A woman walks past a Louis Vuitton advertisement in Fuzhou, capital of Fujian province. (CHEN HAO / FOR CHINA DAILY)
Global luxury giant LVMH is embracing the digital age in China by providing online shopping services for its core brand Louis Vuitton.
Starting from July 20, consumers can shop on Louis Vuitton's official Chinese website for all the products in the latest season, including handbags, shoes, ready-to-wear clothing, jewelry, accessories and fragrances. The online service has initially been made available in 12 major cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
Not all the products can be delivered, with some requiring consumers to pick them up at stores. There is no price difference between goods offered at bricks-and-mortar stores and the online platform. UnionPay and Alibaba Group's Alipay are accepted, while Tencent Holdings' WeChat payment is not supported yet.
This is the 11th e-commerce platform that Louis Vuitton has rolled out since the first in France in 2005. Industry insiders said that the online channel will offset the brand's closure of eight bricks-andmortar stores in second and third-tier Chinese cities since last year.
LVMH Chairman Bernard Arnault said earlier that online shopping services are "very demanded by the client", saying that digital capabilities are an essential component of the elite experience of buying luxury goods.
With a market capitalization in excess of 100 billion euros ($117 billion), LVMH has been quite active with its digitalization. It hired Ian Rogers, a former executive at Apple Music, to be the group's digital officer in September 2015. The group's e-commerce platform 24Sevres became operational in June.
Chris Morton, chief executive officer of online luxury retailer Lyst, in which Arnault's family has also invested, said that luxury brands will face the risk of being eliminated if they continue to ignore consumers' needs and overlook digitalization.
Globally, digital sales of luxury goods increased by almost 12 percent in 2016, outpacing all other retail channels, according to market research firm Euromonitor International. Sales of luxury products are set to increase by an additional 50 percent in real terms over the next five years, accounting for almost 10 percent of all luxury sales.
As the world's largest e-marketplace, the transaction volume of China's e-commerce market rose 25.6 percent to total 20.5 trillion yuan ($3 trillion) in 2016, according to market consulting firm iResearch.
Just two weeks ahead of Louis Vuitton's move, Gucci started the online shopping service on its official website in China, and Prada is expected to roll out the same service in the third quarter. Christian Dior started to sell handbags on its official WeChat account last August.
Burberry launched its store on Alibaba's major online marketplace Tmall three years ago. According to the group's fiscal report for the first quarter ending June 30, income from e-commerce has increased by 40 percent year-on-year, and that result in China has more than doubled.