Last week Chinese ecommerce giant JD.com announced it has renewed its sponsorship of the British Fashion Council (BFC)/Vogue Designer Fashion Fund.
Among those to have benefited from the programme are Drapers 30 Under 30 alumna Molly Goddard, Chinese designer Huishan Zhang and Rejina Pyo, whose London Fashion Week shows have been backed by JD.com.
JD has also announced it is set to join forces with Chinese textile giant Ruyi to sponsor the BFC/GQ Designer menswear fund, which supports up and coming menswear designers in the UK.
Drapers meets Xia Ding, president of JD International Fashion at Chinese ecommerce powerhouse JD.com, to hear about how the brand is building its luxury business, supporting emerging Chinese and British talents, and investing in the future of ecommerce.
How does JD.com work with the BFC and young designers?
We support Chinese designers in London and British designers in the Chinese market. The market in China is so big that Chinese consumers enjoy homegrown and global brands equally.
We started our partnership with the BFC in 2017 and signed an official sponsorship deal with the BFC/Vogue Designer Fashion Fund. As part of that collaboration, I sat on the judging panel, helped pick out the shortlist and winners, and provided personal coaching and tutoring about how they can launch an ecommerce business. This partnership has now been extended into 2019.
What do Chinese consumers look for in brands?
Chinese consumers are global consumers. They are more up to date with global fashion trends and often lead them. Customers crave individualism, so emerging designers have a lot of appeal to Chinese shoppers.
Even with big names, when they come to China they cannot just sell what works for them in the western market. They become more successful when they really commit to the market by listening to the consumers and modifying their collections.
We help brands to penetrate the large cities where they do not have a physical presence, and we can tell their stories in much larger ways with a much broader reach because we are digital. We also have a strategic partnership with the Tencent, owner of WeChat, China’s biggest social network, which has more than 1 billion users.
JD.com’s luxury platform, Toplife, has been growing quickly since launching in October 2017. Why is it successful?
In China, the previous online offer for luxury goods was either from cross-border businesses, so customers had to wait for weeks to get packages, or outlet operators that provide off-season, deeply discounted stock. There was no one in this space offering a flagship store and Toplife is the only one that provides that.
Something people worry about when shopping online in the Chinese market is authenticity. We sell in-season stock through direct partnerships with the brands and their stores. If you have an issue with your product, you can return it offline, you can get things fixed offline and you can make an exchange offline. That solves the authenticity doubt and allows people to shop in season.
How do you ensure a luxury experience?
There is a lot of work to do in that area. While online has advantages, we have an inherent disadvantage in luxury compared with offline stores, as people don’t see, touch or try the products online.
We have hugely invested in our customer service teams. We call them “sales advisers” and they are modelled on the offline store advisers. They are trained by the brands, so they can answer practical questions, but they can also answer styling questions, and offer consultation and advice on products.
Tell us about the “white glove delivery” service.
When we introduced the white glove delivery service [a luxury service whereby products are hand delivered at precise times by suited, white-gloved employees] we were trying to listen to both the brands and the consumers. Luxury brands find a lot of reasons not to be online, and part of that is that they feel they would lose the quality of service.
Where next for Toplife?
We started with a small number of brands. In May we had 30 brands – now we have 65 brands and counting, including Saint Laurent, La Perla and Alexander McQueen. By the end of 2018 we can safely say we’ll get to 80 brands.
We’re also starting to look at luxury from a different perspective. For the people living that luxury lifestyle, it’s not just about shoes and bags. It is also about electronics, cosmetics and home goods. So we’re expanding from a category standpoint to reflect that. It means people coming to the site have more reason for visiting us.
How do you see ecommerce evolving?
Ecommerce players are the most innovative players, partly because they are empowered by the data they have. Part of the evolution will come in business operations, and ecommerce players will work more with offline stores to help build brand efficiencies.
From a consumer standpoint we have to address the natural disadvantages of shopping online.
For clothing, we have things in the pipeline including artificial intelligence technology to assist with sizing guidance and helping customers to archive their clothing.