Tmall Collection event

SHANGHAI Alibaba’s Tmall platform on Sunday held its first see-now-buy-now live and live-streamed festival, Tmall Collection. The eight-hour extravaganza featured 80 brands and was held at Shanghai’s Oriental Sports Center, a stadium that at capacity holds 10,000 people, and simultaneously live-streamed on Tmall and Taobao, as well as Youku, a video streaming service acquired by Alibaba last year.

For Alibaba the festival was a grand launching pad for its annual Singles’ Day Festival, which has morphed in recent years from a one-day sales event to the largest festival of consumerism in the world, with sales activities running for weeks in advance of the official 24-hour sale period.

In 2015 Alibaba broke its own record for sales on Singles’ Day, selling $14.3 billion worth of goods in a single day, an increase of 60 percent over the previous year’s event.

For consumers, the Tmall Collection show represented a chance to order new season and exclusive products direct from the runway with a few taps on their smartphones or desktops, with the orders to be fulfilled during the Singles’ Day event.

Finally, for participating brands, which often have to take a hit in offering major discounts to be part of Singles’ Day, and particularly to have their Singles’ Day festival offerings promoted by Tmall, Sunday’s event represented an opportunity to expand their profile in front of the platform’s 434 million-strong customer base.

“It’s a way of pushing our brand’s products to more consumers in China. In the past 20 years we have been more focused on the key cities, like Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Tianjin, but we now think our brand is more ready to penetrate to the second- and third-tier cities,” Guerlain China general manager Shirley Tai explained.

As part of the event, the beauty brand, one of the few from the LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton stable that has partnered with a major Chinese e-commerce platform, was launching its Orchidée Impériale antiaging cream on Tmall. The product, with a retail price of 15,910 yuan, about $2,355 at current exchange, was available for consumers to order during the event for 9,500 yuan, or $1,405, when ordered in advance with a 1,000 yuan, or $148, deposit.

“It’s very daring of us that we introduced the most expensive cream on Tmall; this cream is truly a luxury product. Most people think of Tmall as being a platform for midtier, fast-moving products, but we have already created a precedent. When we did our mega-launch in September, we sold one million lipsticks in three hours; this is a 320 yuan [$47] a lipstick. I believe this will become a new trend,” Tai said.

The international nature of many of the brands participating in the event was indicative of both consumer desire for access to overseas fashion products, which have a better reputation for quality than their domestic counterparts, but also of Alibaba’s desire to continue to expand its portfolio of global brand partners by showing off its high-tech and fashion credentials in a single event.

According to Liu Xiuyun, general manager of Tmall apparel, the number of luxury brands participating in the Tmall Collection event, along with the platform’s growing luxury brand portfolio more generally, demonstrates an appreciation from brands about how Tmall can help them in the Chinese market.

“Burberry, La Perla, Guerlain, La Mer — these luxury brands are all on Tmall, also SK-II, for these brands Tmall has two major values. The first value is the desire to have a younger appearance. It can be a risk for these brands to try to target younger consumers offline, but they can experiment more online, and the post-Nineties generation of consumers has great strength, which is quickly growing,” she said. “Tmall can be an important help for luxury brands. The platform has a diversified set of brands and a diverse, abundant group of consumers so Tmall can use Alibaba’s big data to develop a really specific marketing plan to reach younger consumers.”

The first show of the day featured brands carried by Mei.com, a luxury flash sales e-commerce platform that partnered with Alibaba earlier this year and now has a permanent channel on the platform’s app. Mei.com brand partners, including Rebecca Minkoff, Opening Ceremony, Paul Smith, Sonia Rykiel and Ports, showed predominantly street-friendly looks, the opening look modeled by top Chinese model He Sui — larger-than-life on more than a dozen big screens surrounding the arena.

Then came a series of sportswear brands — Adidas, New Balance, Columbia and ANTA — who were representative of ath-leisure, one of the main trends identified by Alibaba’s study in relation with CBNData to use their big data capabilities to identify consumer desires.

Alongside ath-leisure, the other main trends were cited as genderless fashion, Eastern inspiration and ageless and less strict dressing for specific scenarios — so that people are driven more by personal style and taste rather than being too concerned about being appropriate.

Other brands showing throughout the day included Ted Baker, Lee, Levi’s, Stella Luna, La Perla and Daniel Wellington.