If we were to describe the business in a few lines we could say that The Bathrobe is focused on originality, modernity and uniqueness. This small startup created in 2013 aims to make available to all the bathrobe, a product long put in the closet and enhance its image with original models, modern and customizable.
Lepeignoir proposes an original concept of personalization of its products by the system of embroidery or printing and claims a know-how, an experiment and a picky work which makes it possible to do unequaled work to measure. Each personalized product is unique and tries to tell a story specific to each client with finesse and elegance. Each year, Lepeignoir renews its range of products and expands it regularly by proposing new models.
The starting strategy and its evolution
Initially focused exclusively on the French market, the company has decided to leave the borders of France after finding that the French market has stagnated for over 10 years despite a strong interest of the French for the world of linen.
Indeed, the new consumption patterns are now more focused on regular renewal of medium quality products at rather low prices, which benefit more benefit products coming from Asia.
In addition, the market for household goods and furniture online is fragmented, highly competitive and growing. According to Statista, global sales of furniture and household items online totaled about US $ 110 billion in 2015. China generates nearly half of total global market revenues as can be seen below:
Global furniture and housewares sales are expected to increase 15% to US $ 220 billion by 2020. The percentage of online sales of furniture and household items is increasing worldwide; the United Kingdom, the United States, France and Germany all show solid year-on-year growth.
To overcome this and like many French manufacturers, who produce quality textile, the company Lepeignoir decides in 2016 to develop a new strategy by focusing on the export and integration of new markets like China, including consumers are very fond of French know-how and the manager Mr. Marc declares that the linen including the sale of bathrobe is a step that accelerates in China.
Initially, the company wonders how it will be able to find a place in this universe culturally very different and commercially very aggressive with Asian competitors at a low price.
To put the odds on its side, the company decided at first to collaborate with local players and creates a joint venture with a Chinese group in Shanghai, which holds a significant market share in the territory and enjoys a large network for the distribution of these goods through clean stores and franchises.
This partnership has allowed the establishment of a French-Chinese team dedicated to the local development of Lepeignoir.
On the other hand, it offered a unique opportunity to benefit from the knowledge and networks of the Chinese group for the diffusion of its line of products on line of the platforms of general sales and specialized and in store.
How did the bathrobe become famous in China?
As a first step, Lepeignoir understood that success and commercial success in China necessarily requires significant public awareness for potential buyers to trust.
To succeed this bet, the company had to first understand the digital environment and platforms or Chinese go to make their purchase especially online.
The company with the help of their partner has made sure to reference its products on the most popular Chinese online trading platforms that are T-mall, Yixun, or KMALL. in order to gain prestige and credibility.
At the same time, they ran a social media marketing campaign to improve their image and, above all, to benefit from the virality of their message through its daily platforms.
To achieve this they began with the publication of post speaking about their products and main ranges, while collaborating with local design teams that had the role of promoting the launch of the brand and its products in China, similar to but via online contacts. Thanks to many networking pages, they were able to allow the rapid sharing of promotions and product highlights.
The promotional campaign targeting Shanghai
The main communication support was Weibo (微 博), the site of Chinese microblogging, on which the communication teams worked to make the buzz around Lepeignoir in China Before that, Lepeignoir was very little mentioned by the netizens on social networks, and did not appear anywhere in the media.
Everything begun with a simple publication, posted on Weibo March 3, 2017 by the Key Opinion Leader “Fil Woxio”. which suddenly aroused many interactions. Specializing in textiles and household linen, this KOL followed by more than 70,000 followers on Weibo, had never reached such a large audience before.
This post very popular compared to the engagement usually generated by the KOL, thus obtained more 15300 shares, 4000 comments and 6000 mentions I like. This was a real boon to the company’s visibility with a 25% increase in attendance during the post-week and the influencer who had less than 1,000 interactions on those posts before.
Some feedback on the difficulties and successes in e-commerce in China
Investing in China is often seen as the new eldorado with its market of more than 1.5 billion inhabitants, but it must not be forgotten that entering and succeeding commercially in the middle empire requires a real fine and solid strategy.
In addition, here is a brief overview of the 3 difficulties the company faced in its early days: Regulation, Legal Structure and Protection of Intellectual Property
The Chinese legal complexity
The first step of any business venture is through the administrative box to get approval from local Chinese authorities
Thus, this starts with the creation of an implementation file that will allow the competent authorities to verify the compliance of the activity on foreign investments. To do this, its necessary to consult the guide for foreign investments issued by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, which sometimes makes blockages or introduces new regulations that allow the optimal functioning of the activity, as until now for certain structures that do not have the opportunity to participate in export business activities.
Difficulty developing and maintaining local partnerships and entering distribution channels
Commercial success comes first and foremost with the development and maintenance of the professional network.
In order to better control the local specificities, Lepeignoir had initially to forge links with numerous networks of local entrepreneurs who allowed him to obtain valuable information on the specificities of the local market.
In addition, these same networks have also enabled it to gain notoriety and a place within the distribution networks very present in China.
The daily management of its activity
Finally one of the most important difficulties that Lepeignoir and many other companies often face is the recruitment of operational and technical profiles.
Indeed, despite the many applications that jostle each announcement or opening of post foreign companies have first of all difficult to find candidates able to communicate in English and adapt to the international specificities of these companies.