Janet Wang knows the fashion apparel and luxury industry inside and out. As a journalist, she extensively covered the market before joining Alibaba in 2010 to build Tmall’s international business development team. She later joined fashion apparel giant Zara where she led the company’s online business for the Asia Pacific. Last year, she returned to Alibaba as its Luxury Division Chief.
Alibaba’s Tmall Luxury Pavilion has grown from a handful of luxury brands to now offering over 200 of the top global luxury brands in the world. Here, Wang discusses her leadership style, the mindset of the Chinese luxury consumer and what the future has in store for the luxury market.
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Fairchild Studio: Can you share some of your career path highlights as well as the experiences that inform your leadership style today?
Janet Wang: I began my career as a journalist in fashion and luxury, which enabled me to really dive deep into the ins and outs of the fashion apparel and luxury industry. My career led me to Alibaba’s Tmall in 2010, where I was the Head of International Business Development. There, I worked closely with brands and retailers from around the world to help them understand the opportunities in China as well as to understand the ever-changing consumer behaviors.
When I left Alibaba, I held other positions within the retail sector, including Zara.com where I helped push its digital transformation into Asia’s 11 markets. My career journey eventually led me back to Alibaba in 2021, and to an industry that I’m very passionate about.As the head of Alibaba’s luxury business, I’m excited to support my colleagues to drive change within the organization and help empower our brand partners to succeed. It’s an exciting time for the luxury industry — there is so much opportunity.
Fairchild Studio: What is involved in your current role at Alibaba and Tmall, and how do you help brands grow?
J.W.: As the Vice President of B2C Retail and the GM of Tmall Luxury Division, I’m in charge of growing our luxury business and providing strategic guidance to help brands on Tmall Luxury Pavilion build personal and long-term connections with Chinese consumers.
My team and I are sharply focused on building the digital infrastructure to help brands reach their consumers effectively. We are also very focused on helping them understand today’s luxury shoppers so they can customize and adapt their strategies to the Chinese consumer. It’s a collaborative process.
Fairchild Studio: How has the luxury market changed in the past three years?
J.W.: It’s been very exciting to watch and be part of the global luxury industry’s evolution. The luxury sector was very new to e-commerce just three years ago, but through their partnership with Alibaba, we’ve seen many luxury brands embrace digital opportunities and realize the importance of reaching consumers where they are.
In the past three years, luxury brands have become very quick to adopt new technologies and experiment with new formats such as livestreaming, 3D and AR/VR. They are at the forefront of digital transformations, which aims to make the luxury shopping experience delightful for consumers.
Meanwhile, the market continues to grow. We are proud to say that Tmall Luxury Pavilion is now home to more than 200 leading luxury brands, which is up from 150 just before the COVID-19 outbreak. These include legacy and distinctive luxury brands such as Cartier, Gucci, Prada, MaxMara, Armani, Burberry, and Coach.
Fairchild Studio: What do Chinese consumers expect in a luxury shopping experience — online, in a store, or on social?
J.W.: Today, Chinese consumers are digitally native, hyper-active and deeply curious, and they expect the luxury shopping experience to fulfill all these needs. They demand a seamless online and in-store shopping experience. And they want both the convenience of online shopping and the personal touch of shopping at high-end stores.
And as consumers in China are ahead of the curve in terms of adopting new technologies, they value the effort luxury brands put into the shopping experience and their willingness to try innovative tools and create interactive and personalized experiences to reach them.
Fairchild Studio: Where does the shopping journey begin for a Chinese consumer, and what role does social media/livestreaming play?
J.W.: The luxury consumer in China is younger, has grown up with a digitally-first mindset and is very savvy when it comes to connecting with brands and purchasing products across various touchpoints that are both online and offline. This includes brands’ flagship storefronts on Tmall Luxury Pavilion which consists of livestreaming, rich content and social interactions — all critical for engaging the Chinese consumer.
Chinese consumers love to visit brands’ stores on Luxury Pavilion not only to discover new brands on the platform but also to engage with brands in ways that can be very insightful for future product launches and/or innovations.
Livestreaming provides an entertaining way for consumers to develop further interactions with brands they love and to have the ability to ask questions and receive a response in the matter of seconds.
Coresight Research expects livestreaming in China will grow to a remarkable $25 billion by the end of 2023.
Fairchild Studio: How do you see the luxury market evolving over the next few years?
J.W.: By 2025, China is set to become the world’s largest luxury market and Chinese consumers (including domestic and overseas spending) are expected to account for nearly 50% of the global luxury market, according to research from Bain. So, the growth is substantial.
The luxury market is also dynamic, energized and innovative and will continue to evolve while being on a growth trajectory that began a few years ago. We will continue to see brands work with us to understand consumer behaviors and further develop new activations and interactive experiences, including gamification, augmented reality, 3D pop-up stores and digital collectables.
The future will be about continuing to attract the world’s greatest luxury brands to the China market and helping them become successful — from the traditional heritage luxury brands out of Europe to younger, emerging brands from the U.S. And this is what will keep Chinese consumers excited about discovering and buying luxury on our platform.