Alongside flashier tech like augmented-reality fitting rooms, Rebecca Minkoff is investing in updating its payments systems to make checking out as easy as possible for customers, no matter where they’re shopping.
On Friday, the day before its New York Fashion Week show, Rebecca Minkoff added Alipay to its stores and e-commerce site, enabling the 520 million Chinese customers who use the payment system to make purchases easily while traveling abroad. The timing isn’t coincidental: The region has become the brand’s fastest growing market, and Rebecca Minkoff’s fashion show is held at its Soho store, capped off by an after-party that invites customers to shop the new collection. Social media influencers will be modeling and promoting the new collection, including several influencers native to China and its popular social platforms, including WeChat.
“China is a very important strategic market for us,” said Krissie Millan, Rebecca Minkoff’s vp of e-commerce and digital. “We get a lot of tourist traffic, and we’re hoping to drum up excitement around New York Fashion Week, both through our in-store events and on WeChat.”
The payment integration is part of a fuller partnership with Alipay. In addition to letting customers check out with Alipay in the currency of their choice, the brand is working with Alipay’s marketing team to get promotions and publicity in front of users in the Alipay app.
“We want to be top of mind for this customer, whether they’re traveling or shopping at home,” said Millan.
Other brands in the fashion space are getting an assist from local Chinese platforms in order to break into the luxury market there, which is outperforming the rest of the world. While the majority of China’s luxury purchases are still made abroad, the percentage that are made at home is increasing. The reason: The Chinese government is cracking down on the grey market that brings goods purchased abroad into the country and resells them to customers. In addition to Alibaba and Alipay, companies like JD.com and WeChat are courting luxury brands and hoping to usher in more business through the partnerships.
“Chinese consumption of luxury goods is growing, whereas it’s not really growing anywhere else,” said Yiling Pan, associate editor of Jing Daily, a publication and consulting firm covering the luxury industry in China. “So luxury brands want to capture this market. And the best way to do that is to go to the places where customers already spend their time — JD.com, Alibaba and WeChat.”
Millan said that the timing of the Alipay launch is meant to capture the buzz of the brand’s fall fashion show, supported by the presence of social media influencers at the event. Brands showing in-season collections need to squeeze every penny out of their fashion shows and events to make up for lost time — other designers’ fall collections, shown earlier this year, went on sale four to six weeks prior. According to Burberry’s CFO Julie Brown, the bulk of the engagements and sales around the brand’s see-now-buy-now fashion shows take place in the seven days following. Getting people excited to buy is critical, and Millan said mobile payment systems will help push more purchases.
The Alipay integration isn’t the only investment Rebecca Minkoff is making in overhauling its payment system. In Rebecca Minkoff stores, the company has gone totally cashless, eliminating registers and opting instead for self-checkout set up on tablets, powered by QueueHop. For those ready to make a decision from the fitting room, augmented reality mirrors featured in stores provide an in-room payment option, through Apple Pay, on top of surfacing related product recommendations and look book–style inspiration. An upcoming website redesign will add both Amazon Pay and Apple Pay for e-commerce and mobile shoppers.
The brand isn’t just trying to make checkout faster for more shoppers, it’s also providing an assist to customers who may not be able to drop $500 for a new handbag at once. On its website, the brand uses online financing tool Affirm, which supports incremental payment plans for consumer goods, to break up one purchase over a series of payments. For instance, a cross-body bag selling for $195 would cost $18 per month through an Affirm payment plan.
“Payments is a big focus for us — we’re trying to ensure options are integrated to our platform to make it as easy as possible to make a purchase,” Millan said.