China is emerging as a pioneer market that leads the global economic recovery in the post-COVID era due to the strong epidemic prevention and control. According to data from Bain & Company, Chinese consumers will make up about half of the world’s luxury purchases by 2025, becoming the key engine that drives a rebounding global luxury industry. With the constant upgrade and development of digital technologies, Chinese consumers have been leading the world in both the adaptability to digitalization and the capacity of digital shopping.

Chengdu International Finance Square (Chengdu IFS), the mega integrated shopping complex in Southwest China, has gained double-digit growth in traffic and sales for straight seven years despite disruptions wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic, per statistics the Chengdu IFS released for its brand renewal and seventh anniversary. Digital empowerment is crucial for this prestigious mall to secure robust growth amid the pandemic’s uncertainties.

Chengdu IFS has been leveraging industry-leading approaches of digital empowerment and delicacy membership management to better connect brands with consumers. It has been utilizing disruptive solutions such as digital mall, livestreaming, online content and KOC marketing to promote precision marketing and targeted services, thus improving its operational efficiency and member engagement in an all-round manner.

Breaking Barriers of Time and Space to Accelerate Online-Offline Business Integration

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, “livestreaming marketing” has risen as an overwhelming trend for brick-and-mortar businesses to defy the dual limits of time and space – offline department stores, outlets and shopping centers across China have all voluntarily switched to livestreaming, as they look to tap into a new competitive arena and unlock the online sales potentials of their offline assets.

When most offline businesses were forced to shut down, Chengdu IFS built on its existing digital platform and private domain traffic to swiftly respond to the livestreaming trend – an innovative approach unchained by time and space – to boost consumption despite restricted visitor access to offline shopping sites.

As offline consumer flows gradually recovered, the Chengdu-based mall identified and promoted a new integrated shopping pattern that effectively translated “livestreaming marketing” into “offline sales” – the pattern encourages consumers to join livestreaming studios to collect discount coupons that can be redeemed at offline stores and counters. By making livestreaming the first consumer touchpoint to spur shopping desires online and redirecting potential growth to offline sales, the attempt of online-offline integration has successfully opened up a new portal for brands to engage offline traffic whilst accelerating their business digitalization.

Amid the rising trend for offline businesses to embrace live-streaming, Chengdu IFS has also brought into play its unique advantages to launch the one-of-a-kind “CHAO” livestreaming studio, working with resident brands to co-develop a series of livestreaming sessions that focus on varying themes and contents. The trailblazing approach has, on one hand, created synergetic effects among resident brands of the same category, and on the other, fostered a convenient shopping space for consumers that share similar interests and needs. At the same time, the unique model also fills livestreaming studios with stronger emotion and warmth and allows premium services previously reserved for offline shoppers to be enjoyed on the online end – this has successfully resulted in a new pattern of livestreaming marketing that prioritizes the relay of quality lifestyles over the actual sales results.

For either trial moves during the outbreak or geared-up efforts after the epidemiological curve, livestreaming marketing has proven effective in helping Chengdu IFS elevate the interaction between its resident brands and consumers, amplify the mall’s traffic-based values and brand exposures, and ensure the sustained growth of online sales opportunities while converting online clicks to offline visits. Throughout the whole 2020, Chengdu IFS completed 1,200 high-traffic livestreaming marketing sessions with resident brands that attracted a total of over 100 million online viewers.

Leveraging Digital Channels to Pursue New Growth Opportunities with Existing Member Base

Whilst physical businesses enjoy natural advantages in offline traffic, given the intensifying competition and fading appeal of online communication channels, so how to maximize profitability by digging deeper into private domain traffic and high-spending members has emerged as a top priority during the ongoing business transformation.

Having acutely observed the prevailing trend, Chengdu IFS wasted no time in launching CHANNEL IFS, a broadcast-style mobile information platform that focuses on “what’s trending”. By publishing high-quality contents, the platform provides consumers with the most up-to-date fashion trends to relay brand knowledge while stepping up brand exposure.

The value-added member service engages consumers by leveraging various marketing phenomena such as Vlog, KOL and brand story, working with different influencers including VIP guests, celebrities, KOLs and industry experts to share cultures and stories behind international high-street brands. Since its inception in 2020, CHANNEL IFS has worked extensively with over 100 brands, taking advantage of the strong influence of KOCs to drive sales of nearly RMB 100 million, and supported 300 high-quality member-only brand workshops, bringing stronger member stickiness and activity under the COVID-impacted “New Normal” while helping brands achieve online-to-offline closed-loop sales.

In fact, Chengdu IFS’ ever-ongoing transformation to embrace the digital revolution started in as early as 2018, with clear strategies to expand online footprint and integrate smart member service functions. The first such move was the mall’s own IFS WeShop digital retail platform – after China introduced harsher anti-COVID restrictions, the IFS WeShop was reinvented with a 24H X 365D retail model. Building on the already activated private domain traffic, the model leveraged the strong influence of KOCs to turn Chengdu IFS’ member base into spenders that brought the first round of post-COVID recovery, becoming the new dynamics to drive the physical business community’s fast business resumption and eventual explosive growth.

Eventually, the synergies of inter-complementary measures and attempts helped Chengdu IFS post robust growth against strong headwinds in the extraordinary year of 2020 – being one of the region’s or even the country’s top-tier shopping destinations, Chengdu IFS saw its member base increase by 30% last year, while its sale and visitor volumes both grew by double digits for seven years in a row, continuing to be the leader of shopping centers in southwestern China. Despite 2020’s great uncertainties, Chengdu IFS fully improved its operational efficiency and member engagement through pioneering digital approaches, while providing new references and inspirations for the digital transformation of the physical business community – locally, nationally and even internationally.

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