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Alibaba, BMW, and the secret to successfully engaging Chinese buyers

By Juwai, 20 April 2017
alibaba buy+ vr bmw shanghai brand experience center

Having raked in $4.84 trillion in sales last year1, China’s retail market now reigns as the world’s largest.2

Chinese consumer’s spending power have reached new heights, and the $4.8 trillion spent last year – a 9.6% y-o-y increase1 – is now propelling a growing focus on customer experience to differentiate from the competition.


Leveraging customer experience to make a difference

As China’s market grows, so it becomes more competitive. This makes capturing and holding Chinese consumers’ attention extremely vital, and evidence from China’s most successful retailers have shown that focusing on customer experience makes a world of difference. Here are two examples:

#1 Alibaba’s Buy+: an innovative and unique approach to retail

Alibaba, the biggest retailer in China and the world3, is charging into a new frontier with virtual reality shopping. Alibaba’s success has been built on offering its customers seamless, innovative buying experiences, and Buy+ – its virtual reality tie-up launched with Macy’s during Singles’ Day 2016 – marks the next step in its strategy.

Buy+ lets users shop together with a personal assistant, browse through 3D versions of featured products, and conveniently pay with a connected Alipay account.4

It’s this innovative use of technology that Alibaba hopes will differentiate it from its competitors by offering its users a high unique shopping experience.

#2 BMW: a showroom without cars

BMW, one of the most successful foreign companies in China’s colossal car market and the second largest luxury car seller in the country, is also taking up the customer experience charge.

BMW has built a Brand Experience Center in Shanghai, a showroom without cars but with attentive staff to educate a potential customer on the heritage, culture, and technology of BMW.5

Within this experience activity, customers can immerse themselves in the BMW world, learn about new technology features in new models, and most importantly, customise their own cars to their own wants and specifications.

Such innovative customer experience has helped BMW buck the trend and coolly outpace its rivals in China, even as China – the world’s largest car market – slows down.6

BMW sales were up 8.3% in March 2017.6


Utilising customer experience to seal the property deal

Outstanding customer experiences are also a key way to appeal to Chinese property investors, as well, such as the case of Erik Coffin, CEO and Founder of Gotham Corporate Group.7

Coffin related to Bloomberg on how his company has amped up their services to cater to wealthy Chinese, such as offering lavish $250,000 seven-day property tours to ensure the ultimate customer experience, complete with private jets, Rolls Royce-chauffeured rides, and even consultation sessions on plastic surgery and wealth management.7

Of course, we're not saying that every agent should emulate Coffin down to a T, especially as a big-budget spread may not always be feasible. However, what agents can learn from Coffin is to give Chinese would-be-buyers a bit of extra TLC.

For example, you could offer your own brand of VIP treatment, such as meeting the Chinese buyers personally at the airport when they arrive, or offering tailored property tours that gives them a detailed low-down on the local area.

Depending on your Chinese client's buying motivation, your tailored property tour could include the nearby education options, amenities, restaurants, local attractions, retail offerings, and even the local Chinese community.

Doing all these may require more effort, manpower and expenditure, but could be extremely worthwhile in the end. After all, buying a home is a huge commitment, much less in an unfamiliar city and country that speaks a different language.

That’s where you come in, as their agent who they can trust and rely on, because your extra efforts tell them that you are ready and willing to help and guide them.

Seeing as a focus on enhancing customer experience has helped Jack Ma’s Alibaba to become a hit with Chinese buyers, there’s every reason for international agents to channel this approach, particularly as the Dragonboat long weekend holiday is due end of May, and millions of Chinese are slated to head abroad, with many on fly-and-buy mode!

Liked this article? Find out 5 tips on how to better tailor your property tour for Chinese buyers.



Sources: 1. China Daily: China retail sales grow 9.6% in 2016; 2. SCMP: China tipped to overtake US as world’s largest retail market this year; 3. China Daily: Alibaba becomes the world's largest retailer; 4. Technology Inquirer: Alibaba launches full VR shopping experience with Buy+; 5. China Daily: Less is more at the new BMW Brand Experience Center; 6. BMW takes the slow lane to success in China; 7. Bloomberg: A $250,000 tour with one aim: Get Chinese to buy a home;