Michael Kors Launches Casino-Themed WeChat Game For Alibaba’s Singles’ Day

What Happened
Friday is Singles’ Day, the biggest day for online shopping in the world championed by China’s ecommerce giant Alibaba. With a massive sales volume that keep breaking its own records, many U.S. brands such as Victoria’s Secret, Crayola, and Beats have jumped on board for a piece of the pie. In particular, fashion brands including Michael Kors, Kate Spade, Coach, and Calvin Klein are offering special deals on Alibaba’s T-Mall this year, discounting products as much as 60% off.

Among all the participating brands, Michael Kors stands out with an innovative approach. The company launched a casino-themed game on popular Chinese messaging app WeChat, which offers players random discount codes to use on Singles’ Day after they play some digital poker and slot machines. Kors promoted the game with GIFs posted to its official WeChat account and a casino-themed shoppable blog post.

What Brands Should Do
This campaign from Michael Kors should be of interest to many U.S. brands trying to crack the code for social commerce. Using aptly Casino-themed mini-games to engage with mobile shoppers and reward their interactions with discount offers. this campaign serves as an intriguing example of how brands, especially retailers, can leverage popular social and messaging platforms to engage with and even sell directly to consumers.

To learn more about how brands can use chat bots to better serve customers via messaging interfaces, check out our Fast Forward feature on this topic.


Source: AdWeek

Lead image courtesy of Michael Kors blog

Dior Dabbled In Social Commerce On WeChat

What Happened
Dior has become the first luxury brand to dabble in social commerce by hosting a flash sale on China’s leading messaging app WeChat. The French fashion brand launched its WeChat shop on August 1st and promoted a limited edition of its Lady Dior bag via its official WeChat subscription account and WeChat Moments, a Facebook News Feed-like stream of social posts that WeChat integrated into the messaging app. The bag, priced at 28,000 yuan ($4,210), sold out within a day.

Social commerce is one of the leading features of WeChat, and it has taken off remarkably among Chinese mobile users. Dior is far from the first brand to host a successful flash sale event on WeChat. Previously, local brands such as smartphone maker Xiaomi and skincare brand WIS Professional have seen great results from their social commerce efforts on WeChat.

What Brands Need To Do
Although messaging app-based social commerce has yet to take off in the U.S., leading messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger and Kik have been working to emulate WeChat’s success and building out social commerce features in their apps. Some brands, such as fashion brands J.Crew and Madewell, have started experimenting with flash sales on Instagram. As more and more consumers are opting for messaging apps as their main communication channel, brands need to follow the audience and start experimenting with social commerce to sell directly to consumers.

For more information on how brands can effectively reach consumers on messaging apps and other conversational interfaces, please check out the first section of our Outlook 2016.


Source: China Daily


Global Watch: Apple Pay Launches In China, 38 Million Cards Registered in One Day

What Happened
Apple first announced in December that it was partnering with China’s UnionPay to bring Apple Pay to users in China sometime in 2016. Now a year and a half after launching in the US., the Cupertino company officially launched Apple Pay in China on Thursday, and, according to Mashable’s report, it has been an early success as 38 million credit cards were linked on launch day. In fact, many Chinese users complained that they were unable to sign up due to what Apple later confirmed to be a “planned gradual rollout throughout the day.”

Market Impact
Unlike U.S., mobile payment is already widely adopted by mainstream consumers, thanks to the popularity of Alibaba’s Alipay and Tencent’s WeChat Wallet, which experts suggested would pose challenges for Apple Pay. However, with the backing of UnionPay, the only domestic bank card organization in mainland China, Apple Pay may just stand a good chance at conquering this important global market, as it plays an integral part in Chinese banks’ plan to digitize its offline payment services and compete against the likes of Alipay.

What Brands Need To Do
As Apple continues to push Apple Pay into more global markets, expanding its scope and capturing more users in the process, it is time for brands that have businesses in China start using Apple Pay’s integration of reward programs to connect with the local consumers. As a market that is quite accustomed to offline mobile payment, this also presents new opportunities for retailers with stores in China to incorporate existing reward and loyalty programs into new point of sale systems for a frictionless shopping experience.


Sources: 9to5 Mac

Header image courtesy of apple.com/cn

Global Watch: Alibaba Acquires China’s YouTube

What Happened
China’s leading ecommerce giant Alibaba has acquired Youku Tudou, China’s leading digital video site, for $3.67 billion. Previously, Alibaba held a 18.3% share in the online video company. Pending regulatory approval, Alibaba will gain access to over 580 million monthly users watching videos on Youku Tudou with this takeover, further bolstering its position in the Chinese digital media market.

Market Impact
To put it as an analogy using their U.S. equivalents, this acquisition is essentially China’s Amazon buying China’s YouTube. This deal provides Alibaba with a new vital channel to reach potential online shoppers and, presumably, to integrate its ecommerce assets, such as payment information and consumer data, to create better, actionable video ads. Meanwhile, Youku Tudou gains Alibaba’s support to help it compete with rival video sites, such as Baidu’s IQiYi and Tencent Videos, and solidify its leading position in the Chinese digital video market.

For brands that have a presence in the Chinese market or looking to enter it, this deal should spell great opportunities to reach Chinese consumers via digital video ads and leverage Alibaba’s consumer data to target the right audience segments for direct sales.


Source: Wall Street Journal

Baidu Introduces Virtual Assistant Service “Duer”

What Happened
Earlier this week, Chinese search giant Baidu unveiled its first virtual assistant service at its Baidu World conference in Beijing. The new Siri-like digital assistant called “Duer” is built into the Baidu Android search app installed on millions of smartphones in China, and will be equipped with voice search capable of ordering food and hailing a taxi at user’s command. The virtual assistant will also be integrated into Baidu’s other apps including Maps and Nuomi, a Groupon-like local discovery platform.

What Brands Should Do
Baidu has a strong hold on the Chinese market, and brands seeking to enter the world’s second-largest consumer market would be wise to get on board with this new service the same way they should with Facebook M. As these digital assistant services continue to gain more business-friendly features, brands should start using them to connect consumers with brands in a natural, conversational context.


Source: The Guardian


Global Watch: Uber Nears 1 Million Daily Rides In China

According to a leaked email from Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, Uber is seeing tremendous growth in the Chinese market, logging in 1 million daily rides, which is as many as Uber has in all of its global markets combined. Encouraged by the promising prospects, Kalanick revealed the company intends to raise $1 billion specifically for Uber’s expansion in China.

While the numbers may seem impressive as a standalone, they pale in comparison to Uber’s competitors in China. Kuaidi and Didi, two most popular cab-hailing apps in China backed respectively by domestic giants Alibaba and Tencent, both report that they each book up to 6 million rides a day. And a surprise merger of the two announced back in February created Kuaidi-Didi, a mammoth that now cover over 95% of the market share.

For now, Uber only operates in 11 cities in China, and its recent fast growth is likely due to its newfound alliance with Baidu, who, interestingly, is looking to launch a driverless car later this year. In the face of the formidable Kuaidi-Didi and other obstacles such as crackdowns from local authorities, Uber sure has an uphill battle to fight if it were to win over the Chinese market.

Update 06/15/2015: Right on the heels of UberChina’s $1 billion fundraising plan, Didi Kuaidi counteracts by seeking $1.5 billion in new funding round.

Walmart Plans Premium Shipping Service And Tests Mobile Payment In China

Walmart is set to challenge ecommerce overlord Amazon with its own premium shipping service. The No.1 brick-and-mortar retailer will reportedly start testing a yet-to-be-named unlimited free shipping service this summer to expedite the delivery of online orders to customers. Tentatively priced at $50 a year, it will cost half as much as Amazon Prime, which, however, also covers unlimited access to Amazon’s streaming service Prime Video.

In related news, Walmart is aiming to use convenience win over local customers in China by adding support for Alibaba’s Alipay, the most popular e-payment service in China. Customers will be able to check out by having their Alipay Wallet app scanned, and will then be rewarded with cash-back on their purchases. Considering that Walmart is not currently accepting Apple Pay in the US because of its allegiance to MCX’s still-in-beta CurrentC, one has to wonder if this new partnership with Alipay in China serves as a test of in-store mobile payment for the world’s largest brick-and-mortar retailer.

Taken together, these two moves by Walmart suggest a strong intention to bridge the gap between the physical world of retail and digital one. In order to succeed in both worlds, all retail brands will need to step up their ecommerce game while also finding new ways to improve the in-store shopping experience with digital convenience.


Global Watch: How Xiaomi Broke Its Own Flash Sale Record

Just in time for the company’s fifth anniversary, rising Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi reported yesterday that it broke its own flash-sale record, selling more than two million phones within 12 hours, reportedly generating around $335 million in revenue. The secret to its success besides hunger marketing? A loyal fan base built from smart marketing.

The flash sale, as part of Xiaomi’s “Mi Fan Festival”, is a tried-and-true tactic for the company to leverage its zealous fan base. Besides flash sales, the company also builds up loyalty by routinely hosting exclusive parties and sponsoring festivals for fans across the country, and systematically rewarding fans that volunteer to answer questions on online community forums.

Moreover, savvy social media marketing has also played a big role in Xiaomi’s outreach and community-building efforts. Xiaomi’s page on the Chinese microblog Weibo currently has over 10.7 million followers, and the company typically announces its flash sales and other updates on its social media platforms as well as on popular messaging app WeChat.

Still, Xiaomi’s ambitious expansion into certain international markets so far has been met with lackluster responses, and a major reason behind such underwhelming performance is that its marketing doesn’t translate well across nations. Without a fan base to hype up its products, Xiaomi suffers from low brand recognition and loyalty in oversea markets. It’ll be interesting to see if the company sticks with its usual marketing tactics, or try something more localized instead.



Global Watch: Apple’s Big Bet On The Chinese Market

Yesterday’s Apple Event brought a few surprises, such as a skinny gold MacBook and a new SDK for medical researchers. One thing, however, was clear from the start—Apple is really going after the Chinese market.

From the prominently featured Chinese consumers in various promo videos shown throughout the event, down to the deliberate choice of Tencent’s WeChat in the on-stage Apple Watch demo, Apple is sending a clear message to the Chinese market. And the Cupertino-based company certainly has good reasons to do so. As the biggest global market with over 520 million active smartphone users, China has become the fastest-growing and third-biggest revenue source for Apple, partly thanks to its recent retail expansion in the country.

Even though the gold Apple Watch Edition is already being widely ridiculed for its $10,000 price tag, luxury experts are pointing out the target market that Apple has in mind could very well be the 2.4 million newly-minted Chinese millionaires, a number that’s expected to double by 2018. Add in the fact that Chinese culture has a longstanding appreciation for gold as status symbol, Apple might just hit jackpot in China with the gold watch.

Global Watch: What Baidu’s $600M Investment Would Mean For Uber

Despite the storm of controversies surrounding its privacy policy and a string of recent PR crisis, Uber still managed to raise an impressive $1.2 billion in funding earlier this month. Last week it was reportedly set to receive up to $600 million investment from China’s Google, Baidu Inc., presumably for its long-rumored expansion into the Asian market. Today Baidu has confirmed its investment.

Why Baidu Wants Uber

The Chinese ride-on-demand market is currently dominated by Kuaidi Dache and Didi Dache, respectively backed by Alibaba and Tencent. Up until this point, Baidu is the only one out of the BAT— Baidu-Alibaba-Tencent, a popular acronym in China denoting their dominance as top Internet companies—that has been holding off on entering the burgeoning market. By bringing in Uber, Baidu would not have to build a ride-hailing app from scratch, but would  instead use Uber’s well-built app and mature infrastructure to compete with its rivals.

Additionally, Baidu is most likely hoping that Uber would improve the lukewarm performance of its mobile payment app, Baidu Wallet, so as to compete with Alipay, the formidable digital payment system backed by Alibaba, or even WeChat Wallet, embedded by Tencent in its massively popular messaging app.

Why Uber Needs Baidu More

For Uber, investment from Baidu would mean it might finally be getting the localization it desperately needs to conquer the much-coveted Chinese market. Beijing, for example, only has around 66,000 licensed cabs at service for its vast population of over 20 million. The Alibaba-backed Kuaidi app alone posted online payment revenue of $2 billion over the past year. And Uber could definitely use Baidu’s massive local clout to navigate this huge, yet highly regulated market. One more benefit for Uber is the integration of Baidu Map. Google Map, which Uber currently uses for across all markets, isn’t the best on the market, similar to Apple Map here in the US.

The Bottom Line

Baidu needs Uber as a convenient proxy to make its long-awaited first move in the on-demand car market, just as much as Uber needs Baidu’s local dominance and expertise. The market might already be congested considering the two local apps from formidable rivals have taken off, but with Baidu’s help, Uber’s ride into the Chinese market might just get significantly less bumpy.

Photo courtesy of Uber