Suning is best known as a mass-market bricks-and-mortar retailer focusing on home appliances and consumer electronics (akin to Best Buy in the U.S.), with more than 8,200 self-operated stores across the country and another 4,500 franchises in lower-tier markets, and it has been on an expansive acquisition spree to diversify its offerings while growing into a major force in e-commerce.
Last year it took over French supermarket chain Carrefour’s China business and added 37 Wanda department stores to its holdings, and it has opened a series of concept stores under the Jiwu brand that focuses on European products. Alibaba is one of its major investors with a nearly 20% stake.
In a deal similar to the one announced in June by JD.com and Kuaishou (both backed by Tencent), Suning will partner with Douyin to allow the short video app’s 400 million daily active users to purchase goods from Suning without having to leave the app, and Suning will provide guarantees of product authenticity, logistical support, and after-sales service.
That strategic partnership kicked off on August 7 with a livestreamed sales broadcast on Douyin hosted by celebrity entrepreneur-turned-salesman Luo Yonghao, who has become one of the biggest names on Douyin since he started his livestreaming career on the platform back in April. Luo sold a reported RMB 200 million ($28.7 million) worth of products during the four-hour broadcast, breaking his previous sales record from his April 1 debut — and this was really just a warm-up for Suning’s upcoming “818” sales event that will mark the company’s 30th anniversary on August 18 in a much bigger manner.
Like JD.com, Suning is also seeking to move into luxury e-commerce, launching its first luxury festival from August 4-6, though its marketing strategy appears to have been geared towards heavy discounts, with cash coupon giveaways and prices on high-end brands such as Gucci, Prada, and Armani cut by as much as 50% (the company has promised to supply certificates of authenticity for all products.)
Suning announced that actress Jiang Shuying will be its new brand spokesperson. Jiang is currently in the spotlight for her starring role in the hit female-focused drama “Nothing But Thirty” (三十而已), in which she plays Wang Manni, a salesperson at a high-end department store with high standards for customer service and integrity. Since its premiere last month, “Nothing But Thirty” has been one of the hottest topics on Chinese social media, including on Douyin. Suning leveraged that popularity by inviting Jiang to host a livestream as part of the luxury festival. Broadcasting from a Suning Jiwu store in Shanghai, Jiang offered a selection of designer goods and beauty products inspired by the show, shared insights into her character’s story arc, and tips on how to be a top seller like Wang Manni along with her beauty tips — including a shout out to Lancôme’s 196 lipstick shade, which is now promoted by the brand as the “Manni color.”
It’s a promising start to upgraded livestreaming for Suning and comes as e-commerce has grown to play a critical role in its business — it’s the fourth largest online retailer after Alibaba, Pinduoduo, and JD.com. In the first half of the year, online sales accounted for 70% of Suning’s total, first due to the immediate impact of the coronavirus, and later thanks to heavy online sales promotions aimed at boosting the recovery of consumer spending, such as June’s 618 Shopping Festival.