Dior, a typically e-commerce-shy luxury brand, took a digital step forward by selling handbags directly to consumers on WeChat.
Last week, a limited number of the Lady Dior bag went on sale on WeChat, with the only announcement leading up to the release coming the day before in the form of a teaser on the company’s public WeChat account. The message told followers to return the next day for a “surprise,” accompanied by photos of the bags. It sold out within the day, each selling for 28,000 yuan ($4,210). Payments for the bag were accepted through WeChat’s payment system as well as Alibaba’s Alipay tool.
Dior has sold its products through an online channel just once before, through a partnership with Bergdorf Goodman’s online store last October, when it made a spring line of shoes available for purchase online. That partnership ended on December 31. It doesn’t have its own online channel for selling any of its products, including more accessible items like perfume or accessories.
On WeChat, Dior not only made digital progress for its own brand, but it opened the door for other luxury brands to also begin to sell directly to the platform’s 700 million monthly users. In the past, brands like Burberry and Michael Kors have let customers reserve purchases on the app, to be bought in store upon arrival, but they haven’t done transactions there.
WeChat sales tackle two key areas for luxury brands: China’s market, and social commerce. Here’s the Dior guide to targeting luxury shoppers on WeChat.
Dior’s method of teasing the item release, then releasing a limited number of bags the next day, made the drop about the exclusive appeal as much as it was about the handbag itself. Not only was the release limited, it was also targeted only at those who follow Dior on WeChat, reducing the mobile customer pool to those already engaged with the brand.
For luxury brands, figuring out how to maintain the exclusive halo around their products in a democratized, digital channel is an ongoing challenge.
“A lot of the luxury brands have held back on online sales because they weren’t chasing dollars. Luxury is about scarcity of product,” said Sucharita Mulpuru-Kodali, senior analyst at Forrester Research. “There are ways to have a very high-class experience online — very wealthy people purchase online. I don’t think that it degenerates a brand now; it’s so ubiquitous now that the online experience reinforces the physical experience.”
Make it personal
For the WeChat release of the Lady Dior bag, Dior offered a customizable option for customers on the platform. Users could drag-and-drop add ons to their handbags, including metal decoratives for the clips and heart and floral pattern designs on the strap.
Adding a customization element to a luxury handbag seems sacrilege to traditionalists, but the ability to decorate a pricey bag in order to make it your own is a driving force in the fashion market. In June, Gucci launched Gucci DIY, a customization service that lets customers decorate certain products. On top of a limited release, the ability to customize drives customer engagement.
“We’re no longer in a place where a brand can tell you how you’re supposed to look. Everyone, especially young people, likes to put their personal spin on things,” said Michael Miraflor, svp global head of futures and innovation at Optimedia Blue 449 in a recent Glossy interview. “There’s a lot of value and cachet in being an individual, rather than seeming like you’re a cookie cutter in a catalogue.”
Skip the middleman
Dior has done what even Burberry has struggled to do: monetize social followers. Despite the fact that WeChat has its own payment system and huge active user base, luxury brands have hesitated in driving direct sales through the platform. Dior, however, saw the appeal in how direct-to-consumer sales on WeChat are valuable to the brand.
When Dior announced its e-commerce partnership with Bergdorf Goodman, president Pamela Baxter said that no concrete plans for more online sales were in the works until it figured out a way to build a proper relationship there.
“The retail experience and relationship building between our expert sales associates and our clients is really important to us. To be quite frank, we don’t know how that relationship would build online,” said Baxter at the time. “When we find that experiential relationship connection and how to do that online, we’ll jump in with both feet.”