Alibaba’s Tmall Luxury Pavilion has launched a one-to-one livestreaming feature, allowing sales associates to engage with customers individually in private sessions.
Like a digital VIP room, labels can use it to offer tailor-made services within their flagship stores on Tmall.com. Professional advisors are on hand to introduce products, book services, and even help customers try on the products virtually. (And there is the option to chat through voice and text if you want to keep your camera off.)
The service is available in luxury online stores ranging from watches to shoes and bags to clothes. French luxury Maison Cartier and the British fashion house Burberry are among the first brands to add this feature. It’s a smart move: as lockdown becomes the new normal in China amid the recent COVID infection spike, the digital space has become a major playing field for luxury.
And, compared to offline visits, the service actually gives purchasers more flexibility. Customers choose how they communicate with advisors, the live slot they prefer, and even pre-send five products for the advisors to prepare information on. As the “stay-at-home” economy looks to only grow, for Chinese consumers, a mobile, custom, and human-oriented channel such as this is essential.
According to Tmall.com, hundreds of live sessions have been booked since the pilot began in February. A combination of 3D, AR, and VR technologies has been essential to making this work as a visual, immersive experience. Well-tested in a long period of trials — for example, the Tmall custom visual shopping guide for its Valentine’s Day campaign — the development is clearly regarded as a significant opportunity by the e-tailing tycoon.
“During quarantine, some customers are not able to go outside to shop. Others will be working extra hours due to the financial pressure brought by lockdowns. Their consumer behaviors somehow changed. They are forced to buy less in physical stores. A one-to-one livestream service solves this problem by pinpointing the pain spot,” said Timothy Zhang, who has worked for decades in the Beijing luxury finance business.
It should come as no surprise that young, savvy luxury shoppers are particularly keen. For them, shopping through a microphone or chat box is the dream: it’s swift, with no face-to-face contact, and it’s private.
“Gen-Z and millennial customers prefer to connect with luxury brands this way,” said an anonymous video advisor on Tmall.com. “They are introverted, more or less, and they call it ‘social phobia’ jokingly. Our service offers them a secure and private space, relieving their psychological and social pressure. I don’t know if this is a trend sharpened by the ongoing pandemic, but this form is definitely enjoyed by lots of young customers.”
The momentum is undeniable. Big groups including LVMH, Chanel, Hermès, Kering, and Richemont have all launched online flagships on top platforms. The next question for luxury is not whether to join the game, but how best to take advantage of the many vivid — and lucrative — e-tailing channels.