It is no secret that luxury brands these days are striving to retain a luxury experience with the convenience of online shopping. But in China, the pressure to get involved is even more intense as the recent success of luxury brand promotions on social media platform WeChat ups the ante for brands looking to dip a toe in China's e-commerce market. In fact, according to global consultancy KPMG, 50 per cent of luxury brand sales in China will be made online by 2020.
Qixi Festival, which falls this year on 28 August, is celebrated on the seventh day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar. Though its provenance is unclear, its story about the eternal love of a cow herder and a weaver girl who once a year are able to meet by crossing a celestial bridge formed by a flock of magpies, has been around for as long as 2,600 years.
In a modern context, the day is treated as a celebration of love, similar to the Western concept of Valentine's Day. Increasingly, as the push for e-commerce intensifies, luxury brands are jumping at the chance to capitalise on this festival through digital channels and engage a highly connected and Internet savvy audience.
Take, for example, this year's Qixi offerings, which include Spanish fashion brand Loewe holding a flash sale of its iconic "Barcelona" handbag - in black leather decorated with red hearts and priced at RMB 15,900 (or $2,380) - on Tmall's newly launched luxury pavilion. It is the LVMH owned luxury brand's first venture into China's e-commerce market.
Meanwhile Swarovski, no stranger to WeChat promotions, has also catered a Qixi promotion that speaks directly to the needs of Chinese consumers who are less open about expressing affection than people in Western cultures. The special jewellery collection Swarovski has launched for Qixi is being promoted via a digital campaign on its WeChat account. This interactive campaign allows users to create and send hidden digital messages of love within the brand's pieces (that can only be unlocked by the recipient using a predefined password). The items can later be purchased through a mini program on WeChat.
Last year, Dior and Bulgari both made waves in China by becoming the first pure luxury brands to sell on China's WeChat platform - which boasts more than 800 million users. For one day only (until stocks were exhausted) the usually e-commerce shy Dior offered limited-edition Lady Dior bags priced at 28,000 yuan (or $4,200) through its official WeChat account.
This year, the brand returned with a red limited edition Lady Dior bag especially for Qixi, unveiled on the social media accounts of Chinese Dior ambassador Angelababy, who appears in the campaign.
According to Dior President, Sidney Toledano, last year's successful experiment showed the potential for connecting with consumers in China and elsewhere digitally, while keeping the experience exclusive, in line with Dior's broader brand identity.
"It's a tool. We did this experience with an expensive bag. I gave them five days as an experiment to see if they could sell this expensive bag and they sold out in 20 hours. We cannot ignore this way of connecting. I believe in the Internet to drive clients to the store and also if you can't go to the store but you want something," Toledano said.
Not one to miss out on the commercial opportunity posed by Qixi, Bulgari has also launched a limited edition version of its Diva's Dream necklace - in 18k rose gold set with pink sapphires - on its WeChat shop. The brand also provides a custom lettering service that allows for the engraving of one's own love symbols, especially for the occasion.
While it remains to be seen whether rolling out special Qixi promotions on digital platforms will yield long-term results in terms of drive-to- store numbers, it is undeniable that such flash sales bring visibility and drum up hype for the brands involved. And like they say, all publicity is good publicity.