Since its launch in May 2012, New York City-based online community Bomoda has been building up a quarter-million strong network of China’s most discerning luxury shoppers through its Chinese-language online fashion and lifestyle newsletter. In the past two months, the curatorial site has embarked on a new chapter with the launch of its new mobile app and social sharing site, enlisting major brands, retailers, and key opinion leaders (KOLs) to promote a new interactive platform that is the first of its kind in the China market.
The new mobile app, launched on November 18 for the iPhone, allows for the sharing of images through the company’s new Pinterest-like social site that was unveiled in October. On the site, users have the opportunity to upload, share, collect, and repost their favorite fashion-related images, as well as share on major Chinese social media sites including WeChat Moments, Weibo, Tencent, QQ, and Tencent Weibo. Its high-fashion aesthetic makes it the first of its kind in China, standing out from other more mass-market Pinterest-like sites such as Meilishuo and Huaban.
With thousands of uploads by users in the first 24 hours of its launch, demand appears to be strong for this type of fashion platform among Chinese-speaking users. Last week, Jing Daily visited the Bomoda offices to talk to co-founder and CEO Brian Buchwald about what makes the new app and sharing site unique, the factors influencing their popularity, and why he believes mobile is the “single most important platform” for fashion marketing in China today.
Can you give us an overview of the new mobile app that just came out?
The mobile app is a complement to the website that we launched last month, which is what we consider to be the first real fashion or luxury-oriented social environment for Chinese consumers.
The app, much like the site, is all about discovering interesting fashion and design brought to you by international tastemakers like designers, stylists, well-known brands, and peers.
The product is really about discovery, creation, and sharing. We want our members to feel like they’re a part of something larger. China is the dominant piece of our market and what we focus on, but we have Chinese individuals living all across Europe, Asia, North America, Africa, and Australia also joining the community, so it’s becoming even more international than we originally intended.
It became the #6 fashion app in China on its first day. What factors influenced its instant popularity?
The funny thing is we’ve done no marketing, so it actually is growing on its own. We think it’s a combination: the app itself is pretty beautiful; the images are clear and very aspirational. I think it’s also the quality of the community that is already on board. Bomoda has a quarter million subscribers to our newsletter. We made this product available to our newsletter subscribers; we had brands that are already on the platform like Coach and Estée Lauder who were creating their own collections, as well as KOLs.
Your launch partners included Chinese fashion and design elites such as Wan Baobao, Vega Zaishi Wang, Wang Haizhen, and Yang Du. What factors were considered when choosing these KOLs as partners?
What we’re going for here is different than what you see in a lot of places in China, meaning we’re actually going for legitimacy and staying power. This isn’t just about making a big splash; it’s about inculcating ourselves with the right community in China.
Specifically, we went after the Beijing fashion and design scene, so we’ve been courting them for the last few months, showing them the website and the app.
When you think about the product itself, the quality of the network is what will make it attractive. The quality of the content creators will bring better content onto the site, as well as bring their friends and their networks on, and we hope to grow organically through those means.
How important is a strong mobile strategy for fashion marketing in China today?
I would say it’s the single most important platform—it’s even more important than the web right now. We see it in terms of the use of Weibo versus WeChat: we’re adding roughly 2,500 to 5,000 WeChat followers a week. We are seeing more new visitors to Bomoda coming through mobile than we do through the web, and right now, in terms of new subscribers and new members to our community, every day about 70 percent are coming through our app rather than through our website. Our website is about 40 percent mobile-web, 60 percent web.
Bomoda is also rolling out a Pinterest-like social fashion platform—what are its main features and how do they fit in with the company’s overall marketing strategy?
The web platform is meant to be a complement to the app. Much like Pinterest, when you see an image you like online, you can pin it to our site, create collections very seamlessly and easily, as well as share those collections through social media both online and through mobile.
It really is to a certain extent similar to Pinterest, but we think it’s better in the sense that it’s built for a Chinese audience and ties directly into our mobile application as well.
The goal is to let our users speak for Bomoda rather than Bomoda speak for Bomoda. When you have users creating content, they get emotionally invested in their collections, which makes them more likely to share them. Who do they share them with? They share them with their friends, who sign up, create collections, and share them with their friends, so it becomes the backbone of our marketing strategy as well as our content strategy.
How do these platforms complement the company’s weekly newsletters?
The newsletter has been editorially driven since day one. We continue to do that, but we do it in complement to this new platform.
For instance, yesterday, we did a Q&A on Jason Wu as well as a walkthrough of his recent collections. In doing so, we used our new platform to actually house the photos and to provide the imagery. We also tend to see stuff that is successful in the social group. For instance, Chen Man, the noted photographer, is a member of Bomoda, and her collections were doing very well, so we did a newsletter dedicated to Chen Man, bringing in new fans and bringing them onto the platform as well.
What are the main characteristics of a typical Bomoda fan?
We’re planning in the direction of where the Chinese consumer is going, which is more knowledgeable, daring, on-trend, and sophisticated. I’m not just talking about cities like Beijing and Shanghai, but actually other tier 1 as well as tier 2 cities, as well as tier 3.
The Bomoda woman is typically in her mid 20s to late 30s, she’s highly educated, she’s internationally traveled, and she has an appreciation for brands and trends that go beyond just product selection. It’s not just about buying the new Céline bag; it’s about understanding the craftsmanship, how to pair it, and things like mix-and-match. Those are the people for whom this platform is built. That group is growing very quickly in China as more and more people come up the learning curve.
Bomoda also frequently partners with fashion magazines—Elle China is a partner on the mobile app, and you are the official partner of W in China. How are these partnerships beneficial to both companies?
Elle China is probably right now the preeminent fashion media brand in China. Elle China loves our new platform. They like how they can visually express themselves; they see it as a great way to drive people back to Elle China and to reinforce their brand identity for the Chinese consumer.
W is slightly different in that they don’t really have a China presence. They saw the Bomoda woman as an ideal version of whom they’re trying to reach here in the United States. Partnering with Bomoda as their exclusive Chinese partner was a way to start to reach our consumers both editorially and visually through this new product.
We’re hearing a lot of discussion nowadays about the rise of niche brands in China—has Bomoda noticed this trend and how is it responding to it?
Bomoda is about international fashion and international design. China is taking its rightful place within international fashion and international design, so there are some niche brands in China that are popping up that are highly relevant. We want to cultivate relationships with these brands, and also help nurture them.
We think it’s important for those brands to be successful in China, but also to see them export themselves to Europe and North America. We’re very supportive of that, helping them get on board on the site, find people who might be interested in them, and grow.
I think it’s good for Chinese consumers to have local designers, local stylists, and local brands that they can look up to. I think it’s also good for the international dynamic because it will also perhaps make Western brands a little more attuned to the unique needs of the Chinese consumer as they start to have competition domestically as well as internationally.