Leading up to an exciting afternoon planned this coming Friday at the Luxury Society Keynote in Shanghai, we asked speaker, Thibault Villet, Co-Founder and CEO of Mei.com (formerly Glamour Sales), to share his insider’s perspective on the e-commerce marketplace in China, the role of his company and its future in China, and insights for luxury brands when it comes to developing e-commerce activities.
E-commerce and flash sales have proven very popular in China. Why do you think this is the case? and where do you see it heading in the future?
E-commerce exploded in China over the past few years, currently contributing 15% of total retail sales (versus 3% in 2010) and expected to reach 25% by 2020. Initially triggered by an underdeveloped retail infrastructures in lower tier cities, e-commerce is now the main method of shopping among Generation X and Y’s, using mobile phones (m-commerce exceeded 80% over the last 11.11 shopping event) to search, purchase, and share with their peers. China developed a unique social, mobile, e-commerce ecosystem, dominated by massive platforms and supported by cost efficient IT, logistics and payment systems that have fueled exponential growth and set China as a world leader in e-commerce, but still with strong local specificities requiring brands to adapt.
The flash sales model became increasingly popular to adapt to demanding Chinese customers. Seven years ago, customers were very price sensitive and companies like Mei.com (formerly Glamour Sales) focused on off-season merchandise and deep discounts. As customers shifted from discounts to searching for value, we adapted our offering to mix in more new arrivals alongside curated off-season products across 1000 fashion and luxury designers. We focused on inspiring our customers with relevant content by publishing a daily digital magazine, Mei magazine, and resonating with Chinese customers who valued excellent customer experience.
Currently, Mei.com is focused on two key initiatives: launching cross border activities to offer our customers access to a wider product range and more in-season products, and engaging through new experiences by leveraging technology. In March, we had a live stream fashion show to announce the launch of our collaboration with Tmall, garnering over 5 million interactions, and again renewed this event in October at Tmall’s Collection event. For Mei.com’s annual shopping event on September 16th (9.16), we set an immersive virtual reality (VR) experience to enable customers to explore their own style.
Moving forward, we plan to implement analytics to enable further personalization and create more value for our customers, as well as strategic brand partners, and continue to enhance our offering, especially in terms of lifestyle.
Where do you see the role of MEI.com in the luxury industry?
Mei.com’s main mission is to enhance our customers’ lifestyle in order to live a better life, by helping them to discover different brands and relevant products, and by inspiring them through relevant content.
At the same time, as part of the Alibaba ecosystem yet independently operating Mei.com’s luxury app and dedicated channel on Tmall, we see ourselves as a gateway for the luxury and designer brands that want to promote their brands to 8 million upper middle class and affluent Mei.com customers, and for the ones that want to tap into a wider target of middle and upper middle class Tmall customers.
How has luxury e-commerce changed since Mei.com first started six years ago?
Over the years, customers have become more demanding and more informed, comparing international pricing and paving the way for a large Daigou (grey market, third parties purchasing overseas on behalf of others) business. Many luxury brands have revised their pricing and launching owned e-commerce sites, while others have launched omni channel initiatives that link online and offline, social and CRM. This is just the start of a new era, and I am confident brands will continue to look for expansion online and initiate partnerships with platforms that offer access to targeted traffic, with the right environment.
How do you believe luxury brands should think about their future online strategy?
Luxury brands need to focus on understanding the specificities of China’s ecosystem. Invest in technology and systems that enable them to engage actively with their customers locally and globally. They should collaborate more with platforms to expand their customer reach, as the digital landscape in China is constantly reinventing itself. Lastly, brands should offer services for product customization as well as customer care, and continue to ‘wow’ their customers. This is the magic of luxury!
Find out more on November 25, 2016 by joining industry leaders and professionals at the 2nd Annual Luxury Society Keynote in Shanghai at Four Seasons Hotel Pudong.