Retail in Asia


How China’s ‘Mr. Bags’ boosts luxury handbags sales

It is the question on everyone’s lips: how do you drive bigger sales on social media? Who better to ask than the person Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Bergdorf Goodman chose as their handbag emissary for one of the world’s most lucrative luxury markets. Tao Liang, better known to China’s fashion cognoscenti as Mr.Bags, has become something of a style sage for the legions of affluent women who follow his blog. He certainly has his finger on the market’s ever quickening pulse.

In just 12 minutes, the 24-year-old Beijing-based blogger says he recently helped brands sell 1.2 million RMB ($173,652) worth of designer handbags. With over 2.7 million readers on China’s biggest social media platform Weibo and more than 600,000 followers on WeChat, a microblogging messaging app, Liang uses his encyclopaedic fashion knowledge not only to keep his enormous following informed about luxury brands and the latest handbag trends, but also to help mega brands to understand what Chinese consumers are looking for in the latest “it” accessory.

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How did Liang become so influential? A graduate of New York’s Columbia University, Liang’s first foray into the digital space was in 2011 when he built a vast following on the once-popular social network Ren Ren, then referred to as the “Facebook of China.”

It was then Liang realised there was demand for content focused on luxury handbags. “My readers are everything. I’m a reader myself, so I know what they want and need. Frankly, there are hundreds and thousands of shopping maniacs who love to buy handbags, but they don’t have time to research and decide which bag is worth buying etc. I provide them with such advice,” he says.

Ranked #3 on Exane BNP Paribas’ 2017 list of China’s most influential fashion bloggers, Liang’s reach and engagement levels are impressive, scoring hundreds of thousands of readers for many of his WeChat articles. Liang’s growth comes at a time when mobile is the preeminent shopping channel in China — and when one third of the time Chinese mobile users spend online is via the WeChat platform, according to Bloomberg.

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Fendi, Louis Vuitton, Celine, Gucci and Stella McCartney are now part of Liang’s client list, as he finds more unique ways to connect them with his bagfans.

Data from RewardStyle, an invitation-only fashion blog affiliate marketing network, shows that during a peak period, Liang can bring sales of about $1 million a month.

This one lucrative revenue stream accounts for just 35 percent of his blog’s total revenue. The business model of Mr. Bags is evolving fast. In addition to affiliate marketing, he has long-term and increasingly lucrative collaborations with selected luxury e-tailers who pay him a flat fee. Department stores like Galeries Lafayette have collaborated with Liang to have him host “bagfan gatherings.”

Looking ahead, Liang’s next ambition is to offer a professional service that allows him to advise luxury brands on the features, colour and fabric of new handbags they develop. During Milan Fashion Week, for instance, Liang travelled to Italy to meet with Tod’s to work on an exclusive bagfan collection launching later this year, marking the first time a Chinese fashion blogger will be directly involved in the design process with a luxury mega brand.