European luxury labels struggling to adapt to Chinese e-tailing
Chinese customers are expecting more from European labels in terms of the latter's e-tailing performance. It seems in fact that luxury goods brands are struggling to adapt to the habits of an increasingly connected consumer population, which accounts for 30% of worldwide luxury goods expenditure.
According to a recent survey by market research firm ContactLab, luxury brands are still finding it hard to connect with Chinese online consumers. Since 2011, the share of online apparel and footwear sales in China has exceeded the level recorded in all other major countries, including Japan, the USA, Western Europe and the UK, but the challenge for luxury brands in China is to find the right fit with consumer expectations: 95% of Chinese consumers with online access use smartphones for their e-purchases, especially those aged 20-39, and expect the shopping experience to be optimised for this medium.
Their crucial requirements are access to online chatting with brands, the possibility of paying via Alipay and WeChatpay, 24 or 48 hours delivery and a simplified returns procedure.
Local e-tailers such as Tmall, JD and Secoo are on top of this, while European labels are still far behind, and some, for example Tiffany, Saint Lauren, Fendi and Céline, do not even have a Chinese e-commerce site. Only Burberry stands out as being able to offer most of the services identified as essential by Chinese consumers.
Security is another must to ensure e-consumer loyalty. “Until now, the presence of the so-called Daigou (local agents) selling authentic products coming from outside China as well as counterfeit ones, has stopped luxury e-tailing from taking off. The problem persists, but local e-tail giants must engineer a transition, focusing on authentic products and resetting the system of luxury goods sales in China, making online sales essential. This scenario seems far off at the moment, but the market evolves quickly in China and European labels must be ready to connect with Chinese online consumers," said Marco Pozzi, a senior consultant at Contactlab.
Chinese consumers do not want to be misled any more, and are vigilant in terms of the authenticity of the products they buy, and their warranty. For example, local e-tail operators regularly highlight product certifications on their web pages, something which European luxury labels are still not used to doing.
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