Luxury, tourism, fashion and design are among the most successful business sectors in China. The growing focus on Made in Italy products is proof of the opportunities that WeChat can offer to Italy’s brands in the present and the near future.
Artisan quality and a digital approach prove the key in the design sector
For the export sector of the Italian furniture industry, the negative trend which began in 2008 seems to be well and truly in the past: 2016 saw a clear recovery of +2.1%. An obvious fact to be taken into account is the growing extent to which digital is changing production management capabilities. For the Italian furniture industry, the new culture which embraces both artisan quality and a digital approach is a key step in increasing its competitiveness at home and abroad. Italian companies still have the advantage of being key players on the international retail scene, and today the performance of exports has returned to pre-crisis levels. In 2017, exports of Italian goods and services are expected to increase by 2.8%. China will play an increasingly prominent role thanks to the opportunities that its market has to offer.
Design arrives on WeChat
From 19th to 21st November 2016, Shanghai hosted its first edition of the Salone del Mobile, an international furniture fair. Over 20,000 visitors attended the event, including 9,000 on the first day alone, far exceeding the predicted attendance figures. Many visitors came from China’s well-off provinces, as well as central areas with strong growth rates such as Sichuan, Hubei and Henan. 56 premium brands represented Italy in Shanghai, demonstrating that the Made in Italy design sector has gained a certain prestige in China, a country whose furniture industry is experiencing strong growth. Proof of China’s interest in the sector can be found on WeChat, the country’s most important social app: there has been a real boom that has seen many brands launch WeChat accounts, including Molteni Dada and Flexform, with new ones such as Visionnaire and Fantoni primed to join in preparation for the Milan Salone del Mobile in April 2017. The event is an important launch pad in the business world: a total of 372,000 attendees visited in 2016, of whom 67% were foreign operators with a high purchasing power profile. In light of this, WeChat offers an even more crucial opportunity, and the major design brands have now realised this. As mentioned, the reason for the design sector’s WeChat boom lies in the opportunity that the Chinese market can offer: during 2015, B2B and B2C sales of furniture products grew by 10.5% every month. WeChat is the main (and practically the only) mobile application used in China. It incorporates various features and apps, allowing users to make purchases with just a few easy clicks. WeChat has proved an excellent way for the “Made in Italy” furniture industry to enter the Chinese market, an opportunity which was seized last November and which promises interesting new developments during 2017’s national and international furniture fairs.