E-Commerce “Soft Opens” As Brand Launches Official WeChat Account
Following recent entrants to China’s fast-growing — yet crowded and largely untested — e-commerce market, among them Ferragamo, Zara, J. Crew, and Yoox, today American “affordable luxury” brand Coach made final moves to launch its long-discussed official China online store. Built completely in-house, the new functionality could be previewed starting on November 1 — without an official notice on the Coach Weibo page, just days after the brand launched an official account on China’s app of the moment, WeChat (weixin).
To explain the benefits of its online store, Coach included “10 reasons” consumers should shop online rather than offline, even when items are priced similarly (translation by Jing Daily team):
1. Authenticity guaranteed
2. Full collections available online
3. Exclusive products from flagship stores available online
4. Provides fa piao (发票) — official receipts that can be used for government reimbursement
5. Free shipping nationwide
6. Easy refunds within seven days, items exchangeable within 30 days in-store
7. Gift wrapping
8. Free gifts for customers who purchase spend a certain amount
9. VIP status and perks for customers who spend 10,000 yuan in one year
10. Forms of payment accepted include credit, debit, Alipay and cash-on-delivery
The soft-launch of Coach’s e-commerce functionality comes just days after the brand announced its official WeChat (weixin) account on Sina Weibo. Considering the brand’s prior success with Chinese social media platforms — particularly Weibo — we expect Coach to use WeChat (previously on Jing Daily) effectively both for customer service (one-on-one messages) as well as announcing new collections and exclusives (public messages).
Another feature Coach boasts on its China site is live-chat, which has been seen on the Chinese-language sites of just a handful of fashion or luxury brands, among them Ports 1961.
As Jing Daily recently noted, despite Coach’s stronger focus on digital marketing and e-commerce in China, the company’s physical expansion hasn’t skipped a beat. Over the course of this year, Coach will have opened around 30 new stores in the Greater China region, with at least half of them in the Mainland, adding to the 80 regional and 65 mainland China locations the brand operated by the end of 2011. Since buying back its retail businesses in Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China in 2008 and 2009, Coach has seen sales climb rapidly, from US$108 million in 2010 to $188 million last year. In 2012, the company is shooting for sales of “at least” $300 million. By 2014, Coach expects China to be its leading market.
Aside from the company’s brick-and-mortar expansion — which has spread to inland cities like Nanning and Urumqi — Coach has also looked to appeal to younger shoppers in China and regionally this year by signing popular actor and singer Wang Leehom as the face of its men’s accessories line, and collaborating with Chinese graffiti artist Zhang Lan on a limited edition year of the dragon collection and Weibo campaign.