Farfetch VP Talks China Ahead of Luxury Symposium

On November 5, Hong Kong will welcome industry professionals from across Greater China for the 3rd edition of the French Chamber’s Luxury Symposium.

Billed as the “event by professionals for professionals,” the symposium brings together the top players in the luxury and digital fields to discuss the evolution of the luxury market in Hong Kong, China, and Macau.

Platinum sponsor of the event, CuriosityChina – A Farfetch Company, has spent the last five years helping brands to develop award-winning digital strategies for the China market.

We sat down with the co-founder of Curiosity and current VP of Commercial for Farfetch Greater China, Alexis Bonhomme ahead of the November 5 event to hear his thoughts on the latest consumer trends and how Farfetch is growing its offer in China to help brands optimize their presence in this ever-changing landscape.

1. Your company CuriosityChina was acquired by Farfetch this past July. How has this acquisition benefitted your customers?

In their ambition to reach and engage with the Chinese luxury consumer, brands are facing a very fragmented offer in the market. The combination of Farfetch’s e-commerce and operations capabilities with CuriosityChina’s digital marketing and social CRM expertise is now offering a truly unique solution for premium and luxury brands. This new approach closes the loop, all in a seamless integrated way, allowing brands to invest in digital marketing with measurable return on investment and growing sales.

2. It is clear that China is a priority for Farfetch. Can you comment on the particularity of Chinese consumers as compared the Farfetch global customer?

We are focused on growing our consumer base in all markets, with a particular emphasis on emerging markets including China, the Middle East, Latin America and Eastern Europe. Our expansion strategy includes offering consumers global access to luxury products that are tailored to local market trends and tastes, along with localized interfaces. For example, the rapidly growing luxury industry in China represents a major opportunity for us, and we have invested locally to support growth.

The Chinese customer, according to our own internal data, is a little younger than the global average and spends more on average online (as a percentage of total luxury spend) than other customers. They are also exceptionally connected on social media platforms. China is a specific ecosystem and we have adapted ourselves to its specific speed and need for localisation, including by having a Chinese engineering team on the ground here.

3. What does this mean for brands?

With such a preference to shop online and through social media platforms, it’s so important to brands to have a strong digital presence across multiple platforms in order to cater to the Chinese luxury customer’s needs along with digital strategies in place which cater specifically to the Chinese market. It’s about more than an “e-commerce only” approach–they look to us to partner on e-commerce as well as digital marketing, CRM and data needs.

4. With around 75 percent of Chinese-led luxury purchases taking place overseas, brands are increasingly aware of the importance of courting the Chinese Global shopper. How can brands optimize their strategy to respond to this demand?

There’s a range of factors brands need to consider to reach the Chinese Global Shopper. Firstly, it’s about online AND offline, so creating a proper offline recruitment strategy, leveraging their global retail network and the organic in-store footprint is a good place to start. From there, they need to have a good CRM and E-CRM technical solution to recruit, engage and convert Chinese travelers while they are traveling. Brands can also invest in building services such click and collect or pre-booking to upgrade the travel experience. As an example, Farfetch partnered with the Rosewood Hotel Group on their global campaign called “Girlfriend Gateway.” Rosewood customers can book an escape at one of Rosewood’s locations, and the exclusive travel package includes time with a Farfetch personal stylist who can advise the guest on their holiday wardrobe and send a curated selection of fashion to the guest at the Rosewood.

5. The digital ecosystem in China is extremely fragmented which can impose a real barrier to entry for some brands. How does Farfetch help its partners to respond to this challenge?

The solution that we can now offer luxury brands gives them the enviable combination of maintaining their independence and brand personality and at the same time benefitting from peerless digital marketing capabilities by leveraging the power of the Farfetch platform alongside CuriosityChina’s extensive expertise. China is a notoriously difficult market for brands to crack, but we are excited to be offering brands a huge advantage in succeeding in this market.

CuriosityChina’s best-in-class capabilities in social CRM and digital marketing are combined with Farfetch’s expertise and significant investment in technology, e-commerce and operations, to offer brand partners through Black & White Solutions, a plug-and-play suite of services. The combination offers brands access to the best of both businesses, providing unrivaled solutions to the critical issues that brands face when entering the Chinese market, such as a complex technology ecosystem and difficulties in developing digital marketing solutions.

6. Can you comment on some of the other main obstacles brands in China face today?

There are three main obstacles that brands face in China–competition, speed, and talent. China is a busy market–for example, there are already 15 million business accounts on WeChat, all vying to win the attention of the Chinese consumer. In terms of speed, the Chinese market is developing so quickly. In the last five years alone, we’ve seen the explosion of WeChat and the influence of KOLs, and new platforms are emerging all the time–it can be hard for brands to stay on top of these trends and be able to respond fast enough. Finally, talent is a key issue for brands–being able to find people who understand both luxury and retail, but who have the deep technical expertise required to build out CRM, IT and understand data is hard.

7. The luxury symposium will address opportunities in new retail. How can brands leverage online platforms like WeChat or others to create a seamless online to offline experience for consumers?

WeChat is a great central connector for digital marketing, CRM, payments and e-commerce developments. With the increasing cost of engaging new customers, loyalty and customer retention became a top priority for luxury retailers. WeChat can be a good strategy to start with, allowing you to move from social CRM to social commerce.

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