Intime: Know Everything About the First Digital Department Store in China

The integration of online and offline shopping experience has a name: the “New Retail”. According to the Chinese giant group Alibaba, the digitization of retail could not be neglected. The Covid-19 has only accelerated the tendency to purchase online. Stores need to stay on track by proposing alternative experiences including e-commerce elements in their in-store experience. Alibaba created Intime, the unique digital department store in China incorporating offline and online steps in the consumer’s journey.

What is the “New Retail” in China?

The “New Retail” could be defined as a seamless integration of online and offline shopping experience. In a word, any customer could walk into a store and benefit from advantages linked to the use of his smartphone.

In China, New Retail is not only a trend but a core strategy that is changing the face of the whole retail and brick-and-mortar stores. After the lockdown, Chinese consumers rushed into physical stores looking for a customized retail experience. They love to purchase online, but they need to find the spice that would bring them in-store. From omnichannel consumer journey to physical stores, consumers are entering the entertaining and digital era. On this ground, Intime is one step ahead!

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Intime, The Unique Department Store to Target Young Chinese

Intime is a high-end department store in China, benefiting from a good location in 1st tier and 2nd tier cities. Today, there are 27 stores across China in cities like Beijing, Hangzhou, Xi’an, or Wuhan. Especially after Covid-19, Intime turned into a destination for luxury shoppers and young shoppers. The possibility to purchase online and receive it in-store helped revitalize beauty counters when stores reopened.

Why Chinese consumers would still turn into physical stores? Because they are on a quest for authenticity and instant gratification. Compared to online purchases, Chinese shoppers could benefit from the most direct high-end service. They will enjoy their product the moment they purchase it rather than waiting for several days. In the meantime, they will avoid counterfeited products and have the necessary proof they purchase a real brand’s product.

The connection with the brand is a key element to engage with young shoppers from the Millennials and Gen Z. Intime succeeded in upgrading department store to face and support e-commerce rise.

Miaojie, the App that Adds Value to Physical Stores

Miaojie is an application created by Intime to digitalize its operations and payments. Launched in 2017, the app gathers 20 million users and organize the logistics in 68 Intime stores. During the lockdown, Intime would have lost all its revenues if it could not lean on Miaojie app. With its million users, the app turned the foot traffic reduction into online subscription and purchase.

Intime decided to digitalize its value chain by incorporating within Miaojie:

  • Purchasing orders
  • Inventory Management
  • Livestreaming
  • Payments
  • Shipping
  • After Sales Service

In a word, the app is offering a plurality of digitalized services to support the consumer experience in-store. Intime is also planning to launch new innovations to improve customer satisfaction with digital interactions and digital insights to sales counters.

The New Retail is a Key Strategy for Cosmetics Brands

The luxury cosmetics brands are benefiting from Intime’s success. For instance, La Mer, Estée Lauder, and Lancôme reached 100 million RMB sales online thanks to the ship-from-store option. Such a logistics operation is often complicated to implement. Intime x Miaojie integration is a key strategy to reduce both delivery costs, delays, and generate higher sales.

The integration of online and offline in the shopping experience is such a success that the Chinese are likely to pay a higher price to purchase in-store.

A New Connection with Existing Consumers

After the Covid-19 crisis, the relationship between counter sellers and consumers was affected. Even the most high-end beauty brands faced issues to propose a premium shopping experience while respecting sanitary measures. How could they touch the texture of the face cream? How could they try the color of this lipstick on their skin? Thanks to the integration of online assets, Intime offered great flexibility with QR code to replace testers and even decided to go further.

Intime launched a live streaming platform and integrated digital interactions. Especially in the beauty sectors, BCs (Beauty Consultants) and BAs (Beauty Advisors) are very important for brand attachment and attractivity. They are the only direct connection customers can have with your brand. To maintain this special relationship, about 6K sales representatives decided to launch live streaming sessions on Miaojie.

Generate New Sales Offline for Hero Products

The New Retail does not only benefit to physical stores but also to e-commerce.

La Mer benefited from this halo effect thanks to its Intime beauty counter in Hangzhou flagship. E-commerce is huge in China, and 5K bottles of La Mer star serum were sold out within minutes for Le Concentré relaunch in 2020. These sales contributed to an increase of 200% of their in-store performance. How? Online customers discovered the success of the serum and decided to go shop offline to have the chance to purchase it. Chinese consumers could easily switch from online purchase to offline purchase if the customer experience is pertinent and qualitative.

If you want to drive sales both online and offline, you need to build your e-reputation. The great performances of luxury cosmetics brands in Intime stores were only made possible thanks to advertising and marketing. Chinese shoppers were already aware of their beauty products and decided to engage quickly through e-commerce app or deeply thanks to physical store. If you plan to increase your sales in China, you definitely need to master both branding and lead generation.

How to partner with Intime or find high-end distributors in China?

In China, distributors are a great solution to increase your sales and avoid logistics issues. These distributors will help you with the imports, storage, shipping, and sales. But they will never have a positive impact on your marketing!

In the Intime case, this distributor offers high-end omnichannel shopping experience. You can benefit from the giant strike force in orders, payments, delivery, and after-sales service. Your brand will be available on the Chinese market through the most high-end department store where you will manage to protect your brand image. But how to do so when you are not in China?

Founded by Olivier Vérot and Philip Qian, the Gentlemen Marketing Agency possesses 10 years of experience in China. We have noticed the evolution of the Chinese market from a web success to a digital giant. Today, you need to master your branding and your e-reputation if you want to do business in China. Finding a reliable distributor is a tough task especially when you are not in China and do not speak Chinese. For more information about your opportunities in China, you can contact us.

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