JD.com is marching into luxury fashion

Computers, communications, and consumer electronics are the three Cs of JD.com business. In 2016, Hu Shengli led this division and build it up to take more than 50% market share in China in 2017. He is called the “iron chief” by netizens because of his appearances during JD.com’s conferences announcing more and more brand partnerships. Recently, JD.com created new categories in the Fashion and Lifestyle division and Hu Shengli has been tasked to oversee the development of the platform Toplife with fashion items, home furnishing, and high-end luxury items.

JD.Com: a big asset for the Online fashion

Hu Shengli is particularly renowned for its previous work with JD.com and, as online fashion is becoming more and more important, the company decided to appoint its leading luminaries to this new sector. High-end fashion has become a new battlefield thanks to higher profit margins than the electronics sector. Consequently, JD.com and Alibaba are moving face to face with similar moves.

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Toplife was launched in March 2018 after Alibaba announced its invitation-only Luxury Pavilion last year and its New Retail initiative by promising to better integrate online and offline sales. Thereafter, Hu Shengli announced JD.com’s No Boundary Retail which the concept is to merge e-commerce with consumers’ social life. The purpose is to be the fastest to build trust and relationships between brands. Hu Shengli said that “Talent is really important, and we have a fantastic team with excellent fashion and international experience”.

JD.com has been working with partners

JD.com wants to widen its brand, Hu’s own experience in electronics is a surprising choice for this current role. However, according to him, there are similarities between these two unrelated industries. “There are a lot of similarities as far as execution goes. On the back end, it’s all about efficiency and making sure that we are stocking products correctly and getting them to customers quickly.” But, he also draws attention to the differences between the two industries. “How we present the products and the experience we provide to consumers is totally different. Fashion and lifestyle are also about presenting luxury as it was meant to be.”

According to Chinese media, the luxury and fashion online presentation is not really presentable. Indeed, even if JD.com has been working with partners to correct these problems in the recent few years, many customers have criticized of aesthetics of how fashion items are presented on the website. In March 2017, JD.com separated the fashion category out of the homeware business. At this moment, Xia Ding, one of the founding members of JD fashion, joined the team as President. She is specialized in retail management and has more than 15 years of cross-border experience. In the past, she was the Vice President of Retail Service at Nielsen, and successfully brought into China market the American lingerie brands Hanesbrands.

Xia Ding clearly understands fashion brands and this retail market is essential to the growth of JD fashion. She keeps a close eye on JD.com’s international fashion and she is regularly seen standing alongside fashion influencers, such as Vogue editor Anna Wintour, Chinese Vogue editor Angelica Cheung and the designer Diane von Furstenberg.

In September 2017, Harlan Bratcher, the former CEO of A|X Armani Exchange, has been recruited to be the global Business Development head of JD fashion. Hu Shengli remarked that having Harlan Bratcher is important. “Having Harlan in New York where brands know him and can call him up whenever they want was really important to us.” JD.com is not only hiring big names to be the decision-makers. In order to form close relationships with local brands, the company has also business development staff in different regions around the world, such as in Japan, New York, London, Paris, and Hong Kong. For example, Florent Courau, who worked as COO of Sephora in North Asia or at LVMH for 12 years and six of them in China, has been appointed to be the Managing Director in France.

Toplife is a new JD.Com shopping platform

Toplife is now one of JD.com’s core projects and experience in the luxury market is crucial. Hu Shengli explained that Toplife is not just a shopping platform, it is a universe full of luxury. JD.com has introduced many famous brands to the platform in the first six months since Toplife was launched. Consumers can now buy items from Saint Laurent, Alexander McQueen, Derek Lam, ANTEPRIMA, Barrie, Mulberry, or Oscar de la Renta. After the launch and during the first three months, more than 1 million users joined the platform and the average unit price is more than 5,000 RMB.

Many luxury fashions website already exist, such as Net-A-Porter or Farfetch and even if JD.com recently enters the market, high-end fashion websites are still very new in China. Hu Shengli recognizes that the market has a lot of competitors, but he remains positive about the future of JD.com. “The fashion industry is still underdeveloped in China, especially for e-commerce. We saw the opportunity there, and we believe we are building a long-term path for fashion and luxury brands in China.”

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