Louis Vuitton gets personal in China

07 June 2012

BEIJING: Louis Vuitton, the luxury goods brand, is emphasising personalised customer experiences and generating consumer insights as it seeks to drive growth in China.

The company, a unit of LVMH, currently runs 39 stores across the Asian nation. It opened its first branch in the country two decades ago, and a second in Shanghai three years later.

"We've been very consistent from that day. We've always operated our own stores and tried to create a customer experience ... that is exactly the same as you would have in Paris," Christopher Zanardi-Landi, president of Louis Vuitton China, told the China Daily.

"Today, one of the differences is as people … see the luxury world in China, they are amazed to find that actually what is here is often very much better than what might be considered the fashion capitals of the world."
As one of the earliest luxury operators to move into China, Louis Vuitton has played an essential role in educating shoppers about the category, while simultaneously discovering their unique needs.

"We have a very strong group of customers who we are very close with, who believe that we have grown up together in China, and I think that's a great place to be," said Zanardi-Landi.

"It's not only a question of investing. It's a question of really trying to understand Chinese customers, to really build our brand, and desirability for our brand in a way that Chinese customers can understand and grow with us."

While overseas brands, especially those from France and Italy, have traditionally held a particularly strong appeal for Chinese luxury consumers, this preference has required a nuanced response from marketers.

"Something that we understood very, very early on is that Chinese people, when it comes to purchasing anyway, have a very strong sense that everything outside China is better," Zanardi-Landi said.

"We went with a philosophy of building stores and building our brand here in a way to say … you'll find a Louis Vuitton store that is as good as anywhere else in the world with a choice of product that is as good as anywhere else in the world."

In demonstration of this, Louis Vuitton typically launches new products in Paris and China at the same time, but shoppers in the latter market are often reluctant to believe this.

High government duties on premium goods also means there is a cost incentive for Chinese buyers to acquire them when travelling overseas. Creating an unrivalled experience at home thus becomes vital.

"Of course for customers, it's very important to have a personal relationship. They may love our brand, but also they love to be in the store, and they know the staff, and the staff know them by name and recognise them. That sense of personal connection is very important," said Zanardi-Landi.

Data sourced from China Daily; additional content by Warc staff