La Perla's ecommerce education in China

La Perla APAC CEO Chiara Scaglia is working out how the brand maintains its luxury appeal in the ecommerce age.

Chinese supermodel Liu Wen fronts the La Perla campaign.
Chinese supermodel Liu Wen fronts the La Perla campaign.

When Chiara Scaglia took over the La Perla portfolio for APAC around 2013, the Italian heiress of Pacific Global management set out to revamp the luxury lingerie label through a series of operation overhaul and new store openings.  

After moving the operation base from Singapore to Greater China, Scaglia set up an ecommerce team and launched flagship stores of the brand on Tmall and JD.com. But the initial foray of the brand into ecommerce was a little underwhelming.  

“We had this idea that since we were a luxury brand, we were going to do things our way. It was a mistake,” Scaglia told Campaign Asia-Pacific on the sidelines of Global Conference on Women and Entrepreneurship in Hangzhou last week. She was a speaker at the inaugural event organised by the Alibaba Group.

Scaglia pictured with Chinese actor Hu Bing at the launch of a La Perla store in Singapore last month.

The “mistake” that Scaglia spoke about was not playing by the rules of ecommerce in China.

“The first time that we participated in the Singles’ Day sales in 2014, I had that arrogance that we wouldn’t do certain things like giving out coupons,” she said. The brand then shifted track the following year to “go all the way” and was rewarded with a 100 percent lift in sales during the hyped 11/11 event.

“I told my team…let’s just try, what’s the worst that could happen? Our prices are still alligned with the rest (competitors) and our products and packaging are of high quality, that is how we maintain our standards,” said Scaglia.

Granted, Scaglia acknowledged that retail has been the bread and butter of the brand with its Hong Kong stores being the biggest revenue drivers. “But if I look at online as an individual store, (like) our Tmall store, it is the point of sales that is driving the most revenue individually and one that is growing the most,” she said.

Given that La Perla is far from the only luxury brand selling on Chinese B2C platforms such as Tmall and JD.com (the more affordable Victoria’s Secret also has flagship stores on these platforms), Scaglia said they are still at the infancy stage going through trial and error. “It took us a couple of years to learn who is the right client, where is she based and what colours she likes, in order for us to tailor our merchandise according to our clients,” said Scaglia. Yet she shared that  marketing spend in Asia has been largely going to its ecommerce channels.

Selling a lifestyle

“We don’t put a lot of resources into traditional media in Asia anymore because it is extremely expensive and it is hard to track the ROI of that investment,” said Scaglia. La Perla also conducts product seedings on celebrities and stylists actively to get the stars to wear the brand either in real and reel life, an approach that she said automatically generates content for the brand.

“In a TV drama or a movie, whenever there is a romantic storyline, we will have a scene with the main actress sitting on the bed, or waking up and making coffee in her underwear, dressed in La Perla,” said Scaglia. “The next day, clients will come to our store with a photo of the scene saying they want the same items.” That is not unlike the hype set off by Kate Middleton who often unwittingly helps fashion labels sell items off the shelves for fans who want to copy her style.

But essentially, La Perla, like all luxury brands, is about selling a lifestyle. Scaglia said the brand values its top clients and they are on the invite list of its in-store events. "We want them to come and have some champagne and snacks to enjoy the lifestyle that La Perla represents," said Scaglia.

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