hina’s JD has over 300 million active users, making it the largest retailer in the country (it actually works as both a marketplace and a retailer), from electronics to home appliances and watches.
Praised for its delivery system, JD has invested in Farfetch to leverage its appeal to global luxury brands, in the current race to the top with its main rival. Will the platform be able to extend its partnerships to more watchmakers? We interviewed Belinda Chen, general manager of JD’s watch division.
- Belinda Chen, general manager of JD’s watch division
What is the unique selling point of JD in the highly competitive Chinese digital world, when it comes to attracting watch brands?
From the beginning, we pledged to only sell authentic products. Furthermore, logistics in China can be challenging and our partners can rely on our nationwide smart logistics network: in China, 90% of orders can be delivered the same day or next day. Importantly, e-commerce also provides a platform for engagement: for example, leveraging our partnership with Tencent (WeChat) helps brands run highly targeted marketing campaigns. We can create digital pop-up stores on WeChat’s Mini Program or “super brand” days which help expand the brands’ sales. To give you an example, sales of Daniel Wellington products increased almost fourfold during the brand’s June 2018 Super Brand Day, compared with the Singles Day of the previous year.
How many watch brands do you carry today on the platform?
We have been selling watches since 2012 and now stock hundreds of brands from around the world at all price points. To name a few partnerships, we have worked with TAG Heuer since 2015, with Zenith since 2016, with Chopard since 2017 and with Carl F. Bucherer since 2018. Most recently, we launched official flagship stores for Tissot and Titoni , which has chosen JD for an exclusive worldwide pre-launch of its limited edition in celebration of the brand’s 100th anniversary. When Zenith launched its flagship store, sales on the first day surpassed an entire month’s worth of sales from the brand’s best-selling offline store in China.
How has demand evolved since you started selling watches in 2012?
Chinese consumers are becoming more sophisticated and experienced. As the middle class population in the country grows, more people are reading about and researching products and brands, and they are increasingly seeking brands they can identify with. There has been a trend for more middle-class and upper- middle-class consumers to buy luxury products in China, rather than relying on making purchases abroad. We’ve also seen increasing demand for more functional watches, such as sports watches and smartwatches. Finally, female customers are increasingly into the mechanics of the watch, rather than purely the design.
What kind of partnerships do you have with watch brands?
We have either a “first party model”, where we buy and sell inventory, or a marketplace model. In the latter case, brands retain their stock and JD provides services such as fulfilment and delivery, marketing, payment, customer service and after-sales services. We are aware that luxury brands have been more reluctant than other industries to go online, so we have made several efforts to address their concerns.
“We believe that the line between online vs. offline shopping is becoming increasingly blurred. Our partnership with Xinyu Group is a good example.”
Could you give some examples of such actions?
We created JD Luxury Express, our luxury ‘white glove’ delivery service, to provide an end-to-end luxury shopping experience to online customers. In addition, we often work with retailers to offer an experience where they can buy online but try products offline. For example, the partnership we have established with specialist watch retailer Xinyu (see the article: Dominant players in watch distribution) enables online customers to try on watches by having them delivered to a destination of their choice, rather than having to visit a physical retail store. Counterfeits can also be a concern: from day one, JD implemented a “zero tolerance” policy towards counterfeits.
Do you plan to open physical stores to sell watches?
We believe that the line between online vs. offline shopping is becoming increasingly blurred. Our partnership with Xinyu Group is a good example, as it gives access to the world’s best timepieces no matter where consumers shop – online or offline. We cooperate on product sales, after-sales service and business development. The partnership has also facilitated faster in-house watch repair and maintenance, so that clients can have their watches returned as quickly as possible.