Within a span of five years, Mei.com (formerly Glamour Sales) has become one of China’s leading member-only retail websites catering to shoppers in search of affordable luxury goods. It currently partners with more than 2,000 international brands and has over 6 million members in China.
The brand has been through many changes and developments in a little over a year. After Neiman Marcus sold its stake in the company in April 2014, it received a capital injection of over US$65 million from Chow Tai Fook and Investec. Then, in September 2014, it began the process of revamping its brand name from Glamour-Sales to Mei.com for the China market.
On April 21, the site celebrated its five-year anniversary in China at the hip Unico by Mauro Colagreco Lounge in Shanghai’s Three on the Bund restaurant/gallery. Special guest appearances included French actress Sophie Marceau, who is beloved by Chinese audiences, as well as Mei.com COO & CFO Seamon Shi and CEO Thibault Villet.
At the event, we caught up with Villet to discuss the reason for the new name, the importance of mobile sales in the Chinese e-commerce market, and the company’s three-year strategy for the future.
Why did you change the name to Mei.com?
Today, we are celebrating our fifth anniversary, and from the beginning have been known in China as Meilihui (魅力惠), standing for an authentic luxury fashion, beauty, and lifestyle flash-sale platform that offers its members a glamorous lifestyle with curated merchandise and contents. We changed our URL to mei.com last September as we wanted to facilitate the connections between the Meilihui (魅力惠) platform and our Chinese customers, and found that Mei.com is a very powerful name—[it’s] easy to remember both online and offline and perfectly embodies our brand values, mission, and vision.
Does the name change come with any changes in branding or focus?
The name does not change any focus. Our ultimate aim remains to build a leading luxury global platform that will empower individuals to enhance their art of living by connecting them to unlimited luxury experiences, through flash sales [and] permanent outlets, as well as new collections. We remain committed to offering authentic luxury, fashion, and lifestyle goods sourced in partnership with brands.
How has China’s luxury e-commerce market changed since you first entered the market?
The China luxury e-commerce [market] is still in its infancy, although it experienced very high growth over the last five years. Mei.com experienced triple-digit growth each year since we were established. Millions of customers have embraced online shopping for luxury goods through platforms attracted by price advantage as well as wider assortment choices.
Customer preferences have evolved from traditional luxury brands to fashion and designer brands, from bags and watches to apparel, shoes, and accessories. Mei.com has adapted its sourcing strategies to meet those changing needs, and partnered last year with over 2000 brands. We strengthened our offer of designer brands, through many partnerships, including a partnership with Galeries Lafayette on their imported designer brands. As we established a trusted platform focusing only on selling genuine goods sourced from our brand partners, we have built strong trust with our members and managed to double our average baskets versus five years ago.
We also witnessed a fast growth of customers from Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities, who represent over 50 percent of our revenue given that purchasing power grew very fast in those provinces.
We have noticed some foreign e-commerce sites exiting China. Has this had any impact on the market? What does Mei.com have as a differentiator to success?
We are a local luxury e-commerce platform and aim at being the leading one in China. In that respect, we have the advantage over foreign e-commerce sites, to move very fast and quickly adapt to the ecosystem. For example, in the past year, we have transformed our business into a mobile business with two-thirds of our revenue now coming from our three mobile platforms, and have integrated it with leading social commerce platforms. At Mei.com, we constantly monitor our customers’ changing needs and keep the agility of a local start-up to adapt our strategies accordingly.
Since we last spoke in 2013, there has been growth in “mobile-only” sales on Mei.com. What is the strategy for this development?
We are midway in completing our mobile transformation. We believe that next year, our business will mainly be mobile, so we are working hard on building our next generation of apps and HTML5, which will be more customer-oriented [and] will allow more personalization, provide better contents, and fit in with the Chinese social e-commerce landscape. We are adapting the whole company, from studio to marketing and [the] customer care center to this new mindset as mobile, [which] allows so many more possibilities to enhance the customer experience.
After five years of business, what is Mei.com‘s next three-year plan?
We aim at becoming the leading online luxury platform in China that stands for the state-of-the-art luxury and fashion platform. Through our entrepreneurial mindset, we are committed to continue to quickly grow our business to better serve our customers’ growing needs while maintaining the excellence in serving our brand partners.
To meet those goals, we are taking a series of strategic actions which will lead us to strengthen our new collections offer (beyond just one-off collaborations as we did so far), as well as enriching our luxury experiences beyond the first sale of luxury cruises or cars, which we tested in the past. Stay tuned, as there will be more to come before the end of the year.
Yanie Durocher is a lifestyle and fashion blogger at The Marginalist.