With substantial discounts and limited quantities, online flash sales of designer goods became an e-commerce staple in the West after the start of the recession. According to Thibault Villet, CEO and co-founder of flash sales site Glamour Sales China, this lightning-fast form of e-commerce has just as much potential in Asian markets. After setting up in Japan in 2009, Glamour Sales Group opened its Chinese site in 2010, and announced a partnership with Neiman Marcus in 2012.
Villet recently presented on his company’s business strategy at Velvet Group’s Shanghai Fashion Web conference, which brought together industry professionals to discuss cutting-edge developments in digital marketing and e-commerce. Jing Daily reached out to Villet via email to discuss the unique opportunities and challenges that accompany conducting this distinctive form of e-commerce in China, including the specific demands of Chinese consumers and the constant need to adapt to rapidly changing technology.
Who is your target demographic in terms of age, income, and location?
Over the last four years, we have grown a qualified database of over 2.5 million fashionista members in China. They are spread out across 1,000 cities in all provinces, equally split between tier-one, tier-two, and tier-three and four cities. While we predominately target women aged 25 to 45, we also have a robust and fast-growing male customer base. All our customers, being entrepreneurs, executives, or white collars, have in common the characteristics of being smart shoppers, highly interested in fashion, and open-minded to discover new brands.
Are there any differences between conducting online flash sales in China as opposed to Europe or the United States?
The main difference versus Europe is that Chinese customers are very demanding when it comes to customer service and have been used to very fast delivery services. We deliver our customers across China in one to three days, and accept unconditional returns within seven days.
Versus the United States, Chinese customers expect much more detailed informations on brands and products, which requires additional depictions and detailed copywriting.
What are some of the main reasons your customers like to participate in flash sales—is it more about the bargain, the “thrill” that comes with buying something in limited quantity before it runs out, or the website’s curation?
Customers like to participate to our flash sales because of three factors: the website curation and the guarantee that all the products sold on Glamour Sales are authentic and of great quality, the excitement of the daily race, which on Glamour Sales China starts at 9 a.m., and the opportunity to buy at real bargain prices, which Glamour Sales does as we exclusively cooperate directly with brands or their official distributors, hence guaranteeing the best prices on the market.
What are some of the greatest challenges to conducting e-commerce in China at the moment?
The market is growing fast and customers are expecting high-quality customer services, which starts from website speed to call center abilities to handle customer care. While we grow, offering a consistent and qualitative customer experience is our daily company focus. Technology is also evolving rapidly, and we have to continuously transform ourselves. We already run four platforms, including three mobile ones, and will release a new version of the website before the end of the year.
How many customers purchase via mobile device as opposed to on a computer at the moment? Do you see this changing in the future?
We prepared ourselves for the rapid shift from desktop to mobile, as our sister company in Japan had already experienced it two years ago. Mobile commerce in China is now the fastest growing channel, and already represents a significant share of our business. It forces companies like ourselves to develop contents which are adapted first to mobile, and that will then be used on desktops.
How does your company utilize social media marketing?
Social media marketing is a the center of our marketing strategy in China. Our customers follow us on various platforms (Weibo, WeChat, etc.); we have built strong and long-lasting relationships with social media key opinion leaders as well as key platforms such as Mogujie. We also fully engage our own customer care teams in a personalized social relationship with our members and customers.
What is the status of Glamour Sales’ partnership with Neiman Marcus at the moment? Will there be any changes to the partnership now that the company is being sold?
Neiman Marcus is and remains a strategic investor in Glamour Sales Holdings, and we are very pleased with this partnership.