Understanding the Chinese consumer
Back in 2019, Fortnum & Mason opened in Hong Kong its first fully-owned and operated shop and restaurant in Asia, as a gateway to strengthen customer connections across the region.
Despite the multiple challenges over the last two and a half years, Carmen Chiu, regional managing director, Asia Pacific at Fortnum & Mason, is confident that the brand has built a solid foundation and engagement strategy with the domestic customer through its retail and hospitality businesses.
“We fully understand the importance of being locally relevant while staying true to the brand. Since launching, we have reduced the sweetness and saltiness by 30 per cent for our 181 menu, to adapt the local taste palette and introduced seasonal products to accommodate the local culture into our iconic dishes,” she noted.
From Chiu’s perspective, Chinese consumers have always been on the lookout for luxurious experiences with international brands. For the last three centuries, Fortnum & Mason has been primarily focused on innovative products and unique experiences that are memorable, she said.
“As a British lifestyle brand, we want to be authentic but more importantly, relevant to Chinese consumers. We have noticed recent shifts in Chinese consumer behaviours putting more value on brand experience, lifestyle sharing and sustainability,” she added.
For example, urban outdoor activities like camping and picnics are becoming more popular with younger people and the company sees an opportunity to inject some joy and experiences into its mix to cater to these target groups.
“We want to leverage this new lifestyle by delivering extraordinary food, exceptional service and joy-giving things. We will create Fortnum’s experience that resonates with Chinese consumers; let Fortnum’s products and premium experience seamlessly elevate their lifestyle,” Chiu said.
The company has gone to great lengths to localise its offerings, with Mooncakes for the Mid-Autumn Festival that are paired perfectly with their iconic teas. The experience is complete with Lunar New Year designs and red envelopes to mark the occasion.
Fortnum & Mason’s latest foray into China via Tmall Global was designed to share authentic British tastes on a global scale, including Mainland Chinese customers.
“It has always been our strategy to grow digitally in Mainland China. Having had multiple discussions with Alibaba, it has given us the confidence and the support to make the decision to launch on Tmall Global,” Chiu noted.
She believes that the company is well-positioned to inspire the aspirations for those seeking high-quality experiences to elevate their lifestyle.
“As a multi-category brand, we can meet the needs for every occasion worth celebrating with something more special,” she said.
“It seems to be a perfect timing for our introduction as part of an important expansion journey in the APAC region and it is also a new chapter for us to learn and engage with our Mainland customers to create a flywheel to our ‘home’ Piccadilly and our flagship in Hong Kong when travel resumes,” she added.
And like all savvy retailers, Fortnum & Mason will be analysing its data to better understand the Chinese consumer, purchasing behaviours, browsing habits and customer feedback. The amount of data collection and analytics can be quite staggering to manage.
This is what Chiu is excited about, as there is much to test and learn throughout this digital foray in the Chinese marketplace.
“The data behind this is very powerful. Every piece of data reflects what we are doing right, and what are our opportunities to do better. More importantly, we need to evolve with the pace in China to stay relevant for a stronger business ahead and insights are absolutely critical to shape our success,” she concluded.
Fortnum & Mason embraces livestreaming
It’s no secret that in the Chinese marketplace, gaming and livestreaming with the use of influencers or key opinion leaders is part and parcel of the typical retail experience.
Chiu mentioned that this is one of the key activities that the company will be adopting to showcase live authentic experiences, and it will also be featured as a key platform for social commerce.
“With our 300 years of history, there are many stories to share to enable our consumers to get to know the brand better. I am a strong believer in online-to-offline experiences. Our mastery spans across Retail and Hospitality which we can leverage Livestreaming to showcase the best of Fortnum’s,” she elaborated.