Due to a slower economic growth rate, anti-corruption campaigns, more people travelling abroad to shop and the explosion of overseas goods-purchasing agencies, the China luxury market has languished in recent years. However, the market picked up slightly in 2016, with millennials touted as a new source of growth for luxury brands.
According to Xinhua net news, 56% of China's millennials are from high-income backgrounds and expect to earn an even higher income in the next few years. Chinese millennials are confident using social media, digitally native and more rational when purchasing luxury goods compared to previous generations. Luxury brands are also actively targeting them.
Burberry hired Kris Wu (Wu Yifan) – the former boy band star – as its global ambassador. The fashion house also launched Kris’s collection of menswear to boost sales.
Gucci’s creative designer, Alessandro Michele, successfully helped the brand by letting male models wear bowknot sleeveless tops. In 2016, the spring collection revenue from consumers under 34 increased 50% compared to same period in the previous year. In China, the brand also worked with celebrities such as Yang Mi, Ning Zetao and Li Yuchun, who are popular with millennials.
Cartier launched a permanent shop on WeChat, and also invited Luhan – a popular singer and actor – to endorse its Juste un Clou line.
After initially avoiding e-commerce, luxury brands have embraced the medium, with Weibo and WeChat popular avenues for success. Chow Tai Fook, for example, has over 250 employees monitoring e-commerce sites such as Taobao, Tianmao and Jing’s keywords to ensure its name always appears in the top search results. Many luxury brands including Cartier, Longchamp, Chanel, Coach, Hugo Boss and Montblanc have also implemented creative initiatives that use WeChat’s features to nurture a new following and engage existing users.
Cartier ranked fourth on L2’s Digital IQ Index of luxury brands in China. As a digital marketing pioneer, Cartier has enjoyed huge wins from its innovative campaigns. Here’s a round-up of how the company successfully targeted millennials in China.
August 2015: WeChat Moments
L2 named WeChat as “the most important platform for luxury brands” in China today. Exploding since its launch in 2011, WeChat’s monthly active users sits at 889 million as of Q4 2016. Its daily logged-in users reached 768 million, and about half of all users are on WeChat for at least 90 minutes a day.
At the beginning of 2015, WeChat launched its ‘Moments’ function. Cartier followed by launching its own WeChat Moments in August, with ads showing Taiwanese movie star Zhang Zhen wearing a Clé de Cartier watch. Cartier set a limited purchase function, so after consumers clicked through the ads they could input personal information and prepay RMB888 (US$129) to ‘book’ the watch, then go to the physical store to complete the purchase journey.
Cartier was the first luxury jewellery brand to use WeChat Moments ads. Relying on Tencent’s enormous database, the accurate delivery of the ads helped Cartier’s WeChat account gain a huge following.
October 2015: Official e-commerce platform in China
Ladymax.cn reported that Cartier announced the launch of its official e-commerce platform in China through a message on its WeChat account. This was not the first time Cartier launched an e-commerce platform. In early 2010, it launched in North America, and then expanded into major European cities over the following three years.
Although some in the industry criticised the Cartier site’s user interface and functionality, it remains important for luxury brands like Cartier to have their own platform where they can provide a complete premium shopping experience for clients.
May 2016: WeChat store focuses on premium-service experiences
When Cartier launched its WeChat storefront, it became one of the first e-commerce-enabled sites belonging to a western luxury jeweller on the platform. By monitoring consumers’ behaviours on WeChat, Cartier could expand its selection and quality on the platform, as well as other Chinese shopping sites.
The Cartier WeChat store included translation and location-based functions so consumers could find their nearest store’s contact details and translate the names of products. This was particularly useful for Chinese consumers who wanted to travel overseas and visit local Cartier stores.
June 2016: Micro-movie Hands starring Zhang Zhen
To promote Cartier’s new Drive de Cartier, Taiwanese movie star Zhang Zhen was invited to direct and act in a two-minute micro-movie, Hands. By sharing his own story and passion in the advert, he helped promote Cartier’s brand spirit.
By partnering with male lifestyle magazine Esquire and utilising the Cosmopolitan group’s media resources, Hands reached over six million viewers.
June 2016: Cartier x Luhan
Cartier invited Chinese celebrity Luhan to present its relaunched Juste un Clou campaign. The brand recognised the singer and actor as “one of the most popular representations of China’s new generation” and invited him to star in a series of portraits and a 45-second short film.
According to 17PR.com, Cartier choose to use its WeChat and Weibo accounts, major Chinese video platforms such as Youku, top social media accounts and Tencent news to launch the video and related articles. The company also used Baidu Tieba to catch the attention of Luhan’s fans.
In the space of three days, the video was a hot search in Weibo’s Top 10 list. Cartier’s official Weibo account received over 65 million views and more than 900,000 engagements. In a single month, Cartier’s official social media channels grew by over 70,000 fans, and successfully broke the July sales record.
February 2017: Cartier’s WeChat store promotion for Valentine’s Day
For its first year launching a promotional campaign on its WeChat We-Boutique online store, Cartier decided to do something special. From 6 February until Valentine ’s Day, 150 limited edition "rose gold love bracelets” were available exclusively on Cartier’s WeChat online store. Each bracelet cost over RMB30,000 (US$4349) and were on the more affordable end of its jewellery collection.
To showcase Cartier’s premium luxury service, the first 88 customers who purchased the bracelet through WeChat had the product delivered by a bellboy (Cartier Boy) along with followers. The remaining 62 bracelets were delivered with flowers.
Chinese bloggers shared the experience online, describing the romantic delivery as: “[What] it feels to be like royalty to receive the delivery from the blond, blue-eyed, handsome Cartier Boy who was dressed in a uniform and carried roses.”
Luhan also reposted Cartier’s campaign information on Weibo, which drew plenty of additional attention from his fans. The original Weibo post by Cartier was liked by almost 24,000 users and reposted more than 500,000 times.
The purpose of this campaign was not to focus on the selling figures, but instead on showcasing Cartier’s premium-purchase experiences. Essentially, using hunger marketing resulted in raised brand awareness and increased desire from consumers.
Renaud Litré, CEO China at Cartier, told the Financial Times: “WeChat transcends e-commerce and is first and foremost about connecting to our customers. [They can] purchase our collections online, book appointments, check on the status of their online purchase and repair orders, and enjoy easy access to one-to-one communication.”
According to Litré, e-commerce sales provide “a great potential area for future growth”.