As any brand or retailer well knows, young Chinese consumers are increasingly difficult to reach, motivate, and engage — particularly online. However, with the right approach and long-term view, true engagement with this sought-after demographic is still possible.
To strengthen its position as a “must-visit” for Europe-bound Chinese travelers, recently the Spanish department store El Corte Inglés celebrated Chinese New Year by hosting a group of four rising Chinese digital influencers in Madrid, showcasing the city (and Spain) as inspiring destinations for experience-hungry travelers.
El Corte Inglés shared an insider’s view of Madrid, highlighting locations that encompass the historical as well as the contemporary, from culinary and cultural highlights to the newest in Spanish fashion and style.
El Corte Inglés immersed the influencers — whose specialties spanned travel and fashion — in a four-day tour of the Spanish capital. The itinerary focused on “historical secrets” (a walking tour of the Madrid de los Austrias and Las Letras, photo shoots in the Salamanca district and at the Royal Palace, and a private visit to the atelier of luthier Felipe Conde) as well as glimpses of “modern Madrid” (a cocktail master class with Diego Cabrera, a private visit to the Reina Sofia Museum, fashion-walking tours of Tribal District, and a Real Madrid game).
The influencers stayed in two of the best hotels in Madrid, the Villamagna hotel and the Ritz by Mandarin Oriental, and enjoyed some of the country’s best culinary destinations. (Which included 175 year-old L’Hardys; two-Michelin-star chef Paco Roncero’s restaurant Domo in NH Eurobuilding; Gourmet Experience Callao by El Corte Inglés; and Ramon Freixa’s two-Michelin-starred restaurant at the Unico Hotel.)
As one of the influencers, Jinpeng Zhang, a popular travel blogger and author of five books on independent travel, commented, “This is my third trip to Madrid, and this experience curated by El Corte Inglés allowed me to see a whole new side of [the city] that I never even knew existed. I am so impressed with the food, culture and history that Madrid has to offer Chinese visitors.”
In addition to the cultural immersion, El Corte Inglés showcased Spanish fashion, hosting a styling, make-up, and photo session at the Royal Palace of Madrid, and an introduction to Spanish style trends hosted by ECI’s Director of Fashion. El Corte Inglés officially inaugurated the start of Chinese New Year with a reception at its Castellana flagship store, with attendees that included the Chinese Ambassador to Spain.
Popular fashion and travel columnist and photographer Mok, one of the four influencers, said, “Spanish people are known for their love for life, which is evident through their passion for arts, culture and food. Such passion is so contagious that you feel it at every street corner in Madrid, and in every conversation you have with a local.”
As a follow up to the tour, El Corte Inglés launched a photo competition, “Madrid Moments,” to further engage audiences on Weibo and WeChat. The contest features photos taken by the influencers on the recent Madrid tour, which fans can vote on for a chance to win gourmet Spanish food products.
The influencer tour was one of several online and offline initiatives launched by El Corte Inglés to celebrate Chinese New Year 2016, a tradition the retailer has followed for several years. In-store, ECI is honoring Chinese New Year with special luxury brand promotions and offers, as well as a luxurious floral decorations and a three-meter wishing tree (where customers can share their wishes for the Year of the Monkey). Online, the retailer has also launched a “digital wishing tree” to engage fans on China’s dominant mobile social platform, WeChat.
To date, ECI’s Chinese New Year engagement efforts have paid off, with the company’s official Weibo and WeChat fan bases already nearly doubling, even as the campaign continues.
One key takeaway, particularly for companies with locations exclusively outside of China: taking a more tailored, nuanced, and long-term approach to the market will always come across as more authentic than “one-shot” attempts to drive buzz.