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Marketing to China – 5 Questions with Patrice Nordey, Founder of VELVET Group

Velvet Introduction

1 What is Velvet’s story and what are the services it offers to its clients?

VELVET is a digital consulting agency based in Shanghai specializing in the deployment of communication strategies and online marketing, as well as e-commerce activities and structure for the Chinese market. We cater to international luxury, fashion and cosmetic brands. VELVET’s clients include Boucheron, the famous jeweler in Place Vendome, Galeries Lafayette department stores, brands from L’Oréal or Kering (ex-PPR) one of the largest luxury groups (Gucci, Bottega Veneta, Balenciaga, Saint Laurent, etc..) and lifestyle brands (Puma, Volcom, Electric, Cobra).

Our main playground is the Chinese market, though our customers are international. This has led us to realize missions in Paris, New York, Melbourne, Hong Kong and Florence during the past year. I [Patrice Nordey] launched VELVET after six years of experience in China. It is the result of my first digital adventure started in 1998 with the founding of French online magazine Neteconomie.fr, which was later sold to a sizable media company.

 

2 What is the real reason that inspired you to start your company in Shanghai?

Creating VELVET is the willingness to reconcile two distant worlds, luxury and digital (internet and mobile). The Chinese market has become since this year, the largest market in the world of e-commerce (ahead of the United States) and the most important consumer market for luxury goods and services. We are betting that a position in strategic consulting in this segment will bring tremendous value to the market. Of course, this is in addition to advertising agencies like Publicis-Omnicom, WPP, Dentsu, Aegis Group and more specialized agencies which have greatly strengthened their presence in the last 5 years.

 

3 What is your vision of the luxury market in China in 2013?

China’s market represents 25 % of this year’s global luxury market and remains very strong, despite a slowdown since 2010. This makes it the most attractive market for luxury brands. Moreover, it remains highly fragmented and rapidly changing. The share of purchases of luxury goods by Chinese traveling abroad, including France, for example, is the most dynamic component. Consumers are slightly tired of traditional luxury brands and are more in favor of “affordable luxury” and dynamic premium brands. Sophisticated clientele take a closer look at more specialized brands such as Christian Louboutin or Maje that arrived in China this year. Chinese consumers browse on their smartphones and iPads to discover luxury brands and products, not only at home but also when shopping in store. There is a unique opportunity here to capture and engage customers via social media and other mobile-specific applications.

 

4 What is the most important online social platform for a luxury brand in China today?

No platform is perfect within itself. We recommend Sina Weibo to reach a wide audience, WeChat for more interactive communication and the point of sale, and vertical platforms such as P1 to reach urban and more advanced communities in fashion. This year we worked with BoBo, a mobile social networking app catering to Chinese hairdressers and stylists who want to share new hair styles and styling techniques, with a community of 200,000 professionals. The collaboration between a well-known cosmetic company and BoBo was an effort to target high-end salons and famous hairdressers through an online social network. This collaboration was very effective!

 

5 Why luxury brands are afraid to sell on the Internet today? Are they wrong?

This fear is based on realistic problems: counterfeit goods, parallel distribution, sales of luxury goods at rock-bottom price, and other issues that are prevalent online. Naturally, it would not be a confident environment for luxury brands to launch their products online. However, market conditions are gradually improving, along with an emerging class of consumers who want to live a true online “luxury experience” with their favorite brands. I think the real question for these brands is their degree of integration with the stores, the “OmniChannel” approach, as well as the development of real differentiating services based on a structured approach to CRM. Be able to book a shopping appointment online on the brand site, pick up your purchase in the nearest shop, and have access to services such as VIP concierge through the mobile platform. These are the avenues to explore and to differentiate in order to offer a true digital experience within the luxury industry.

TechCrunch Shanghai – Digital Innovation in Fashion from Technology to Services

Digital-in-Fashion

Technology is upending every single part of our daily life and fashion industry is no exception. CEO of VELVET Digital Agency Patrice Nordey, Digital General Manager at Nike China Nicolas Zurstrassen, Director of Ecommerce & Operations at Converse An Chiem, Director of Digital Marketing at Westin Hostel Penny Peng, and Regional Digital Manager Asia and Australia at Nivea Eike Wobker joined us at TechCrunch Shanghai to discuss digital innovations in fashion industry.

All panelists agreed that social media, like FacebookWeChat and Sina Weibo, plays a significant role in their interaction with customers.

In hospitality industry, the social media provides more convenience to customers, enabling them to search for hotels assorted based on reviews from friends, obtain customer services, etc., said Penny.

An Cheim noted that they want to maintain the application of social media at interactive level, to have two-way conversation with consumers, rather than going too far to become an ecommerce channel only.

In selection of digital technologies, brands always have to get back to the question of who your consumer is, what are their demands, and how do they want to be attracted to your brands, said Nocolas. The next crucial factor is to provide utility to them in terms of a tool, a story and a service. He added mobile marketing is not only about mobile phones, but about mobility or what the consumers need when they are out, and therefore, it is applicable to all wearables, like shoes and clothes.

According to Eike, digital provides an opportunity to glue different marketing channels together.

– See more on Technode!

NoFashion – Patrice Nordey insights on Chinese Luxury Market

On September 13, the first digital fashion assembly “Shanghai Fashion Web” will be held in Shanghai, hosted by the luxury digital consultancy agency VELVET Group. Approximately 150 luxury and digital marketing industry leaders have been invited, with speakers including Glamour-Sales China founder and CEO Thibault Villet, Italian luxury online retailer Yoox Group Chinese director Mimi Vong, and the famous fashion blogger & KOL, Peter Xu, who will deliver a keynote speech.

Patrice Nordey

During a NoFashion interview, VELVET Group founder & CEO Patrice Nordey expressed the hope to share mutual insights with participating brands and industry leaders and to discover new partnership opportunities through the Shanghai Fashion Web events. Another goal of the event is to promote the new initiatives in the fashion and digital field, such as the Chinese designer online retailer Bundshop, as well as the hair and beauty interactive platform Hairbobo. The Hairbobo App in China has attracted over 200,000 registered hairdressers.

Patrice Nordey was a senior executive at BNP Paribas Group, and served as the CEO of L’Atelier – BNP Paribas Group China. With 15 years of experience in e-commerce and the digital field, Patrice founded the Velvet Group in 2013 to help international luxury brands to enter the fast-growing Chinese e-commerce landscape.

He stated that in recent years, international luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton, Coach, Gucci enjoyed rapid development in China. However, as the market growth slows down, these brands will come to realize that the use of the digital platform will serve an important role in further brand expansion in China. “The digital platform is not only affordable, but essential to reaching affluent consumers, especially in geographic regions where there is not yet a physical brand store.”

Digital Consulting is the 2013 Shanghai Fashion Web theme and VELVET Group’s principal business, as more and more brands are focusing on digital marketing. Patrice Nordey recommends fashion brands to “prioritize the establishment of a solid digital platform, allocate adequate budget in search, media placement  and social media activities, while effectively channeling offline advertising resources such as magazines, events, and promotional pamphlets.” Patrice Nordey adds that a unified customer experience is essential for the brand. Throughout the digitization process, luxury brands should always maintain its uniqueness to provide high-quality online experience for every customer.

Sina weibo fans

With respect to the authenticity of microblog comments and posts, Patrice said he has noted the recent trend of third party microblog accounts equipped with zombie fans and false information and reviews. “Many brand headquarters have become aware of these authenticity issues and approached brand activities on these platforms with more caution.” Patrice Nordey said that VELVET Group responds to many brand headquarters’ requests, to identify problems within the brand’s Chinese subsidiaries and to “purify” social media activities . VELVET Group currently services clients include from the fashion and luxury industry, including Christian Louboutin, Boucheron, Galeries Lafayette, L’Oreal Group, as well as Gucci, Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta and other brands under the Kering Group. Patrice Nordey reveals that these fashion brands hope to receive completely objective consulting service from VELVET Group.

With reference to the 2013 Shanghai Fashion Web event, Patrice Nordey signifies that there are many similar events held in the United States and Europe. However, in China, the concept of this event is fresh and “VELVET may be the first company to hold an event that links the digital field with the fashion and luxury industry.”

Note : Shanghai Fashion Web has been held on September 13, 2013 in Kathleen’s 5, Nanjing West Road, No. 325 , 5th Floor, Shanghai Art Museum. Netizens can search #SFW 2013# to find posts related to this event on the micro-blog.

– See more on NoFashion!