September 2018—European brands have been signing up with one of China’s largest retailers JD.com.With 300 million middle-class consumers, China is considered the biggest market in the world. European brands can learn how to enter the Chinese market effectively here.
During the celebrated Maison et Objet in Paris, Mr. Lijun Xin, president of the JD.com Home&Life division, discussed the company’s work in the design, furnishing, architecture and decoration industry in China. He also explained the services it provides to European brands in terms of advanced marketing, logistics and infrastructure technologies to help them penetrate the Chinese market effectively.
On April 4, 2017, during Salone del Mobile, Mr. Lijun Xin opened the sale of products by three Italian brands: Savio Firmino, Bordignon and Contractin. A year later, the company receives an invitation from Maison et Objet to exhibit and hold a conference talk. On a mission in the halls of Maison et Objet, Mr. Lijun Xin spoke to ArchiExpo e-Magazine.
This interview required a professional translator and has since been reviewed by Mr. Lijun Xin’s bilingual PR.
ArchiExpo e-Magazine: Can you describe JD.com’s work?
Mr. Lijun Xin: As we say in China, “Client is God.” Our company truly considers a client’s needs with a service chain ensured by us in order to control quality. It’s the client experience that makes the notoriety of JD.com in China. Also, the main point to highlight is that we do not sell counterfeits, only authentic pieces.
Today’s connected habits push retailers to consider how they’re playing the game. Founded in 1998 as an offline retailer, JD switched to a completely online strategy in 2004; yet, the company excels at maintaining an offline presence with pop up shops and exhibitions, and also by owning stake in brick-and-mortar retail shops.
The retailer targets customer experience as its first priority. In 2007, it built a new logistics infrastructure which included warehouses and speedy delivery. The company states that 90% of purchases are delivered the same day or the following day. Since the beginning, JD prides itself on providing authentic products, with a luxury line as well. In October 2017, in addition to opening the world’s first fully automated warehouse in Shanghai, it launched a special platform for luxury groups called TopLife—a different website for luxury products and a different app, along with a special “white glove” delivery service.
ArchiExpo e-Magazine: Can you define the partnership between JD.com and Interni?
Mr. Lijun Xin: Our partnership in Milan last year offered us the opportunity to exhibit Chinese brands in Italy. This is a famous design magazine in Italy, very recognized in China. The team’s experience in design, joined with ours, is most rewarding; they have know-how in European standards, while we excel in our grasp of Chinese traditions. We have also partnered for the exhibition here at Maison et Objet. We discussed the theme and chose the designs which would best represent the Chinese market. Since we were invited by Maison et Objet, we wanted to take this time to present to European brands how they could enter the Chinese market.
ArchiExpo e-Magazine: When did the quest to sign European brands begin?
Mr. Lijun Xin: We’d already started working with several European brands by 2010, but a major upgrade occurred in Chinese consumers who began snatching up European designer products. A consistent increase in sales of middle and high-end products continues to bring European brands to us; every day we sign with so many brands. The French company Crystal is coming to China this October. We’re currently partners with companies including WOLL , WMF, Zwilling, Scanpan, Legnoart, Wüsthof, Lékué , IVV, Cutipol, iittala, bialetti, Hansgrohe, Staub and so on.
ArchiExpo e-Magazine: Could you tell us about the latest trends for home furnishings in China?
Mr. Lijun Xin: I’m not familiar with the trends in Europe, but in China, people are becoming more interested in beautiful design. They want objects and furnishings to maintain aspects of Chinese traditions with a touch of modern design. They’re interested in European classics, but always with that touch of modernity. However, they really want Chinese elements, such as a chair with a dragon sculpted on it. China has over 5,000 years of history with many traditions depending on the time period.
ArchiExpo e-Magazine: Any advice for European brands to enter the Chinese market?
Mr. Lijun Xin: It’s the biggest market in the world so it’s well worth coming over, but be sure to have a clear strategy with a strong positioning. Choose a good partner, like with JD.com, and be sure to have a high-level of after sale services for Chinese consumers–we can help with this. As for what products to push forward, the most important thing is the brand image so try presenting several of your best products. We offer two ways of working with brands: 1, sourcing directly from the brand and/or 2, having a flagship store on JD.com. Why not do both, like Joseph Joseph? The next five to ten years we are going to see the sales double or triple. All that said, it’s truly open competition; good European brands will easily compete with Chinese brands and sales for either always seems to remain pretty equal.
ArchiExpo e-Magazine: In addition to the fully automated warehouse you opened in October 2017 in Shanghai, what other autonomous technologies is the company planning to incorporate in the future?
Mr. Lijun Xin: Our completely automated warehouse in China is the largest in the world. As a tech company, we’ve been investing for many years in advances such as with drones. We have put drone delivery into practice for the last two years; this is currently in a test phase. In house, we have two research and development units; one is in charge of technologies such as drones and the second focuses on the supply chain.