Luxury Brands See Online Frenzy for Chinese Valentine’s Day

The shopping carnival that is Qixi, or Chinese Valentine’s Day, has come and gone. And while the event, which was on August 28, may seem like just another promotional festival to put on the marketing calendar, this year, luxury brands got a little more creative with their online campaigns.

As brands geared up to prepare for the special day, 86 percent of non-singles in China made their purchases before the festival landed, according to data gathered from Alibaba’s e-commerce platform.

Meanwhile, there was an uptick in related online keyword search results as early as August 13. Interestingly enough, the frequency of keyword searches for “send girlfriend” was up 280,000 times, exceeding the search for “send boyfriend.”

Many luxury companies shifted their offerings to be more targeted, preparing sales-driven promotional campaigns online.

Following in the footsteps of Dior and Longchamp, there were at least four other brands who created exclusive WeChat campaigns this year including Valentino, Chloé, MCM, Marni and Lancel. The majority of brands made a handbag the exclusive sale item. Dior and Loewe both tested the e-commerce channel by working with third-party platforms (Dior worked with Secoo and Loewe made its debut on Tmall’s Luxury Pavilion) pushing the boundaries of luxury brand e-selling.

French luxury jewelry and watch maker Cartier, carried on the tradition they started for Valentine’s Day last year, creating more exciting offline opportunities for its fans. A before the holiday, it launched a campaign giving the first 77 customers to order from its WeChat boutique a free private romantic helicopter ride.

As Chinese Valentine’s Day came to a close, a lot of brands publicly disclosed their sales numbers, many of which were quite impressive and made headlines. For example, in collaboration with Mr. Bags, Chloe offered an exclusive WeChat sale of 85 limited-edition bags, within a half-hour of its launch, they were all sold out. For its Luxury Pavilion debut, Loewe offered a 24-hour flash sale of 99 exclusive Barcelona bags. All the bags sold during the sale.

But some consumers, especially the conservative ones, questioned the practicality of such spending. “It’s hard to get my hands on the exclusive item,” Michelle, a 36-year-old PR executive told Chinese news media Qdaily. “I’d prefer a basic style that I can wear all year long, especially when it comes to luxury items.”

According to the data released from Alibaba and JD, mass market consumers eyed lower priced items by luxury brands. Lipstick was a surprise hit as a gift. Mac, YSL, Dior and Givenchy became the mainstream choices on Alibaba. Whereas fashion accessories, silverware, bracelets, and roses were best-sellers on JD.

As sales jump to the front of mind for brands during holidays, like Valentine’s Day, online channels could serve as a gateway to a broader range of consumers. But it could be tricky to balance exclusivity and appeal with the aim of pleasing the mass market. Nevertheless, as more holidays turn into shopping events, brands should weigh their strategy and offerings for the different holidays to avoid overselling exclusivity.

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