Acts of Union: The UK’s digital attempts to lure Chinese fashionistas

We all know that wooing Chinese consumers to the United Kingdom and its products is nothing new. This has been most evident in the past through years with the tourism industry. VisitBritain‘s ‘Great‘ Campaign which made a marked effort to snare possible tourists, particularly during and following the London Olympics in 2012. Most notably the Chief executive, Sandie Dawe, yesterday announced that the government ‘would be completely mad to walk away’ from this venture. Granted, the campaign (with its paid displays on billboards around the globe, and world tours) did not solely focus on China, however with the obvious growing spending power of its middle classes we can be certain they didn’t ignore it. However, I am writing this article to highlight that UK’s interests in China are not purely focused on tourism or the luxury car industry, in fact they are expanding everyday, most notably through a digital environment.

VisitBritain's 'Great' Campaign set to tap into the Chinese market.

VisitBritain’s ‘Great’ Campaign set to tap into the Chinese market. (Photo: China Daily)

I recently came across ‘Hot Pot Digital’, a digital agency and member of the PAE group that claims it is the ‘UK’s only agency dedicated to reaching the Chinese consumer’. This tells us one of two things, that there is a need here for businesses equipped with the specialised knowledge of helping companies succeed in China but also that there is a growing potential. Their focus on social media strategy in China is something that appealed to me as most of the Joe public here, don’t know the difference between Weibo and Ai Weiwei. However, it highlights the growing trend of Western businesses delving into the relatively obscure (to them) world that is Chinese social media and the need for companies to guide these ventures.

Apart from tourism and luxury car’s, there has been a recent push by Britain’s major fast-fashion businesses on-line. ASOS, the hot-shot e-commerce clothing store announced recently that it was planning to announce its new website in China in October of this year, along with Russia. Worth pointing out is the care and attention that ASOS has placed in this. Opting to operate from within China, rather than in the UK (unlike it’s other international websites) and develop a different on-line model. Whether purely for decoration or not, this announcement made by head of ASOS, Nick Roberton clearly identifies a strong intent to make the most of that ‘30%’ in China. The affluent, urban middle class who supposedly spend a large amount of their resources on western brands.

As much as ASOS would like to appear to be trend-setting. Topshop had  a digital e-commerce website set up a while ago, and has recently announced the unveiling of its Hong Kong store in May this month. Although critics will clearly identify the differences between this and entering the mainland market, they have already shown intentions online for a China invasion. The success of their ‘the lanterns’ viral video during the lunar new year campaign, identified a clear want to appeal to Chinese consumers.

Although these e-commerce ventures are all very new in the scheme of things there is much hope and high prospects put on these ventures. It almost seems like a race to riches is developing in the UK fashion market with Marks and Spencers also releasing plans for development in mainland china. The proof of success will ultimately be in how consumers take to these, I recently spoke to a rather fashionable Chinese friend of mine about the ASOS‘s plans and the response I got was ‘ASOS who?’. It will be interesting to see how the company plays it. My bet is that there will be a Chinese spokesperson for the brand gracing the covers of online advertisements in the not too far from distant future. Until then, the future of UK fast-fashion in China is anybody’s game.

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