Joining one of China’s largest e-commerce platforms, JD.com in 2017 after a career leading both online and offline retail as VP with Nielsen, Xia Ding became President of JD International Fashion and Head of Toplife in 2018. Toplife, launched at the end of 2017, is JD’s stand-alone luxury platform which allows luxury brands to set up flagship online stores, delivering a high-end service to its users.
We spoke to Xia Ding at JD’s Shanghai base about their first year’s growth and future plans.
Looking back on 2018, what were the notable learnings for JD.com in making Toplife an initial success?
JD has a long track record of selling authentic, high quality products since day one, so it is natural that we would continue moving deeper into the luxury space.
JD’s luxury business takes all aspects of the retail process into consideration, with everything from logistics to marketing and customer service specially tailored to fit luxury consumption. We built a warehouse for luxury that has temperature and humidity controls and facial recognition-based security. We have 24/7 shopping consultants who are available to help consumers figure out their purchases any time of day.
Chinese consumers value individuality, so, in addition to providing full collections from the world’s top brands, we also work with them to create collections, including exclusive pieces.
It doesn’t just stop there. We want consumers to feel the luxury of the experience up until what they buy arrives on their doorstep. This is where JD Luxury Express, our luxury white glove delivery service, comes in. A well-dressed courier in a suit and white gloves, driving an electric car, will arrive at your door for the grand reveal of the product you ordered. Through this service, we bring the luxury e-commerce experience offline, adding a unique touch made possible by the fact that we control our supply chain and delivery down to the last mile.
What do you believe Toplife offers luxury brands that is distinct?
Each brand on our platform can fully customise its store to tell its brand story.
The shops on our platform represent brands’ own online presence in the China market, and carry their latest and greatest collections. We also offer brands complete flexibility with warehousing – they can store with us, or they can manage their own logistics, something which no other e-commerce player can provide, because we are the only large scale e-commerce company in the world to have in-house, nationwide coverage down to the last mile.
In addition, JD’s advantage in China is our reputation for being the premier destination for quality, authentic goods — we have a zero-tolerance policy toward counterfeits, which is important to both our brand partners and our customers.
What do you see coming in 2019 that brands should be aware of when presenting and selling digitally to the affluent Chinese consumer?
JD’s ultimate goal with our fashion and luxury businesses is to bridge the gap between luxury brands and e-commerce. Consumers have already shown us they are more than ready to buy luxury online, but it will be a long-term process of showing brands that it’s possible to create a complimentary and perhaps even an enhanced experience for consumers when they combine offline and online experiences.
At the same time, in China we see robust changes of shopping behaviors, we are increasingly focused on “boundaryless” retail experiences for customers, or enabling consumers to buy whatever they want, whenever and wherever they want it, backed by our advanced data driven technologies.
Whether it is offline pop-up stores, or more of these types of partnerships, we’ll likely see new and improved shopping scenarios.
Who are some Chinese designers/creatives catching your eye? Do you personally ever wear/buy from Chinese designers?
There are so many amazing Chinese designers gracing the runways these days. There are also a bunch of up-and-comers or more niche brands popping up all the time.
As a Chinese company, we feel lucky at JD to have the chance to support some amazing emerging Chinese designers, as well as designers from all over the world. We partner with the BFC/Vogue Designer Fashion Fund to support up and coming designers, and I actually had a chance to be a judge on the panel earlier this year. That was a real privilege – to see all of the amazing design talent out there.
As for me, I always have my eye out for a new designer or a new line. Some of the Chinese designers I like to wear include Xuzhi Chen, Tracy Chu and Qian Ye. This year in London, we sponsored Huishan Zhang, as well as Xuzhi Chen and Xiao Li. It’s been great to watch them get more recognition among the fashion community and consumers.
How would you describe your leadership style?
JD is a big company, but we are extremely entrepreneurial. Working at JD means lots of new opportunities and excitement along with quick changes that are aimed toward leading the trend of the retail industry. I can continue to re-invent myself and my role in fashion as our business grows.
I have a strong team around me who are making things happen every single day. As a manager, I think it’s my responsibility to always ensure that this is a place they can grow and keep challenging themselves. I love to see my team take initiative – for anyone at any level to take a look at what we’re doing and tell me how we can do it better or differently. This is how we keep growing and increasing our influence and reach in the luxury market.