HONG KONG: Macy’s, the iconic US bricks-and-mortar retailer, has taken a digital-first approach in its effort to crack the complicated China market by using innovative virtual reality and influencer strategies.

“[W]hen we came into China, we started digital first, and we started building big digital homes,” Dustin Jones, Executive Vice-President and Managing Director of Macy's China, told an audience at the World Retail Congress Asia Pacific event in Hong Kong.

“We view ourselves as not a player or an instrument in China but an orchestrator of a better, more simple, more entertaining consumer transaction,” he added. (For more details on Macy’s approach, read WARC’s report: Macy's taps VR, influencers in China e-commerce push.)

To make a splash with Chinese millennials, Macy's turned to virtual reality. In late October, Alibaba sold 150,000 cardboard VR headsets for just 1 yuan (about US$0.15) on Taobao, China's equivalent to eBay. In the days leading up to Singles Day – 11 November - customers could use the headsets with Taobao's app to shop a virtual reality version of Macy’s iconic New York flagship store.

“We created the first virtual reality department store,” said Jones. “We launched that virtual reality department store last year on (Single's Day) – five million people shopped that virtual reality store with us. We filmed it all in New York in Macy’s Herald Square and made all those products shoppable.”

Macy’s has also tapped live streaming to bring New York fanfare to Shanghai, with a local twist.

“We did a fashion show even last year for what we would call ‘grand opening’ on Tmall. That fashion show was live-streamed in New York with an after-party by a Chinese host. And also, then a talk show was created in Shanghai where we did a fashion show down the side of the very tall building and showed the product in a completely different way, and we sold all of the product through live video,” Jones said.

“On that event, 150m people participated in our live show, and on the two events combined, 300m people participated.”

Sourced from WARC