Ivy Liu is the Chief Executive Officer of Roger & Gallet China. She tells us about the stages leading up to the company’s launch in the country and the steps taken to establish the brand on the Chinese market.
Three exclusive boutiques in Shanghai, Beijing and Chengdu
For its Chinese launch in May 2016, Roger & Gallet put the emphasis on exclusivity. “We restricted the initial launch to three strategic boutiques, in Shanghai, Beijing and Chengdu”, explains Ivy.
The strategic aspect stems from the fact that the boutiques are located in three of China’s largest cities, each store carefully positioned to draw heavy traffic from urban customers with an appetite for luxury products. To support its goals, the brand created a large-scale communications initiative, which it deployed the day before the launch. “We invited 200 influential journalists and bloggers to a press conference in Beijing, followed by a preview visit to the store”, says Ivy. “The event was widely talked about on social media and resulted in articles by key opinion leaders on WeChat and Weibo even before the boutique opened its doors to the general public.”
In-store, customers are immersed in the world of Roger & Gallet. “From the storefront to the furniture, nothing is left to chance. Every aspect down to the last detail is designed to evoke Parisian elegance. There is even a statue of Napoleon in every one of our shops! We want to create a true customer experience”, Ivy tells us. With this in mind, teams of four to six sales associates have been trained to answer questions from their young, curious clientele. “Our customers, who are typically in the 20-35 age bracket, are full of questions about Parisian lifestyle. They are very inquisitive and tend to spend lots of time in the store”, explains Ivy.
A brand in synch with the beauty expectations of Chinese consumers
Their interest in Roger & Gallet reflects the fact that the brand is in synch with consumer expectations.
In the first place, Chinese consumers are very concerned that products should be “natural”, code for safe, good and high quality. The best sellers so far have been, unsurprisingly, the round soaps and Fleur de Figuier collection, which are flagship Roger & Gallet products prepared using natural ingredients. Second, the brand offers the premium quality that China’s middle classes, with their growing purchasing power, are hungry for. “Chinese people are becoming more demanding and want products that provide outstanding quality. They like to offer high-end gifts and are prepared to pay more to do that”, explains Ivy. Third, the lifestyle aspect conveyed by the brand also plays a big role for younger customers. “Chinese consumers want to be sold a story and not merely a product. The initial feedback from customers in the boutiques bears this out. They are extremely sensitive to ‘Parisian’ packaging and to Roger & Gallet’s long history”, she says. What would be a good example of this? Once again, look to the brand’s best sellers, which include Jean-Marie Farina cologne, a product that counts Napoléon and the British Royal Family among its list of customers.
Communicate & distribute: the launch plan
To spread the word about the brand to China’s vast population, Roger & Gallet went the digital route: “We let customers express themselves online! They are our best ambassadors: they spontaneously post positive comments on Red – an app devoted to foreign products and cosmetics – and boost our net promoter score!”, says Ivy. But that is not all. The brand also engaged in strategic actions to build the buzz: “Two months before the launch, Roger & Gallet sponsored the wedding of Liu Shi Shi and Wu Qi Long, two Chinese stars, handing out 1,800 products as wedding gifts to journalists. This whipped up excitement on social media and helped to strengthen the brand’s association with happiness”.
The moral of the tale? In China, you’ve got to go digital! In addition to its social media presence, Roger & Gallet is on Alibaba, China’s answer to Amazon, where it has its own dedicated space, enabling the firm to sell outside the cities in places where it is not yet established.
Buoyed by its initial results, Roger & Gallet is looking to push on. “Since the launch in May, we have already opened three new boutiques between June and August and by the end of the year we plan to open two more”, Ivy tells us. And after that? “French fragrances could well continue their adventures elsewhere in Asia”.