Digital capability is crucial for luxury brands operating in the Chinese market. In order to serve an increasingly digitally-savvy audience, brands need to be constantly upping their online game. However, the year of 2017 saw the gap between digital winners and losers in the luxury arena widen, according to the “2018 Digital IQ Index: China Luxury” report released by U.S.-based digital intelligence company Gartner L2 this month.
The report, based on research and analysis of 91 luxury fashion and watches and jewelry brands in China, ranked the digital performance of brands in four areas: Owned Channels (the brand’s official site, WeChat and e-commerce presence), Search (visibility and discoverability), Social Media (Weibo, WeChat posts, video and Douyin), and Paid & Earned Media (including online celebrity partnerships).
In the report, Gartner L2 noted “key differentiators for successful brands included a clear e-commerce strategy, the ability to generate online conversations (particularly with highly influential celebrities and KOLs), and highly engaging video content. They also optimized WeChat search and utilized advertising to provide audiences for WeChat content.”
Here are the top 10 luxury brands, ranked from 10 to 1:
10- Michael Kors
Digital marketing efforts in line with brand image and customer expectation put American luxury brand Michael Kors 10th on the list this year. The report highlighted the brand’s ability to adopt millennial-focused digital platforms including viral short video site Douyin, Snapchat-inspired beauty app Pitu and FaceU. Elsewhere, Michael Kors showed a high-level of sophistication in utilizing WeChat. The brand built a mini-program to manage its customer loyalty program and is an early adopter of the app’s new Brand Zone feature.
Hong Kong jewelry brand Chow Tai Fook ranked jointly in 10th with Michael Kors. The brand demonstrated skill using Alibaba’s Tmall platform to form online-offline integrated loyalty, the report said. It is also one of the few luxury brands to have established an official presence on RED, a rising cross-border e-commerce platform in China. Chow Tai Fook also invested heavily in its WeChat mini-programs.
Swarovski has a diverse presence in China’s digital ecosystem. The brand has partnered with JD.com’s luxury portal TopLife to sell online and used WeChat to build up brand awareness and customer loyalty. The brand also launched a gift-buying mini program on Chinese Valentine’s Day, understanding that gifting is an important aspect of Chinese culture.
Italian luxury brand Valentino, which was ranked 9th last year, has climbed up the rankings to 8th this time. The label invested greatly in its celebrity relationships, appointing brand ambassador Zhang Yixing – one of China’s hottest singers – and working with other pop stars like Xu Weizhou and Fan Bingbing. Thanks to Zhang’s massive online popularity, Valentino’s ad post on Weibo was a hit. Recently, the brand also collaborated with Alibaba’s luxury portal Luxury Pavilion, launching a virtual pop-up store to promote its latest collection.
Montblanc continued to perform well on the digital front last year. The brand pushed out creative marketing campaigns including a virtual reality museum experience to engage Chinese consumers. Its partnership with Yang Yang, a popular male celebrity, also earned Montblanc high online exposure.
The ranking of British fashion label Burberry dropped to sixth place on the list this year. The brand was runner-up the year before. The brand’s collaboration with pop star and fashion icon Kris Wu on a streetwear capsule collection has continued to fare very well, and connect with China’s younger generations of affluent consumers.
Gucci’s digital proficiency is giving the brand the potential to become one of the most sought-after labels in China. Last year, Gucci launched a direct-to-consumer (DTC) e-commerce site and a WeChat store to sell to Chinese customers. The brand’s partnership with ambassador Li Yuchun and other high-profile celebrities such as actress Ni Ni have also kept the brand trending online. The report said Gucci was the top-mentioned brand by KOLs on WeChat and RED, and had the highest Baidu index performance.
Coach ranked fourth place on the list this year. Aside from successful celebrity online collaborations, and an intelligent WeChat and Weibo strategy, the report said Coach invested in paid ads for its brand term searches. The brand also bought the results of 36 percent of unbranded handbag search terms on Baidu.
Louis Vuitton is the most-mentioned luxury brand on fashion community sites and the most visible on unbranded fashion search terms with paid links on Baidu mobile, the report noted. The brand is highly sophisticated on both e-commerce and social media fronts, and is working with different local celebrities to maintain high engagement online.
Runner-up Bvlgari was one of the top-mentioned brands across mobile community apps and purchased 76 percent of unbranded jewelry search result terms on Baidu mobile. The report said Bvlgari always posted highly-engaging social content that facilitated organic growth in the online community. Bvlgari also has high visibility on WeChat’s new Brand Zone.
In what may be of little surprise to many, Cartier has maintained its place on the top of the list this year. Its strong presence on WeChat, Baidu, Weibo, and other major video platforms like Miaopai continue to demonstrate its huge digital capabilities. The brand’s collaboration with brand ambassador Xin Zhilei and sought-after star Lu Han boosted popularity on social media.