Alibaba generated $268.4 billion renminbi, or $38.4 billion, on its 2019 11/11 sales day.

PARIS — Hang on to your seats. If you’re a luxury brand intent on tapping into the all-important Chinese market, you have to be ready to move even faster — and build more content.

So went the message from executives assembled by Luxury Society, the events arm of marketing agency Digital Luxury Group, at a recent conference in Paris called “Driving E-commerce Growth in China.” The agency gathered executives from Alibaba as well as luxury brands and technology companies that work in the region.

It’s not enough for a high-end brand to have an attractive flagship on Alibaba’s luxury platform on Tmall, Luxury Pavilion, it’s all about building content through events to drive traffic, both online and in stores, executives said, describing Tmall as more of an events-driven marketing platform than just an e-commerce market. Chinese consumers want things to be fun and playful as well as convenient, as shown by examples of consumers using smartphones for virtual tours of stores, to opening a surprise package gift or trying on makeup. Examples cited for generating online and physical traffic included Breitling’s use of brand ambassadors and a Josephine Cafe pop-up store from Chaumet.

One slide listed nearly a dozen Tmall events in October, including a China National Day for jewelry and precious stones discount event, a “Big Brands Discount Grabbing” event and the Taobao Mid Autumn Festival event. But it’s not just about discounts, executives said, citing a case where Valentino opened a new flagship and held a fashion show the week before the big 11/11 sales day, generating traffic for the big sales event.

“Everybody wants to be in China because that’s where a lot of very valuable consumers are,” said Jacques Roizen, executive vice president of digital transformation and new ventures for Baozun, a technology firm.

Roizen said there is not a better place in the world to acquire customers — with an especially high frequency of traffic from Generation Z. 

Given the events-driven nature of traffic, brands should expect sales that come in peaks and valleys, said Roizen.

Executives said luxury labels need to be ready to grab opportunities quickly.

“You don’t dictate the rules, the platform does…and the deadline is for 6 p.m. today,” read one slide.

“Trust the experts — the platforms and local teams,” said Pablo Mauron, partner and managing director for Digital Luxury Group’s China operations. Mauron said decisions often have to be made quickly, leaving no room for traditional six-month planning time scales. “There will be opportunities,” added Mauron.

Antonio Carriero, chief digital and technology officer at Breitling, noted that being present on Tmall is somewhat like being in a real mall, where you have to find the right place among other labels and work to raise brand awareness in order to be an “anchor in the mall.” 

Driving home the point that it’s about engaging Chinese consumers and not discounting, Roizen said discounting is what brands do when they have “nothing else to do.”

Using Tmall to implement discounts is akin to saying “I’m using the most visible store I have in the world to communicate a discount image,” he added. 

Jeffery Sehl, a former Alibaba executive who is associate director of international client development at DLG, said the big challenge in China is making sure that messaging is consistent across media, noting that social media and e-commerce are more closely linked in China than the digital landscape in the West.

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