How is omnichannel retail impacting e-commerce for luxury brands in China?
Omnichannel retail used to be solely focused on supply, and the imperative to organize your supply chain in order to combine stock available online and offline for consumers. Companies were converging towards operating with one stock, as apposed to separate entities online and offline.
Today, omnichannel retail encompasses the full brand presence and universe. From impacting how brands manage their supply chains to their CRM, and brands’ content distribution which also has to be integrated across channels. O2O is about translating what brands offer to their customers across all touchpoints. The value proposition needs to be integrated and consistent, whether it is experienced in-store or online, be it on Tmall or on a Mini Program.
How have luxury consumers’ expectations of e-commerce changed? How are TPs responding to them?
Luxury consumers are looking for an entirely seamless experience with brands, and expect no difference whether they are shopping online or offline. While in the past, high quality service experience was only considered and expected offline, online shopping is now held to the same standard.
Luxury shoppers want more than just a place to discover and buy products, they expect high standards when it comes to the online customer service experience before and after purchase. For example, if customer buys a present for their wife, they’re not only expecting to get the same products at the same price as they would if they bought them at a store, but they also want the same box and the same shopping bag. Ultimately, they want the recipient not to be able to distinguish whether the purchase was made in store or online.
TPs need to be aware of consumer expectations and emphasize on bringing consistency to their service from two standpoints. Firstly, they need to have dedicated customer service representatives that are trained by the brands on a very regular basis – not just about product knowledge, but really about the full brand universe. The customer service representativess must have the same expertise a salesperson in a luxury offline store would have. Secondly, on a supply chain level, they need to provide a spectacular ‘out-of-the-box’ experience. For instance, the product box needs to be scented according to brand specificities. There are a lot of experiential features you can add.
What are the main e-commerce opportunities companies should leverage today?
Brands should leverage the opportunity to expand their brand universe across platforms. Different platforms like WeChat or Xiaohongshu serve very different purposes, just like different brick-and-mortar retail spaces. Companies need to adjust their brand universes to these platforms and create impactful experiences.
This pressures brands to appropriately translate their values and make sure they resonate through the services they deliver. The problem is that you can’t translate something you don’t have. Having strong branding assets that are consistent through channel differentiation is paramount.
The second element that companies should leverage is the integrated consumer behavior. Customers behave as customers regardless of the channel; companies should not try to differentiate them on the basis of online or offline purchases. They need a tailored social CRM program that will allow them to truly understand their customers across channels.
How can brands differentiate their value proposition through their online operations in China?
Customers today are really omnichannel, so brands can’t operate in silos. The key to differentiating their value proposition will be in their ability to establish a digital ecosystem that strengthens their brand universe, and that is consistent in satisfying customers’ needs, be it online or offline.