It is said even a reputable American venture capitalist Andreessen Horowitz, who is a male and has nothing to do with the fashion industry, already knew that 5 out of the top 10 women’s apparel brands on Alibaba marketplace Taobao in China were founded by online influencers. The data below confirmed more or less this conclusion, and unsurprisingly these KOL vendors are often grassroots’ background.
For example, you would see the No.1 store “Only Anna” which has 9 years experience in Taobao e-commerce and accumulated more than 2 million followers on Sina Weibo. The master woman behind chose to rarely show her true face for marketing purpose and shies away from media interview. She has played the strategy of low key, yet been quietly making big money; big money we mean she can generate over RMB100 million in sales within 3 months. Everyone is dying to figure out her secret source of success.
Or you would see the No. 5 store “Lin Edition Limit” here with 11 years’ history on Taobao and over 4 million followers on Sina Weibo. Its founder has been leveraging her own sexy image. She is the model for her own clothing line, so personal branding and fashion branding became symbiosis.
It is estimated that China’s KOL economy should be keep growing, probably is worth of USD15.5 billion in 2018.
For the fashion sector, in particular, rising number of influencers will capitalize on this trend. Nowadays luxury brands even have to get down their high horses, cast those movie celebrities aside and seek active partnership with them, at a hefty price, of course. Legend told last year Givenchy limited edition of bags could be sold out within minutes if pushed by a leading fashion KOL like Gogoboi via his Wechat mini program store. The conversion rate seemed to be miraculous.
In addition, many fashion influencers are well prepared to launch their own apparel/cosmetics lines. It is in fact much easier to introduce an influencer brand in China than it is in the U.S, whether in terms of cheap manufacture infrastructure or mature digital ecosystem. Almost all the influencer brands in China position themselves as the local version of “Zara”, and usually, each piece would not cost exceeding RMB500. They only need to make sure a solid presence on Taobao, Weibo, and Wechat.
But the battleground for KOLs can be shifting. The generation Z of fashion KOLs might be nurtured from the new social channel, such as those live-streaming video apps Meipai, Douyin, Kuaishou. Recently Douyin, powered by Toutiao, is testing the idea of integrating Tmall/Taobao shopping links directly into its KOL accounts which reach the bar of 1 million fan base. In China, we are striving for making every digital touchpoint, scenario, context shoppable. Period.
At the end of the day, we still should think about the sustainability of the fashion KOL business model. It was reported that some influencer brands which hit the peak of their online fame and earned high profits in 2016, now started to experience downward spiral or simply suffer from huge loss. Because these fashion KOLs are usually like fashion itself; they come and fade, thus hard to remain for a permanent time period.
Author: Cecilia Wu