The insatiable Chinese consumer is one of the big reasons luxury brand marketers like the French conglomerate LVMH took the recent economic downturn in stride.
LVMH, owner of iconic brand names including De Beers, Fendi, Givenchy and Louis Vuitton, recognized years ago that China represented a burgeoning luxury market. Along with European competitors like Hermes and Burberry, LVMH aggressively sought out Chinese retail channels for its products.
Even though luxury products continue to enjoy popularity, there are signs that store sales may be leveling off in China. That's why LVMH is looking to the Internet as a new way of engaging upscale Chinese consumers, as evidenced by the launch of a Chinese-language version of its Nowness.com portal.
According to the company, LVMH debuted the visually arresting Nowness online brand in 2010 in English to provide "editorially independent" coverage of "the most inspiring stories influencing contemporary arts and global lifestyle, previewing the latest in fashion, art, film, music, architecture and design, travel, sport and gastronomy." Given its commitment to showcasing the leading edge, it's also not afraid to present challenging images.
In producing a Chinese-language version of Nowness, LVMH is doing more than translating the English site. While Nowness is sponsored by LVMH, visitors to the website will find neither the LVMH name nor its brands prominent on the site, although some of the content is about the brands.
The bulk of the Webby-nominated Chinese site features original, local stories about cutting-edge Chinese artists, brands, and events in order to capitalize on "the importance of digital and social media in the region," according to The Wall Street Journal.
That makes Nowness a must-watch example of the state of the art in digital content marketing, wherein a brand offers a wealth of high perceived value information in its category to position itself as the category's primary thought leader. Nowness encourages contributions from Chinese influencers including designers, creatives, digerati and thinkers in the luxury industry in an effort to spark a daily conversation about the luxury world.
The Chinese version launched with an original short film presenting an intimate portrait of Zeng Fanzhi, China's leading painter. According to Nowness, one of Zeng's works sold for $9.7 million at auction in 2008, a record for contemporary Asian art.
While Nowness has no e-commerce component, it could be the forerunner of an eventual e-commerce play by LVMH to directly sell its goods online in China.
"E-commerce offers one avenue of continued growth" for luxury brand marketers in China, writes The Wall Street Journal, and "other European players have already launched there in anticipation of a boom. Milan-based Yoox operates its own sites as well as those of brands such as Giorgio Armani and Dolce & Gabbana, and even offers a special delivery service in the country."