There are KOLs that specialise in tourist shopping for shoes in the UK
and Europe. They can be identified and influenced to make positive mentions about retail outlets and brands. This creates instant traction with footfall to follow.
Within days KOLs can put shops on the visitor shopping map in a
believable and trusted way. Once Millennials start visiting and buying, they themselves become brand ambassadors as they fulfil their desire to broadcast details of their purchases. A positive cycle can quickly build.
For brick and mortar outlets one way of boosting social media presence
further is creating Chinese friendly customer service, and an instore photographic backdrop for Millennials to be photographed in front of with their purchases. The former does not necessarily have to involve Mandarin speaking staff, though this does help.
Creating a small space as a photoset can have tremendous benefit.
There are only one or two such sites in the UK, and they are greatly sought after by Chinese tourists and visited even when no purchase is intended, though buying usually does follow. Simple photographic backdrops are a remarkably good way of generating positive reputation and footfall.
What this means is that is possible for retailers to quickly attract Chinese
visitors. It is actually a relatively simple process. Usually what takes time is deciding to target tourists from China in the first place.
However, it is also possible for brands to sell direct by running Mandarin
based ‘factory’ visits, which are hugely popular, and inevitably end with large scale purchasing. Visitors buying ten or more pairs of shoes is not unusual.
Selling into China a lot easier than most believe. Royal Mail’s tie in with the
country’s biggest online retailer, TMall, which carries high levels of consumer trust, and utilised by nearly all luxury brands in China. The Royal Mail service is a warehouse to consumer door service that includes payment collection.
There are other options for direct sales into China too, such as FarFetch
and establishing a WeChat store. The creation of WeChat pop-up stores are very effective for brands that are known in China, but unavailable for purchase. They are normally used as a quick ‘test the water sensor’ before brand owners make the decision to establish a permanent WeChat outlet.
Pop-ups allow a limited range of a brand to be sold for up to a week in a
form of flash store. Zegna did this recently, and quickly sold 60 pairs of training shoes worth £50,000. This tactic not only generates revenue, but can also be used as a stepping stone through which to build permanent on and offline distribution.
The key decision in selling to Chinese consumers is actually deciding to do
it, and do it well. There are countless examples of brands and retailers that make tentative moves and end up wasting money and damaging brand reputation. This includes some big names such as Paul Smith. But you do not have to be big with a high profile to succeed with Chinese Millennials. Because they seek something new and different being previously unknown is its own advantage.
Poor communication is usually based on translating and overlaying
existing marketing communication onto Chinese social media platforms such as WeChat or Weibo, with the presumption that what works with one market works with another. Unfortunately it does not. It has a negative effect because it obviously lacks commitment, but more important converys disrespect.
There are great opportunities in selling to Chinese Millennials because of
their wealth, because they buy in volume, and because they are actively looking for new shoe brands and places to buy. There is no secret to capitalising on the market, it is simply meeting buyers half way through effective communication.
Becoming familiar with the Chinese Internet is best started by typing the
name of one of the leading Chinese search engines, such as Baidu, 360 or Sogou, into a browser address bar. They can be used without any special knowledge, and Baidu in particular responds quite well to English language searches. It is possible to navigate around getting a feel for the Chinese web, although non Mandarin speakers inevitably miss out on some content.
It is important to bear in mind that the results of searches are greatly
influenced by location, and will not be the same as results of the same search in mainland China. Unless using a VPN what can be seen from browsing in the UK will be different from what can be viewed by most Chinese consumers.
It is also possible to easily set up and use some WeChat functions without
any Mandarin skills. The mobile telephone app can be found in iTunes and android app stores, is free to use and provides texting, and one of the best free person to person audio services there is, although of course the person you speak with has to have a WeChat account. You can also explore WeChat pay and other facilities, although Mandarin is needed to set up and use a WeChat account to its fullest degree.
SEPTEMBER 2018 • FOOTWEAR TODAY
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