Shanghai-based digital luxury consulting agency Velvet Group may be young, but growing demand for its services means its team is already in the process of relocating to a larger space on the same floor in its current bulidng. Founded in 2013 by Patrice Nordey, the company has already built up a roster of clients that includes the likes of Christian Louboutin, Sonia Rykiel, LVMH, Richemont, Kering, Boucheron, Chopard, and L’Oreal.
I recently visited Nordey at the Shanghai office to hear his thoughts on the latest digital trends in China’s luxury market based on his seven years of experience working in Shanghai since moving here from France.
Prior to Velvet, Nordey headed digital advisory firm L’Atelier (Shanghai), which is part of BNP Paribas Group. While the network he grew from his time at Paribas has proven invaluable to Velvet’s rapid growth, his roots in media, as the co-founder of NetEconomie—a French online magazine about the internet economy he created while still in grad school—has influenced Velvet’s focus on content creation. For example, Nordey mentions that the company hires copywriters with journalism experience, stating, “It’s not enough that they can write; they need to be able to craft compelling stories.”
Velvet also recently launched TechNode.fr, the French-language version of Chinese tech news website TechNode.com. Below, Nordey discusses overcoming China marketing challenges, new social media platforms, the company’s recent campaigns, and the rise of O2O marketing.
What are some common challenges you face when it comes to marketing to a Chinese audience?
Most of the brands we represent have a long and rich history but entered the China market very recently. Our work is to convey the depth and complexity of these brands on social media (Weibo, WeChat) and other communication platforms and help consumers understand the uniqueness of a given product or service. In this context, the challenge is to have very precise and solid copywriting, which led us to recruit bilingual staff with journalism experience. We also train our community managers using the same programs we design for clients.
Another challenge is [that] Chinese high-net-worth individuals usually travel a lot around Europe, Japan, or Hong Kong, where they buy luxury items. A good marketing strategy is to embrace these cross-border shopping journeys with client services via social media platforms like WeChat. Haussmann, Vendôme, and Champs-Élysées all feature such services, for example.
We all know about WeChat and Weibo; what are some other platforms you like?
Photo-tagging apps are becoming a huge trend in China and started with mobile apps such as Pinko and Nice. After one month of testing, e-commerce giant Alibaba released its own brand-tagging app named FUN to tap into this trend and link back to its e-commerce platforms. We saw this feature appear on Instagram as well, so it may become the norm soon.
There are also many interesting innovations around short video messages. Right now, Weishi, a Vine-like app, is becoming very huge and is supported by celebrities such as Fan Bingbing. Meipai, another short video platform, is also emerging fast. We are exploring social TV apps and many other micro-trends.
Tell us about a recent campaign you worked on.
We just finalized “Journey Of Light,” a campaign for Maison Boucheron in which we introduce the “Rêve d’Ailleurs” collection, inspired by travels throughout Persia, India, and ancient China. We wanted to invite fans to join this “Journey of Light” starting in China and ending at 26 Place Vendôme in Paris, where the brand was born. One fan will win a trip to Paris. The campaign was launched on Weibo and WeChat, and involved the shoot of a micro movie in Paris, a mobile site, the fashion Chinese network P1, and the support of online influencers such as MichelleMV and Gogoboi.
What is the importance of O2O marketing in China at the moment?
With the rise of WeChat, the buzzword “O2O” (online to offline) has quickly become a reality in China and a significant part of our activity. For instance, for our client Franck Provost, a high-end hair salon chain, we created a WeChat account that can be used to engage fans directly at the point of sale with QR codes. Followers are also able to book appointments, contact customer service, access loyalty programs, and get timely updates from the salon.