Alibaba Group said it is “multiplying the ways that luxury brands can connect with China’s affluent shoppers in the metaverse” via the release of a series of digital upgrades as well as an augmented reality fashion show on Thursday.
The launch is part of the fifth anniversary of the company’s Tmall Luxury Pavilion, which Alibaba describes as “the largest online destination in China to host over 200 luxury brands from the five major luxury groups.”
Janet Wang, head of Alibaba’s luxury division, acknowledged that the pandemic was challenging for retailers but said online consumption by the Chinese luxury consumer has been resilient. “While the majority of luxury shopping still takes place in physical retail stores, online and omnichannel expansion has steadily increased — China’s luxury online penetration surged to 23 percent in 2020, up from 12 percent the previous year,” Alibaba said in a statement. “Tmall Luxury Pavilion hosts more than  luxury brands, up from 150 before the coronavirus outbreak. While many cities in China have sporadically gone into lockdown, over 1,000 shopping events and new product launches took place digitally on the platform this year and last year.”
The company said luxury brands have continued to launch on Tmall Luxury Pavilion this year, “even during the economic downturn, including Bulgari, Moncler and Brunello Cucinelli.”
“We saw how quickly brands embraced digital transformation and consumers increased their online consumption,” said Wang, adding that consumption trends during the pandemic included an increase in gifting for loved ones and purchases of home furnishings as well as purchases of objects that hold their value, such as watches and jewelry.
Between 2019 and 2021, the customer base of the Tmall Luxury Pavilion soared 150 percent while sales jumped 300 percent, the company said, citing the platform’s innovative digital experiences as the reason for its growth.
Regarding this latest digital experience, Wang said before metaverse became a buzzword, “we had already transformed this buzzword into a commercial reality. Now, as part of its fifth-anniversary celebration, Luxury Pavilion is hosting an augmented reality fashion show on Sept. 22 in collaboration with Vogue China and various artists.”
“Instead of supermodels, imagine ‘super mascots’ from top luxury brands will strut their stuff down virtual runways,” Wang said. “Viewers on Tmall Luxury Pavilion’s platform can interact with these super mascots in various ways, including taking selfies with them.”
Wang said the Tmall Luxury Pavilion is also introducing “a new Meta Pass, which confers priority digital access to products from brands such as Burberry and Max Mara.”
The Meta Pass package includes digital warrants that are certified on the blockchain. “Swift-footed consumers will be able to exchange these warrants for limited editions, including Bogner’s 90th anniversary snowboard, Max Mara’s fall 2022 collection oversize sweater, Burberry’s signature Lola bag and Marni’s fleece-lined Pablo sneakers,” Wang said, adding that the digital environment “can provide consumers with the same, or even better, shopping experiences and luxury-brand identities than in the real world.”
Over the past few years, the Tmall Luxury Pavilion has “deployed 3D shopping, augmented reality and virtual reality try-ons for products, digital avatars and digital collectibles,” Alibaba said in a statement, noting that more than 20 luxury brands have released digital art collectibles on the platform as well as held virtual fashion shows.
‘This year, Cartier, Vacheron Constantin, Burberry and others used video consultants to livestream one-on-one with VIP customers,” the company said. “More than 20 brands have launched watch testing on Tmall Luxury Pavilion, and other digital services such as bracelet adjustment, bag maintenance, even down to shoe cleaning.”