Today marks the splashy launch of the American fashion brand Gap in China. Gap’s first four stores (in Beijing and Shanghai) are accompanied by its e-commerce website, Gap.cn, as well as a storefront on the Taobao Mall. There’s also a star-studded social media campaign, with a famous Chinese actress (周迅), bloggers, and photography by the renowned Annie Leibovitz. Gap’s aggressive ‘day one’ e-commerce demonstrates the rising importance of reaching Chinese consumers online: B2C fashion e-commerce has grown by over 100% for the last 3 years. And beyond sales, it’s critical for brand image, customer discovery, and extending reach beyond retail outlets.
A number of pioneering Chinese players are focusing exclusively on e-commerce. VANCL is an online-only brand that offers decent quality apparel at low prices, capturing according to iResearch (excludes Taobao). VANCL is plastering the Chinese internet with its viral and performance-based advertising—it’s the largest advertiser on RenRen, one of China’s largest social networks. Another prime example is Mecox Lane (M18), which recently raised $129 million in its IPO on NASDAQ and surged up another 57% the next day. Another China B2C e-commerce player, DangDang, intends to launch this month. E-commerce should overtake gaming as the largest industry on the Chinese internet in the next few years.
The 800-pound gorilla in China e-commerce is Taobao, which started as C2C but is now also aggressively promoting its B2C Tmall. 33 apparel and accessories brands currently have official shops on the mall, including Nike, Adidas, Puma, UNIQLO, Jack & Jones, ESPRIT, and ONLY. Taobao is the online destination of choice for most Chinese shoppers, so it is essential for brands to a presence. Brands that fail to introduce themselves via e-commerce and Taobao are missing the China market.
BloggerInsight has just released a new report entitled Establishing E-Commerce in China: Apparel Edition, that features in-depth interviews with 62 experts at apparel brands, 3rd party retailers, logistics firms, and consulting firms.