China’s fashion market is particularly fascinating due its unique spending patterns from it’s seemingly insatiable taste for foreign luxury brands to their willingness to spend a higher percentage of their income to acquire it. Not to mention consumer taste which contrasts with western models.
Take China and the States.
Giant multi-brand e-retailers dominate the market in the US with Amazon leading the pack in sales. Popular e-commerce sites focusing on fashion tend to fall into these categories (according to my observations):
1) Brands who traditionally sold in catalogs (JCrew, Victoria Secret) and mass retailers (GAP)
2) The find anything free for alls (eBay and most lately etsy)
3) Indie offerings, specialty (Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters)
4) Mid-ranged designer and ready to wear multi-brand retailers like Shopbop
5) Designer discount e-commerce sites (Yoox, Overstock) and reluctantly launched designer e-shops
Currently a mature market, online shopping is incredibly popular. Return policies are customer friendly, credit cards are easy to use and best of all- variety becomes readily and quickly available. Not as population dense as China it goes without saying that stores are not as conveniently available so transit time to a shopping destination is a serious consideration which encourages online shopping.
China’s e-commerce industry on the other hand is a nearly a decade behind. Taobao, arguably the most popular platform was launched in 2003, 8 years after eBay. Online shopping is not intuitive, payment is a hassle and only supported by internet explorer. Merchandise needs to be checked on delivery, once you have signed for a parcel you are liable for in transit damages. Other challenges include China’s shopping mentality; most customers enjoy the service they receive when they shop, will want to check colors in natural light, seams and fabric quality (my mom did this whenever we went shopping). That being said, China’s market is where the US was in the early 2000s, a boom stage, a key time for e-retailers to get in the market.
Interestingly enough, due to the market difference and delayed development China’s market has grown in reverse. Western designers began launching their e-commerce sites before multi-brand startups were being setup, Armani, one of the earliest adopters and biggest China success stories, launched their webshop in November of 2010. Whereas China’s multi-brand e-commerce startups are a more recent development but seems to be where the market is headed. So in that vein, I spoke to four relatively new sites Glamour Sales, Zooq, AnyShopStyle and XinleLu to learn what they are all about and where they think China is headed. Watch this space for my interviews with them.