This week in the news, the first Swiss smartwatches are unveiled, Amazon China launches on Tmall, Paris-based Isabel Marant will launch in China, Chinese students are flocking to Bordeaux wine schools, and Clarins reveals its successful digital strategy in China.
A new company has introduced Switzerland’s first line of smartwatches. The Geneva-headquartered Manufacture Modules Technologies (MMT) was founded specifically for the production of Swiss Horological Smartwatches. The business is a joint venture between Fullpower Technologies, a wearable-technology company based in Silicon Valley, and Union Horlogère Holding, which owns Swiss watch brands Alphina and Frederique Constant. This year, MMT will unveil 10 different models of its Swiss Horological Smartwatches, beginning at the Baselworld trade show. These models will be split between Alphina and Frederique Constant.
In April, Amazon will begin selling around 500 products on Tmall as a trial run before a full roll-out. On the surface, the deal seems perplexing, as Amazon competes with Tmall, and Alibaba’s other platforms, in China’s e-commerce market. Though Amazon has sold to the Chinese market since 2004, it has failed to gain any momentum in the country and holds only a 1.4 percent market share. Alibaba, on the other hand, owns more than a 70 percent market share through its sales on Tmall, Taobao, and other platforms. Analysts believe the move is an attempt to raise awareness for Amazon in China while drawing business away from JD.com, which holds a greater market share than Amazon in the Chinese market.
Isabel Marant and Lane Crawford’s ImagineX subsidiary have signed a deal to expand the Paris-based brand across greater China. The partnership will develop the Isabel Marant and Isabel Marant Étoile brands for the Chinese market with 12 points of sale to open within five years. The first free-standing boutique will open on Hong Kong’s On Lan Street in July 2015, which will be followed by stores in Beijing, Shanghai, and Macau with an additional store in Hong Kong. Since opening the brand’s first store in Paris in 1998, Isabel Marant is sold through 18 Isabel Marant boutiques and more than 800 luxury multi-brand retailers worldwide. ImagineX’s has built a client portfolio of 21 luxury fashion, beauty, and lifestyle brands in the region since 1992.
As China’s wine industry continues to grow and mature, more and more Chinese students are traveling to Bordeaux, in southwest France, to get an education in wine in order to enter the fledgling Chinese wine industry. At the INSEEC business school, known for its wine and spirits program, Chinese matriculation has grown so quickly that the school has had to turn Chinese students away. In the school’s wine marketing division, 13 percent of the students are Chinese. At Cafa, a private school that trains students in the hospitality sector, almost 48 percent of the students in the sommelier program are Chinese. The wine industry in China has experienced explosive growth, growing 136 percent in just the last five years.
What does it take to form a vibrant online presence in China as an international brand? Clarins, a French luxury cosmetics company, can offer a few pointers. In 2010, the brand began a considerable expansion of its global digital presence, launching 18 sites in just a year and a half. “Guanxi,” or relationships, are key to developing a brand presence in China. Strong Chinese business partners can help brands navigate the complexities of the country’s online retail outlets, such as TaoBao and Tmall, which represent 85 percent of the country’s online transactions. Companies should also take advantage of China’s social networks. Clarins is using WeChat as an “omnichannel” to reach out to both Chinese consumers in China and Chinese travelers around the world.
image credit: isabel marant