SHANGHAI — Factors including younger luxury consumers, wider adoption of digital sales and marketing channels among brands as well as consumers in China’s lower-tier cities are driving luxury e-commerce in the country, a new report reveals.
The “China Luxury E-commerce White Paper” — the result of research jointly undertaken by Secoo, China’s largest luxury goods e-commerce platform, data partner Tencent and analysis partner Deloitte — details China’s emergence as the second-largest online consumers of luxury (behind the United States).
According to the report, China’s luxury consumers have an average age of 25, making them digital natives, 75.6 percent of whom look to digital media (including brands’ own web sites, fashion verticals and social media) for fashion information.
Accordingly, the number of luxury brands running direct sales e-commerce and WeChat e-commerce in China has significantly increased. As of May, 40 percent of fashion brands and 38 percent of luxury watch and jewelry brands have developed direct sale e-commerce here, up 20 percent and 24 percent respectively since 2014. At the same time, some luxury brands are also experimenting with WeChat, with 6 percent of fashion brands and 14 percent of watch and jewelry brands now operating WeChat shops.
A big winner as a result of increasing luxury e-commerce in China are niche brands, who are able to reach deeper into China’s lower-tier cities without the heavy investment required by a large-scale bricks-and-mortar rollout.
According to Secoo’s business data, in fiscal year 2016, their platform provided products and services to consumers from 379 cities around China. Though the top 30 cities for sales were all first-tier and major second-tier cities, sales from the other 349 cities around China combined accounted for 62 percent of total sales on the platform.
Currently, only 9 percent of luxury goods worldwide are purchased online, but of the Millennial consumers from China surveyed for the white paper, 35 percent reported a willingness to buy luxury online, with almost all respondents (97 percent) expecting that they will become more willing to buy online in the future.
As China’s luxury market matures and more brands become available to young consumers, it comes as something of a surprise that 60 percent of Millennial respondents reported consistently purchasing a few favorite brands they feel loyalty to.
Besides quality, the biggest reason cited by these Millennial consumers for purchasing luxury good was to “be nice to themselves.” But being nice to others, as well as the environment, also stands out as key to attracting this segment of consumers, with more than 90 percent of young luxury consumers saying they “sometimes” or “always” paid attention to a brand’s sustainability credentials — a statistic consistent with China’s broader trend of environmental awakening seen in recent years.
Looking forward, the report identifies key challenges for luxury brands to overcome en route to e-commerce success, including suitable platform selection, crafting distinctive online experiences and designing end-to-end omnichannel solutions.
“In order to win young network consumers, cover more cities and realize an omnichannel win-win, luxury enterprises cannot merely add an e-commerce department, but should acquire new vision, schemes and talents based on traditional competitiveness, and re-plan omnichannel mode in a reforming way,” the report said in part.