How Victoria’s Secret is using Alibaba to drive China sales

Global lingerie brand Victoria’s Secret, known as much for its “Angel” supermodels and its “Bombshell” branded products, has brought its iconic fashion show to Shanghai.

Alibaba Group’s Tmall and Taobao marketplaces and video-streaming site Youku were used as broadcast channels to reach the world’s most sought-after consumers, the Chinese.

In addition to locating the event in the world’s second-largest economy – the first time it has been held outside of the US or Europe – the company is leveraging the “See Now, Buy Now” format made popular in China by Alibaba. All items seen on the runway, aside from those not yet released in the market, are available for immediate purchase as Chinese shoppers watch the show.

As in past years, Alibaba’s See Now Buy Now fashion show kicked off the 11.11 Global Shopping Festival season last month, this year mixing the latest clothes and accessories from international names such as Ralph Lauren and Mac with performances by Chinese female rap star VaVa and pop icon Chris Lee to create a retail-as-entertainment experience for viewers.

Beyond the sheer spectacle of the event, Alibaba also allowed viewers to buy the products featured during the show in real time, whether through the Tmall or Taobao mobile apps or even dedicated links to products that were included on the Youku viewing page. Victoria’s Secret used this same technology for its fashion show.

“Part of Alibaba’s mission is to find the most innovative and effective ways to engage Chinese consumers, and the “See Now, Buy Now” model is one of the best examples we have yet,” said Chris Tung, Alibaba Group’s chief marketing officer. “The plan was always to make these innovations available to global brands looking to do business in China. So it’s great to see it being adopted by companies like Victoria’s Secret.”

Filmed last week at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai, the show aired in the US on November 28; yesterday in Beijing time.

That on-air date coincided with Victoria’s Secret’s “Super Brand Day” marketing campaign on Tmall, the lingerie brand’s sole e-commerce channel in China. The 24-hour promotion gave the company premier placement on all of Alibaba’s e-commerce sites and drove traffic to Victoria’s Secret’s Tmall flagship store. Alibaba also leveraged consumer analytics to better reach the lingerie giant’s target audience, helping to grow its customer base and enable deeper engagement with consumers. New visitors to the brand’s flagship store, for example, saw a selection of products tailored to their interests.

The fashion show in Shanghai and the Super Brand Day are part of Victoria’s Secret’s latest push in China. The company bought 26 stores in China from franchisees last year, transforming its China business from a franchise model to a company-owned model. But these stores, spread across first- and second-tier cities, only offer beauty products and accessories.

Things started to change this year, as Victoria’s Secret debuted its lingerie in its first flagship stores in China, including in Shanghai, Chengdu and Chongqing. Beijing is next on the list, with the brand planning to open six more flagships by the end of this year.

Victoria’s Secret officially launched its Tmall flagship store in July, while introducing faster delivery services and branded packaging to its customers. It has since been embracing Alibaba’s digital-marketing tools to better reach the 500 million-plus mobile-active users on Alibaba’s e-commerce platforms.

“The China market is too big and too important for us not to own it,” said Leslie Wexner, the chairman and CEO of L Brands, the retail group which owns Victoria’s Secret, in the group’s latest annual report. “Our opportunity for growth in China is very large… we are building the organisation needed to support accelerated growth.”

The women’s lingerie market in China is forecasted to reach US$25 billion this year, double than that of the US, according to Euromonitor, and is set to grow to $33 billion by 2020.

  • Christine Chou writes for Alizila.com, the independent, but Alibaba-funded, online news portal about Alibaba Group.

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