Chinese fashionistas’ growing demand for niche labels is shaking up the country’s luxury industry. One e-tailer on the front lines of the trend is Yoox Group, which is expanding its China offerings thanks to consumers’ preferences for new emerging brands as they search for low-key and sophisticated looks to express their individualism.
The Italian online fashion retailer has been making some big changes as it marks its fifth anniversary in China. Prior to its high-profile merger with Net-a-Porter, it rolled out a new Chinese mobile sales app to complement its WeChat e-store.
In order to learn more about Yoox Group’s development in China, we talked to its international markets director Luca Martines after meeting him at Milan Fashion Week during the Vogue Talents Corner.com initiative’s fifth-edition presentation. The initiative features collections by 12 emerging designers selected by Vogue Italia and Yoox Group-owned e-commerce site thecorner.com, which also has a Chinese version. The event featured fashion luminaries from around the globe including Vogue Italia Editor-in-Chief Franca Sozzani and Vogue China Editor-in-Chief Angelica Cheung.
In the interview below, Martines explains the strategies behind Yoox’s China mobile app, what the new Net-a-Porter merger means for China, and the increasing popularity of emerging brands in China’s online marketplace.
Yoox recently launched a mobile app for China. How important do you see mobile sales becoming in comparison to PC sales for your business in China?
The China mobile shopping market is growing explosively, with growth up to 239.3 percent, according to the latest data from iResearch. For Yoox Group, our Chinese customer is the youngest in the world, with more than 50 percent of these customers under 30 years old. This is the new generation of customers: they engage with brands through being hyper-connected and socially active online and very mobile-savvy. For this reason, to meet their needs, Yoox decided to offer them a complete mobile experience on Yoox.com with the new app.
You also have a WeChat store. Do you expect to make more mobile sales through WeChat or through your standalone app?
On the WeChat mobile app, Yoox offers a unique 360-degree content, commerce, social and mobile experience for Yoox.com shoppers. [It’s] a more personal and social mobile experience, giving access to live customer chat and exclusive editorial content. Customers are able to get firsthand promotion and editorial information from our WeChat account. While the new mobile app offers customers the whole excellent and localized shopping experience, in both ways, customers have Yoox in their pocket.
How important is the China market to your overall global sales? How big do you see it becoming?
This year, we will celebrate our fifth anniversary in China, and [over] these years, China has achieved exciting results. In 2014, outstanding performance in other countries continued, with an increase of 32.1 percent, accelerating at 41.4 percent in the fourth quarter, which was mainly driven by yoox.cn in China.
There are many luxury e-commerce competitors in China, including local Chinese companies. What does Yoox do to stand out?
Yoox offers to Chinese customers a huge product assortment on its online stores, and not less important, [an] authentic [one], thanks to 15 years of direct relationships with designers, manufactures, and official retailers worldwide. Thanks to the introduction of a new logistics setup active since 2014, [which is] complementary to that locally available, Chinese customers can now access more than 7,000 brands at yoox.cn: not only the local offering available in the Shanghai logistics center, but also the global range of brands based in Italy.
In addition, Yoox Group also brought online in China 15 online stores of leading fashion brands such as Armani (the first online store launched in China back in 2010), Dolce & Gabbana, Alexander McQueen, and many others, which are now able to offer to their Chinese brand lovers a fully localized luxury shopping experience.
Moreover, Yoox.cn surprises Chinese customer with many special initiatives and collaborations with local talents. In 2014, we introduced in China YOOXYGEN, yoox.com’s sustainable initiative. To celebrate the project launch, we teamed up with Chinese designers Masha Ma, Xander Zhou, Qiu Hao, and Sankuanz to present a series of exclusive masks.
Yoox has both “mega-labels” like Gucci and smaller niche brands. We’ve heard a lot of news about Chinese consumers’ growing interest in niche labels. Has your company noticed growing China sales in this category?
Yes, in the last five years we have noticed a new trend that sophisticated and savvy consumers are seeking niche brands beyond the traditional well-known ones, especially in top-tier cities. China’s young consumers are becoming more and more style-conscious and lifestyle-conscious, willing to mix niche brands with big ones to state their individuality. This is why we decided to expand our offerings last year to meet the rising demand.
What does the recent merger with Net-a-Porter mean for the China market?
The merger of Yoox and Net-a-Porter will uphold coverage of over 180 countries worldwide. It will have a balanced geographical mix with 28 percent of combined net revenues from North America, the Group’s number one country, 15 percent from the UK, 7 percent from Italy, 30 percent from the rest of Europe, 15 percent from Asia-Pacific, and 5 percent from the rest of the world.
There will be strengthened customer proximity and local business capabilities, including 10 local offices, three automated distribution centers, five logistics hubs, and 11 customer care centers covering all time zones. There will also be deeper and faster localization of respective customer propositions leveraging complementary geographical footprint and market knowledge, including improving Yoox’s offering in the UK and Australia and Net-a-Porter’s in Italy, Japan, and China.
Yanie Durocher is a lifestyle and fashion blogger at The Marginalist.