Minnie Wang
May 30, 2022

Miniso's CMO on consumer-centricity in local marketing and product design

Robin Liu opens up about the brand’s marketing strategies and overseas expansion for the New York-listed Chinese retailer.

Robin Liu
Robin Liu

Miniso, a Japanese-inspired lifestyle retailer has been a brand on the move over the past decade. Founded in 2013 from Guangzhou, China, Miniso quickly began expanding, even overseas starting in Singapore as early as 2015 and continues its push further into Southeast Asia and North America. Last December, Miniso opened its 5000th store including 1900 overseas and its 100th in the US. Aggressive expansion has paid off as the brand amid a slowing domestic market.  Miniso announced in its most recent unaudited financial results for Q3 2022 ended March 31, 2022 that overseas revenues had jumped17.4% year-on-year as the pandemic began easing in many markets. 

Robin Liu, the brand’s CMO who joined the company in 2019, still has high expectations for overseas markets, especially Southeast Asia, while also seeing room to grow in lower-tier cities domestically. According to Liu, Indonesia is the largest overseas direct-sale market that makes “a significant contribution to the Group's sales profit.” Liu explained it is not only because Southeast Asia is one of the fastest-growing regions but also because “in terms of culture, Southeast Asian consumers have a lot of similarities with consumers in Asia or China as a whole.”

Leveraging local IP, campaigns and partnerships

Localising and co-branding products with key partnerships has become a winning formula for Miniso in China and abroad. For example, in Indonesia, a country with long rainy seasons, Liu noticed "robust local demand for fashionable slippers.” Miniso went on to build a branding concept in Indonesia that "when consumers buy slippers, they go to Miniso.”  In Mexico, the brand launched the Miniso x Xico crossover collection, leveraging local IP for products based on an iconic ancestral breed of dog. Following Chinese Gen Z’s tastes, Miniso has also collaborated with popular Chinese IP, such as the Palace Museum, Honor of Kings, and Bilibili's cartoon mascot, 2233. 

Elsewhere in typical tourism destinations like Indonesia and Thailand, Liu also considered the tourism markets. The brand developed products for travelers, such as U-shaped pillows and special seasonal products. Liu believes that “the core strategy behind these products is matching three "good‘’ standards (good-looking, good to use, and good to have fun) to meet the needs of the local markets.”

Drawing on his previous ecommerce experience as marketing head at NetEase, Liu continues to emphasise social media seasonal marketing to create strong and solid “emotional bonding” between consumers and the brand. During Ramadan, Miniso teamed up with local Indonesian band Geisha to host a concert and invited ten lucky fans to interact with the band. The event was attended by 1,200 people and attracted almost 5,000 participants on social media. 

Combining social media and live events is another campaign strategy adopted by Miniso. During the brand's first global campaign in 2022, its Mini Bus Tour, Miniso’s mini bus toured nine markets across North America, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. Fans from 22 markets joined the campaign online. From KOL marketing to live broadcasts, from minibus live events to social media sharing, 100,000 participants attended live events, and over 50 million people connected with the brand on the internet.  

Mini Bus Tour Indonesia/ Thailand/ Vietnam

Purposefully-design products

Apart from co-branding and IP collaboration, Miniso has its own cartoon characters and dolls called ‘Mini family’. The“Mini family” is not just an iconic series of products popular with overseas markets but also can be leveraged toward creating social impact. Last year, to cope with climate change, the brand launched a fund-raising campaign, “Take Penpen Home,” aimed at helping tree-planting efforts in the Andes. Miniso donated US$1.33 to Peruvian NGO ECOAN for every purchase of the brand's Penpen plush toy. Meanwhile, as a lifestyle retailer, Miniso also began to develop biodegradable products like toothbrushes, to follow the environmental-friendly preferences in many markets. 

When asked about the process behind creating more best-selling products, Liu said a product development team of over 500 people is willing to listen to consumers’ voices. “With the help of martech tools, by conducting surveys and questionnaires and collecting feedback from consumers, Miniso’s product R&D team can make accurate decisions and develop concrete product strategies.” 

For Liu, “all marketing, whether content marketing or creative events, is based on user insights, in line with the product development strategy.” Miniso not just focuses on the utility of the products, he argues, but cares about consumers' emotional needs. The brand celebrated World Smile Day (May 8) in China by bringing together the wink from the logo and a smiling balloon to express the feeling of keeping on smiling during the hard times. 

Last December, Miniso created a calendar on a building in Guangzhou to say goodbye to 2021, which helped the brand become Weibo’s second hottest topic at the time, and sales reached 150 million RMB (US$22 million) on 31 December. 

While the initiatives may not be earth-shattering, Liu notes they nonetheless resonate with consumers. He argues if he can get customers to share the campaigns and similar feelings for the brand, popular online campaigns that are spread by users lower the cost of marketing but maximise the impact. At the same time, Miniso has been building its membership programme over the past decade through social media channels. By the end of 2021, the brand has gained over 14 million users through private traffic

Assisting Liu meanwhile, is a new in-house creative brand called 1% to work with agencies and creative hot shops and a new MCN team to expand the brands' social media channels.  

Campaign Asia

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