WeChat is not only a tool for Daigou to sell, it is also used by sales associates of luxury brands to communicate with clients.
A recent WeChat article titled “Luxury Brands’ Sales Associates Update on WeChat Moment in Chinese” brought to the spotlight the grey practice of sales associates using WeChat to sell. Its author, Wither Wing, spoke from her personal experience as a savvy Chinese luxury shopper and wrote extensively about how more than 10 sales associates from various luxury brands ended up on her WeChat friend list.
When Wing has been hesitant about buying a product after trying it out a few times, she gets a WeChat friend request the sales associate, and a promise to send her reminders about the item in case she changed her minds. A Hong Kong sales associate also encouraged her to send any styles she liked from mainland stores, and offered to check if there are available ones in Hong Kong. For Wing, this was a very attempting offer as the price of luxury goods in Hong Kong is still cheaper than prices in the mainland.
Often times, besides using WeChat for exclusive one-to-one communication, sales associates post brands’ campaigns on their WeChat moment, a space similar to Facebook’s newsfeed page, where more than 60 percent of WeChat users spend their time.
Increasingly, customers want to shop in WeChat style. According to a foreign sales associate at a luxury boutique in San Francisco, “they often approach me to ask me WeChat contact to keep in touch,” she said in an interview with Jing Daily.
“WeChat is a great tool for this matter,” said Miquel Cardona, co-founder of Oriental Retail Ventures, “because through the personal use of WeChat, the communication is more authentic, it feels like what’s given to you is more personalized.”
Does the Usage of WeChat Do More Harm Than Good to Brands?
However, the usage of WeChat in luxury sales is a double-edge sword. According to Cardona, brands can bear risks that can’t be ignored.
Most importantly, brands can’t monitor the conversations happening on WeChat. Not knowing the quality of the content that sales associate share about the brand can put brands’ positioning at risk, and further impact how the brand is perceived in the market.
The usage of WeChat in retail space further reflects a deeper conflict of interest between sales associates and brands, for example, brands aim to develop the strategy from a long-term perspective, whereas sales associates think about how to fulfill their sales quota in the next two to three months, and such personal interests in making commissions from the sales neglect other objectives of the brand such as marketing and customer relationship. WeChat happens to be a convenient tool for associates to serve their own goals.
We spoke to a store manager of a prestige luxury brand in China, who agreed with the conclusion that “sales associates are constantly under the pressure to perform, so they need to cater to consumers’ behavior, that’s when the usage of WeChat becomes the norm.”
Can WeChat Become An Effective Way To Engage with Customers in Store?
Despite many risks involved in the sales associates using WeChat privately, in Wing’s WeChat article, she encountered brands having publicly set up their own CRM system on WeChat in store.
When Wing was shopping at a luxury shoe store at SKP Beijing mall, the brand had set up a public iPad with one master WeChat account where the customer could input their birthday. On the WeChat contact list page, users organized sales associates’ names so customers could clearly see how many ‘WeChat friends’ each associate has.
“Brands should think about ways to empower sales associates to post quality content,” proposing an alternative way, Cindy Xie, founder of retail consultancy firm Retail Connection said, “because the open rate of luxury brands’ official WeChat campaign is often low, and customers are more accustomed to checking updates on their WeChat if it’s someone on their friend’s moment page.”
The grey practice of WeChat may still need to be assessed as to the effectiveness for luxury brands, but it is poised to be an opportunity for brands to integrate consumer digital behavior in the retail environment, further creating an engaging shopping experience for the increasingly digital savvy Chinese luxury consumer.