As foreign luxury brands remain a lucrative target for China’s top e-commerce platforms, B2C online retailer JD.com continues its push to attract fashion labels abroad with a current focus on British companies.
During London Fashion Week earlier this month, the brand staged its third international runway show following similar presentations at New York and Milan’s fashion weeks in previous seasons. Featuring collections by Chinese designers including EVE de CINA, Kevin Kelly, NE TIGER, By Creations, and X Lando, items on the show’s runway were made available for purchase on JD.com.
But these shows haven’t just been about exposing Chinese fashion labels to an international audience, as they have also helped JD.com gain attention for its efforts to encourage partnerships with foreign clothing brands. Part of this is done through an emphasis on new technology to make the the e-tailer more attractive for fashion in particular—the company used the show as an opportunity to hype its new platform for customized fashion, as well as a high-tech new 3-D “virtual fitting room” feature that it is planning to implement. It previously introduced “virtual fitting rooms” in 2014, and inked a deal with Intel to develop the technology.
Lijun Xin, the president of JD.com’s apparel and home furnishing business unit, emphasized the word “premium” to describe the shopping experience on JD.com, adding, “As recently as a few years ago Chinese shoppers were less discerning about fashion, but today if you want to be serious about selling fashion in China, you better be at ahead of the curve—and that’s what we’re doing.”
The decision to hold the event in London comes after the e-tailer launched its cross-border “British Mall” in late June around the time of the Brexit vote. The online mall was promoted earlier through a “British Week” roadshow held by the site in the UK, which included presentations for brands interested in entering the China market. The virtual mall includes brands Johnnie Walker, Marks & Spencer, Clarks, and Cow & Gate milk, and the company has said that Britain leaving the European Union could lower prices for British goods and make them more competitive in the China market.
Fashion is a key focus as the company courts foreign brands for its cross-border JD Worldwide platform launched in April 2015. Its 2015 Milan Fashion Week presentation coincided with the launch of its “Italian Fashion Mall,” while its New York Fashion Week show in February 2016 did the same with its new “U.S. Fashion Mall,” which sells brands including Calvin Klein, GUESS, and Under Armour.
While it’s been easier for JD.com to net foreign cosmetics and accessories brands such as Sephora and Luxottica, high-end luxury fashion labels are generally reluctant to adopt e-commerce or join platforms viewed as mass-market. Both JD.com and competitor Tmall have been upping their efforts to attract foreign fashion brands in particular—Tmall rolled out its own virtual try-on app last year and is pushing its cross-border country pavilions. As Alibaba has struggled with criticisms over fakes on its Taobao platform, JD.com has emphasized at its presentations abroad its focus on “quality” and “authenticity.”
For now, only a handful of high-end fashion brands (including Burberry and Ports 1961 on Tmall) sell with either of China’s e-commerce giants, and fashion brand Coach’s recent announcement that it has left Tmall may leave more brands wondering about which path to take in China’s booming e-commerce market.