The China Connect event out of Paris is now in it’s fourth edition, the next to take place on March 6-7. We spoke to event founder, Laure de Carayon to find out more about the event and the theme for this year.
For those who don’ t already know, can you briefly introduce China Connect?
China Connect is the largest gathering of experts on Chinese consumer trends, marketing, digital and mobile in Europe. It aims at deciphering China’s cultural and digital landscapes, to help western brands better deal with the market complexity and take full advantage of the huge business opportunities.
Leading Chinese internet players Tencent, Baidu, Youku-Tudou, Sina Weibo, Tmall, Jiepang, Meilishuo have already attended as speakers, along with China based marketing-consulting-communication experts from Adidas, Lee Jeans, Christie’s, HSBC, Pernod Ricard, Philips, CIC, McKinsey&Company, GroupM, Zenithoptimedia and many others. I want to take this opportunity to thank them all !
Top-level European marketing & digital decision makers from luxury, cosmetics, fashion, retail, automotive, services, industry, communication and media attend, such as LVMH, Kering and Richemont Groups bringing in their multiple Houses from Italy and the UK mostly, Baccarat, L’Oréal, Chanel, Hermes, Chopard, Omega, Coty, Yves Rocher, Decathlon, Pernod Ricard, Legrand, Michelin, Air France, Seb, BMW, Nestlé and many more. The good news is many are coming back year after year. A big thanks for their trust and faithfulness.
And now more register from abroad: YuMe (video advertising) from San Francisco, tourism players from the Netherlands and Belgium, agencies from the UK. I expect the crowd to be more and more international.
The conference is now in its 4th year, what will be the focus of this edition?
The theme is: “Embracing the Chinese thrill for shopping”. In the end, how to better sell to the Chinese given their growing purchasing power, and knowing they’re avid online shoppers, to say the least!
So we’ll have a focus on the Chinese E and M-commerce as China becomes the world n°1 e-commerce market. Then, understanding the middle class evolving tastes and behaviors, the power of social and KOL’s, how mobile is playing an ever more strategic role from conversation, lifestyle consumption (gaming; video…) to transaction, is paramount, as all is interconnected.
Then there’s a special programme in line with the theme: the French Premiere of “Crocodile in the Yangtze: a Westerner Inside China’s Alibaba.com“, with Porter Erisman, Director/Producer, who spent 8 years as VP of Alibaba. I’m sure it’s going to be a highlight of these two days !
Plus, there’s something I wanted to underline, it’s the dynamism of China’s tech scene, and Chinese players expanding abroad. For that, I’ve invited Gang Lu, the founder of Technode (www.technode.com).
I remember 3 years ago, the US conference Techcrunch came to Beijing for the first time. From that moment, I’ve been watching the scene more closely, following market players in all areas from group buying, dating, LBS, to social commerce, gaming, music etc… .
I was interested in trying to understand the “Chineseness of things”. Also because mobile has become a game changer, I said to Gang, the momentum is good to bring western brands closer to China tech innovation, where they can get a better picture of what’s going on, and better leverage it. As for Chinese brands growing big and international, there’s not a month without a Chinese company breaking records vs. the US (Single Day vs. CyberMonday), buying a US player to develop/strengthen their business in the US (LightInTheBox, Alibaba for example), or announcing an IPO. It didn’t start today for sure, but there’s definitely a huge acceleration and shift. 2014 is going to be fascinating as we will make more and more business with the Chinese within China, but also abroad.
Who will be speaking at this year’s event?
There will be 25+ speakers from China and Europe. Among them, can’t list them all, Gloria Li, VP for Public Relations at JD.COM. It’s great news as they just announced their IPO. M.Claire Chung, VP Global Business Development of ShangPin, Sam Flemming, Ceo of CIC, Heads of E-commerce at Mango (China & Spain), Air France/KLM Hong Kong, Stanislas de Nervo and Alexandre Crazover, the founders of Datawords which localize many luxury houses websites, Janie MA, Entertainment Marketing Director at Ogilvy Entertainment, Georg Warga, Ceo of GOODSTEIN, they won a Gold Lion at Cannes Lions 2013 for “The People’s Car Project” for VW China.
What type of people will benefit most from attending the event?
The scope of attendees ranges from marketing, digital, e-business research/innovation, to retail, mobile, analytics, communication and social. It’s wide. People with transversal and operational responsibilities in these fields will benefit the most. Then I will never underline enough the unique opportunity to develop your Guanxi with Chinese players top executives. The Ceo of Pernod came to the Baidu Masterclass, the Ceo of Yves Rocher will be there on March 6, there should be more.
Why have you chosen e and m commerce as this year’s focus?
There are 2 pillars at China Connect: marketing and digital/mobile.
What’s key is to take the pulse of consumers behaviour and market shifts, adapt and try to keep the pace of things. Things evolve so quickly. You can’t address everything. E and m-commerce are not only this year’s focus, as its growing importance challenges and/or revolutionizes a lot of brand strategies, but will be an on-going topic.
Indeed, with 300 million online shoppers – including 155+ via mobile – early 2014 and 600 million expected in 2016, e-commerce is a wave. There are business sectors less concerned such as High-end Luxury or alcohols for example, still, you’ll see more of almost everything sold online, including cars.
What’s interesting is to closely watch how fast things integrate: commerce being more social, social being more mobile, mobile being more transactional, online 2 offline, etc…and on top of it, how can brands touch Chinese people’s heart and …wallet.
What trends do you see for 2014?
That western people will realize the rising influence of China in many aspects.
There are many, let me drop a few:
- The internet is more regulated than ever. And if China “closes” its internet, China expands its internet (players) abroad…business rules!
- There will be more concentrations as there are too many players burning money. Reaching scale and monetizing are just mandatory. Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent (will) fiercely compete on each one areas: Tencent goes on e-commerce/warehouses etc., Alibaba fights against Tencent in social and mobile, let’s see how mobile app business acquisitions do?
- Everybody was talking of Sina Weibo 2 years ago, now it’s been a year that WeChat is on everyone’s lips. What’s true is that winners and innovators will likely be mobile driven/centric, with social and payment solutions inside
- Chinese brands will impress: look at Xiaomi
- More TV viewers switching to Online TV, video will grow bigger
- I’m curious to see how challengers will perform, from JD.com to 360 just to mention them
There are certainly plenty others, wearables etc…
What was your motivation in dedicating a section of the conference to key opinion leaders and celebrity endorsement? Do you see it an area that will increase in importance?
It’s hard to escape celebrities when it comes standing out, and when you know how key they’ve been in building awareness and trust in China.
Somehow, it’s a very classic topic, but it’s (one of) advertisers’ headaches as there’s overbid on Celebs. If it will increase in importance? Probably yes, because boundaries explode, people travel, so everyone will attempt to have someone entitled and capable to spread noise and sense on a large scale. Building scale, as quickly as possible is the target. KOLs help.
But what we’ll share is also the power of mass influencers, of netizens, their creative contribution. So what’s their respective role and also look how much both drive sales.
Are there any particular industries that you see where endorsement is essential to marketing activities?
Beyond the industry sector, when it comes to leveraging a country’s culture, aura, life style, product superiority…almost all industries are concerned ! It ranges from coffee, sports apparel, hospitality, electronic, cars etc. and now it obviously concerns Chinese brands expanding abroad capitalizing on western celebs such as Messi for WeChat. Endorsements have a bright future!
Where will this year’s event be held?
At la Maison de la Chimie on the left bank, an 18th century Hotel Particulier in the heart of Paris’ 7th district,. It concentrates many official institutions and embassies. It’s just across The Invalides, and walking distance from China’s embassy in France. Crossing the Seine River and you have the Grand Palais and the Champs Elysées. Beautiful area!
How can people find out more and reserve a place?
And they can follow the hashtag #chinaconnect during the conference.