy kicked off in China this week, with a full global rollout planned by the end of January.The platform is "highly customized and localized," said the Milan-based fashion company, which is publicly listed in Hong Kong, and characterized the launch as "a major step forward" in its digital strategy.The product offering available on Prada's new platform will cater to individual markets across the globe.Prada listed its online services, which include improved and simpler navigation with a “mobile first” approach; new design and richer media content to increase consumers’ engagement while shopping online; a wider product choice that includes all men's and women's product categories, from ready-to-wear, bags, accessories and shoes to fragrances and eyewear, and personalized concierge services, such as the “virtual assistant” chat option and the possibility to book an appointment in store. The platform is fully integrated with Prada's stores, allowing the purchase of products online that can be picked up in a store of choice, where personal shoppers can also be reserved. The online store is integrated with social networks and local payment methods, including WeChat and Alipay.Chiara Tosato, Prada's general manager and digital e-commerce director, who joined the company in March, said the new prada.com in China was an important step for the group's digital strategy, "which is based on three pillars: driving online sales through our new e-commerce platform globally, developing an omnichannel shopping experience that integrates different ways of buying and increasing our investment in digital communication."Tosato pointed to China as one of the group's key markets.Prada is going through a phase of restructuring and, commenting on first-half results in September, which saw a decline in profits and sales, company chief executive officer Patrizio Bertelli pointed to its ongoing digital transformation, which he believes will deliver long-term growth.Bertelli said the company has “not seen the full impact” of its digital transformation.A localized e-commerce platform was first rolled out in Europe and the U.S. Tosato said at the time the platform allowed “a simpler user experience and a view of inventory,” explaining it is integrated with social networks, with a login directly from Facebook, for example.“We are working with 10 different languages, and each local site is customized and updated,” Tosato said in September. “We have already launched Prada’s and Miu Miu’s ready-to-wear, and the goal is to have everything online by the end of the year.”The target for digital sales is to reach 5 percent of revenues by the end of 2018, once the digital transformation has been completed, Tosato said at the time. Bertelli noted that perhaps Prada was late in the game, but that the actions taken so far have “been pretty good,” and that “the right decisions” had been made.Geographically, the Asia-Pacific region in the first half was up 0.4 percent with sales of 463 million euros, representing 32 percent of total sales. Greater China saw a 5.2 percent increase at constant exchange and growth was also seen across Macau and Hong Kong.Luxury goods companies are increasingly investing in their online platforms in China. For example, Gucci, Bally and Louis Vuitton also opened their e-stores in that region this summer.
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