Charlotte Tilbury lands in China with WeChat mini-program as its official presence

by Queenie Yao

[This is an authorized translation with original Chinese copy released by Tencent Smart Retail]

With the strong rise of domestic beauty brands and increased competition in the industry, it has become increasingly difficult for overseas brands to enter the Chinese market and gain a firm foothold. But Charlotte Tilbury, based in the private domain operations, has quickly opened up with a live-streaming campaign on the WeChat Channels account, proving that the opportunity still exists.

On October 8, Charlotte Tilbury held its first Big Launch Event live-streaming event in mainland China using its WeChat Channels account as a venue. The 7-hour long live-streaming session was well received and effectively raised brand awareness and influence through a variety of tactics such as Weibo post reminders, livestream appointments on the WeChat Channels account and icon guidance on the home page of the mini-program. To add, the makeup brand creates an attractive combination of limited-time new products and "exclusive secret code privileges".

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The outstanding results not only strengthened Charlotte Tilbury's confidence and determination but also set a benchmark for other overseas brands to enter the Chinese market.

Focusing on the DTC model to create a brand-independent business position

Charlotte Tilbury, the eponymous brand founded by the British celebrity make-up artist, is popular for its unique fashion concept, professional quality and exquisite packaging, with its worldwide best-selling "Pillow Talk" collection selling an average of two pieces per minute. After becoming a leading brand in Europe and the US, Charlotte Tilbury has set its sights on the Chinese market, and after gaining its first fans through cross-border e-commerce platforms, it officially debut in September 2021.

Over the past few years, online shopping and offline experience have become the mainstream behavioural pattern of beauty consumers. How to create a convenient online shopping channel while meeting the needs of young people who prefer an immersive offline experience has become a key point for the beauty retail industry to cater to the needs of young people.

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To better grasp the changing needs of consumers and create a seamless online and offline shopping experience, Charlotte Tilbury firmly advocates the DTC strategy in the Chinese market and promotes the brand's omnichannel: for offline side, the brand has set up boutiques in upscale shopping malls in tier 1 cities, such as Shanghai Grand Gateway, Chengdu IFS, Beijing APM, Hangzhou Intime and Nanjing Deji Plaza, etc.; while the brand has also built up an online presence by launching WeChat mini-program.

The DTC model is characterised by direct connection with users, integrating domain-wide traffic, fully controlling all data/data autonomy and long-term relationships, which coincides with the advantages of merchants having autonomy in the private domain and being able to reach users repeatedly, at low cost or even for free.

For this reason, Charlotte Tilbury has decided not to set up a website in China, but to launch the WeChat mini-program directly as the brand's official website. By laying out and deeply cultivating the various touchpoints of the WeChat ecosystem, combined with offline smart retail shops, the brand will create its long-term business position.

Charlotte Tilbury’s Four Forces drive the acceleration of private domain construction

Building a private domain is a long-term process. Charlotte Tilbury, through its partnership with Tencent Smart Retail, has used the "Four Forces Growth Model" to significantly accelerate the process of building a private domain.

1.Organisational Force: Integrated online and offline integrated management to achieve resource sharing

To succeed in omnichannel operation, the first step is to open access to the organisational structure. As a brand that has just entered the Chinese market, Charlotte Tilbury has the natural advantage of starting lightly. The online and offline omnichannel business is managed by the “Omni-Channel & Commercial” department, including the online e-commerce channel and its channels such as offline shops and the brand's official mini-program, ensuring that the overall objectives of each channel are consistent.

Among them, the offline sales team and the WeChat mini-program team are led by the same general manager. Shop assistant sales performance and the WeChat mini-program are closely bound. When customers complete purchases in the mini-program, the shop assistant can also get commission rewards, to achieve the interests of the chain of connection.

In line with offline physical store rollout, Charlotte Tilbury is also empowering its shop assistants with digital tools such as WeChat for an online and offline business. With digital tools, shoppers can continue to generate sales for the brand without the limits of time and space. At the same time, the marketing and e-commerce departments can draw on each other's strengths and collaborate efficiently thanks to the smooth and fluid communication between departments.

2. Operational force: Full touchpoint access for quick private domain cold starts

Before entering the Chinese market, Charlotte Tilbury had been working on cross-border e-commerce platforms for three years and had a loyal fan base. After the deployment of the DTC strategy, it deposited this fan base into the brand's WeChat official account, providing the original accumulation for the private domain. At the same time, it made full use of omnichannel touchpoints to drive traffic to the private domain and continued to expand the scale of the private domain.

The Charlotte Tilbury physical shop is an important source of organic traffic for the brand, which is maximised through the innovative "three codes in one" approach. Each product in the shop is printed with a unique QR code, and customers can scan the QR code to follow the brand's WeChat official account, enter the mini-program store, or add the exclusive beauty advisor "Charlotte" WeCom account as a WeChat contact. By adding an exclusive BA, customers can enjoy the same exclusive 1V1 service as offline shop assistants, plus a limited product delivery service, even if they are unable to visit the shop.

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Meanwhile, Charlotte Tilbury also pays great attention to the connection and two-way diversion between various touchpoints, for example, after following the WeChat official account, the pop-up welcome message will guide users to jump to the membership centre or the official mini-program store. From the mini-program store, users can jump directly to the WeChat Channels account to watch the livestreaming campaign. Noticeably, the live-streaming interface will also display the QR code, guiding users to scan the code to add the BA’s WeCom account.

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In light of omnichannel touchpoints, Charlotte Tilbury has quickly deposited a large user base and completed a cold start in the private domain.

3. Merchandise Force: Exclusive SKUs to drive sales conversion and mental preference

Differentiated merchandise SKUs and pricing are some of the key elements of the private domain to create unique value for consumers. To improve conversion and repeat purchases, Charlotte Tilbury plans to release channel-exclusive SKUs and special offers in the WeChat mini-program, including pop-up items from the overseas website, limited edition gift boxes and more. At the same time, thanks to the cost advantage of reaching users in the private domain, the mini-program can outperform e-commerce platforms in terms of the depth of discounts on some items.

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4. Product Force: Exploring cross-border transactions and creating a cross-border goods drive

Charlotte Tilbury is constantly thinking about how to empower users with a wide variety of product selections and a smooth experience through product power refinement as it continues to explore the private domain.

It is currently planning to sell its most recent international items in the form of cross-border commerce in the mini-program so that users can be among the first to try them.

The "Big Launch Event" livestreaming is a vital milestone for Charlotte Tilbury's entry into the Chinese market, and an important validation of its DTC omnichannel model. What is more notable than the impressive numbers is the comprehensive private domain approach that underpins it. In today's highly competitive market scenario, whoever can learn the most from this experience will have a better chance of winning.

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