China’s economic slowdown and the ongoing trade war with the US have had luxury brands worried about consumer sentiment, but Chinese shoppers are still stocking up on high-end handbags — and sneakers. Traditional luxury brands have maintained growth by adapting to Gen Z trends like streetwear and sneakers while leveraging new breed of Chinese brand ambassadors — particularly young pop idols — to promote their products online. Protective of brand equity when it comes to e-commerce, luxury brands prefer control over their e-commerce experiences and relationships with the consumer, with brand-owned WeChat stores and DTC remaining the most popular channels for selling online. The top ten brands in Gartner L2’s Digital IQ Index: Luxury China 2019 boast the strongest digital performance within the current circumstances, both national and international.
1. Louis Vuitton Digital IQ: 145
Ascending to the top of this year’s ranking with high online buzz in China over its streetwear products and announcement of Kris Wu as its global brand ambassador, Genius brand Louis Vuitton has embraced owned e-commerce channels in China. After a soft launch of site DTC commerce in 2017, the brand officially launched e-commerce to all of mainland China in July 2018 and utilized the streetwear “drop” model with a WeChat pop-up shop Mini Program for popular sneakers designed by Virgil Abloh.
2. Bulgari Digital IQ: 144
Also a Genius brand, Bulgari has built up its site and WeChat functionality in China for omnichannel and customer service, allowing users to customize products, make store reservations, check physical store inventory and pick up online orders in-store. Like Louis Vuitton, the brand has also enlisted Kris Wu as a brand ambassador to generate engagement with a younger generation of consumers, while social promotions featuring singer Jolin Tsai and actress Shu Qi appeal to its mature customers.
3. Cartier Digital IQ: 141
A Weibo video campaign series featuring heartthrob celebrity Lu Han for Chinese Valentine’s Day received significant engagement promoting the global launch of the third and final Genius brand’s Juste un Clou collection. A WeChat Moments ad for the collection was among WeChat’s 10 most popular Moments ads for 2018, while the brand has also experimented with full-screen ads on social shopping app RED for its offline Clash de Cartier exhibition, which users could reserve tickets for via a WeChat Mini Program.
4. Gucci Digital IQ: 134
As a global partner to Farfetch, Gucci’s products have the highest visibility on Farfetch’s fashion category page for China. The brand’s Shanghai Artist is Present exhibition and pig-themed Chinese New Year campaign sparked discussion online, while it reached out to Gen Z for Chinese New Year with a celebrity-driven Douyin campaign. An expert in building online hype, Gucci also doesn’t neglect the basics of digital competence: its sophisticated China brand site offers functionality like anti-fraud education and tools, customization, store inventory and more.
5. Montblanc Digital IQ: 129
While Montblanc faced a setback last year when it lost superstar brand ambassador Fan Bingbing due to her tax evasion scandal, its multi-ambassador strategy still earned it high engagement on social media. In fact, two Weibo posts featuring brand ambassador Yang Yang were among the 10 most popular in the watch and jewelry category, including a post linking to its Montblanc X Yang Yang collaboration.
6. Coach Digital IQ: 126
Dropping out of the top five this year, Coach remains digitally Gifted as it continues to invest in WeChat, with a WeChat brand zone on search linking to Mini Programs for its loyalty program and celebrity-studded Coach Lights Up Shanghai runway show in December 2018.
6. Tiffany & Co. Digital IQ: 126
The American jeweler has invested in advertising on China’s top mobile apps. Two of its ads in WeChat’s Moments newsfeed were listed among 2018’s top 10 most popular WeChat ads, including a video featuring celebrities Du Jiang and Huo Siyan for its “Believe in Love” campaign. The brand has also bought multiple ads on RED to reach a younger audience.
8. Piaget Digital IQ: 125
Piaget saw success on Chinese social media through promotions featuring its celebrity brand ambassador, actor Hu Ge. One Weibo post featuring him promoting its Altiplano watch earned 29 million views and was among the most-watched in the watch and jewelry category.
9. Burberry Digital IQ: 121
Previously first in the Index, Burberry’s social engagement declined after the brand held a celebrity-free fashion show to ring in the Tisci era and its Chinese New Year campaign garnered some criticism for being culturally out of touch. But the brand’s embrace of monthly digital drops of streetwear items via a WeChat Mini Program show its continued commitment to experimenting with novel luxury e-commerce models that appeal to China’s digitally connected younger generation.
9. Chow Tai Fook Digital IQ: 121
Always open to digital innovations, Chow Tai Fook utilizes blockchain to authenticate its T Mark diamonds and signed an agreement with Tencent for WeChat Pay cooperation in December. The brand is also among the most active on RED with a social account and shop on the platform.