How Moleskine is building a loyal customer base in China one experience at a time

Moleskine_Little Prince_Featured Image

Moleskine’s loyalty and brand building strategy for the Chinese market is long-term and incorporates an integrated online and offline element. 

Being a well-known brand in the West does not guarantee instant recognition in a market like China. As a result, Italian premium notebook manufacturer Moleskine has developed a localized marketing strategy, which heavily integrates social, retail and ecommerce into a unified experience.

Traditionally, retail and ecommerce teams are split into two separate departments, but should work closely together, says Andrea Mantovani, head of digital and ecommerce for China, Moleskine.

A strong online and offline strategy for China helps to build a consumer journey that begins with a brand experience.

“Once we create memorable experiences, consumers will link that feeling to the brand. This is a smart way to create long-term relationships with customers,” he says.

These experiences are being delivered by integrating social media, ecommerce, retail and loyalty.

1. The link in China between social and commerce

Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Line and Twitter have begun introducing commerce features to their platforms. But in China, functionalities on social apps, including embedded wallets and bot marketing, have been around for some time – especially on WeChat.

WeChat

WeChat is China’s most popular social commerce app (with more than 700 million users) and has evolved around the Chinese consumer’s avid use of mobile. The app’s embedded QR code reader and wallet capabilities allow brands to interact with consumers, and permit payment options, in both the online and offline spaces.

As a result, WeChat makes up 80% of Moleskine’s digital strategy and is its main channel for building CRM and loyalty. Currently the following on Moleskine’s WeChat platform is still relatively small, but Mantovani believes the brand’s presence here positions it well for an anticipated WeChat ecommerce boom in 2017.

Marketplaces

Moleskine also has a presence on Weibo and stores on marketplaces JD.com and Tmall. It also has a non-official presence on niche lifestyle social platform Douban.

Moleskine_Weibo account_600

*Moleskine’s official Weibo account with localised Chinese content

A presence on a Chinese marketplace is an important part of a seamless omnichannel strategy. This is because almost every social media platform in China is partnered to an ecommerce marketplace.

When a social media platform doesn’t own its own marketplace, it generally partners or shares a relationship with one. In this way, a brand can link a product catalogue from any social account to an ecommerce platform.

WeChat now allows brands to set up an ecommerce store directly on the platform. However, for those brands using an official account on the app as a shop window only, consumers can be directed to a store on JD.com to make a purchase.

Moleskine_Jd.com_600

*Moleskine’s store on Chinese marketplace JD.com

Consumers wanting to make a purchase from Weibo (China’s version of Twitter),  are directed to Moleskine’s store on Alibaba’s Tmall.

It’s also worth noting that buying from a brand’s store on an ecommerce marketplace is often a Chinese consumer’s preferred point of purchase. This is because the marketplace handles logistics, delivery and facilitates easy payment options through services such as Alipay and WeChat Wallet.

They are also a trusted interface between the consumer and the vendor. If there are any issues around product quality, the marketplace acts as a form of guarantee.

It means a brand may be engaging with Chinese consumers on social channels but point-of-purchase occurs on a site like JD.com or Tmall.

2. Integrating Online and Offline

In China, Moleskine’s business strategy has been to open stand alone (offline) retail stores. These are positioned alongside premium brands in some of China’s most prominent retail malls in tier-one cities including Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou. Today, Moleskine has 21 retail stores in Mainland China and several more in Hong Kong.

Moleskine_retail store_China_600

“Consumers in China live between the online and offline worlds – constantly verifying online what they see offline and vice versa,” he says.

Therefore the retail stores play an integral role in building brand awareness for Moleskine in China. More than 50% of Moleskine’s social followers come from offline QR codes placed in these official retail stores, says Mantovani.

In China, 12%-15% of retail sales are made online. Moleskine’s ecommerce sales in comparison are higher at around 19% and are growing at 50% year-on-year. Even so, it means 80% of sales in China are still coming from offline channels.

These retail stores also play a valuable role in show rooming, says Mantovani.

“I don’t care where the first purchase starts. I want to bring people to my circle but give them the choice of where and how to buy,” says Mantovani.

3. CRM & loyalty

Once a WeChat infrastructure upgrade is completed later this year, Moleskine will focus on growing its online community, improving conversion rates and boosting returning customer numbers.

It plans to strengthen its loyalty programme using WeChat. This might entail offering exclusive offers, discounts or access to presales to Moleskine’s WeChat community only to build its online community. These offers will then be redeemable in-store and online. The overall aim will be offering points for loyal customers whether they are making purchases online or offline.

Mantovani says WeChat also gives marketers measurable results to track how consumers are being driven in-store from online or offline campaigns each time they scan a QR code.

“Instead of creating a community you need to join the community where your followers already are,” says Mantovani. For a brand like Moleskine, that is on WeChat.

Conclusion

Mantovani says Moleskine’s O2O success in China can be attributed to the small and agile Shanghai team and the strong relationship between the head of retail and the head of digital and ecommerce, and the trust given by the European headquarters.

Having retail and ecommerce teams working together in the same office in China has allowed Moleskine to execute integrated and aligned promotions and campaigns across all of its platforms. It also opens up offline opportunities around retail events traditionally exclusive to the online realm, such as Alibaba’s Singles Day festival in November.

Asia’s mobile first consumers are driving the evolution and use of social commerce apps across the region. Outside of China, Line and Kakao Talk are also making progress with consumers in North Asia and Southeast Asia. The success of Moleskine’s integrated strategy for China could therefore be used to roll out similar strategies in other APAC markets.

For the time being however, China remains at the center of ecommerce innovation.

“China is the place to be for ecommerce – you don’t want to be anywhere else,” says Mantovani.

*Keen to learn more about social commerce and retail strategies for China? Andrea Mantovani will be joining us at ClickZ Live Shanghai on September 19-21. Click here to learn more.

Related reading

tencent_emily-ma_featured-image
nurcin-erdogan-loeffler_wikipedia-definition-the-future_featured-image
pwc_experience-centre_hong-kong_featured-image
12919894_10154847711668475_3893080213398294388_n
<