Creative Director of Mo-Design and prominent designer Chao Sio Leong’s idea of online marketing is: “Nowadays, e-shopping is not only about ordering online while you are at home. The younger generations may find that it’s old-fashioned to surf on the internet to shop. Now the question is how to make online shopping fit with buyers’ lifestyles. For instances, some designer brands may collaborate with hotels. After check-in, a customer can use the hotel’s app to get to know more about Macao’s designer products and even place an order immediately. Hence the products can be integrated to target consumers’ lifestyles successfully.”
So are local brands competitive enough to go online? Chao believes that the uniqueness of a product is of paramount importance. Some brands in other countries only focus on developing two to three products and make the sales of products go viral. Speaking of Mo-Design itself, instead of opening a virtual shop, it has been a brick-and-mortar retailer since its inception and has already established itself in Macao.
Chao said: “For example, if you have designed a business card holder, you are only competing with a few brands in Macao, but if you sell the product online, you are competing with thousands of brands around the world. Some people believe that it’s easier to run an online business than a brick-and-mortar one. Think again, an online business actually needs much more resources to promote than a store that has a physical presence. Promotion on the internet can be expensive. You need to target certain social media or well-known websites, or collaborate with established brands, so as to effectively attract your target consumers to visit your virtual store. And those consumers may only spend a few seconds to browse online. To a certain extent, it’s more risky to run an e-business.” He points out that although a virtual store incurs no rental costs, some e-commerce platforms require that a seller has to achieve certain amount of turnovers, otherwise the seller’s accounts would be suspended.”
Does e-commerce really improve the quality of life? Chao thinks that it’s not known yet. “If it’s a piece of clothing or a pair of shoes, at least you have some idea what you are buying. What if it’s an innovative product? In this case e-shopping can hardly mirror the real-life shopping experience.”
Chao cites that some brands in other countries would use a brick-and-mortar store as a showroom and customers can only purchase the products online. Chao believes that traditional retailers still have a role to play and can complement e-commerce. But the most important is to create a brand’s character and style. “To successfully build a brand, it has to target clearly to certain age groups; a product’s message needs to be communicated, and the designer’s attitude has to be seen in the brand. In other words, a successful brand means one would immediately come up with an adjective to describe the brand.”
Chao said that designers should not only have their eye on the physical and online presence of their brands. The most essential is to build a good brand. He is pleased to see that local designers have widened their horizons recently, by making reference to foreign artists’ works. Some students from design schools are willing to take summer internships at prominent designer brands overseas, in order to learn more from countries with an established design industry. They eventually come back to Macao and create their own products. Chao feels that those students are very passionate about the cultural and creative industry, and its future is hopeful.