Seeing Stars on Taobao

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Seeing Stars on Taobao

Celebrities from all over Asia are joining Taobao Marketplace to open stores, finding it the perfect place to launch their brands and connect with their fans online.

Emma Lau is like any 28 year-old. She loves trying on makeup, buying trendy clothes online and changing up her personal style. She is also famous with nearly 80,000 followers on China’s Twitter-like microblogging service, Weibo, and stylist to China’s famous young actresses.

This year, Lau decided to channel her ultimate passion into a business idea and for that she turned to a little-known platform on Taobao Marketplace to incubate and launch her brand.

“I work with female celebrities all the time and they always compliment the way I enhance their eyes,” Lau said. The Beijing-based, doe-eyed stylist spent a year and a half years studying fashion design in Japan before returning to China this year to become a stylist, coiffing mainland Chinese and Taiwanese celebrities for fashion shows and big events.

It was from this circle of friends that she found out about Taobao’s platform for celebrities, Star Taobao. Lau’s clout with celebrities and her fan following on social media qualified her to open a store on the platform, giving her the perfect place to launch her eyelash extension brand, Aoi.

“I have always wanted to start my own cosmetics brands targeted to young women, but I had no experience with e-commerce,” Lau said. “My friends who had stores on Star Taobao said Taobao employees would help me and give me suggestions that would be beneficial to grow my brand, so I decided to join it.”

Together with a Japanese friend, Lau launched her line of eyelash extensions on the Star Taobao, selling a range of whimsically-packaged eyelashes starting from RMB 19 ($3). Lau said the best part about the platform was its ability to attract a wide audience for her products and allow her to stay in touch with her fans.

“I don’t just sell my products through the store, I get to share about my life and work to my fans and this is very important to me,” Lau said.

The Star Taobao platform was launched in 2011 with the idea of merging social e-commerce with star power. By allowing fans and celebrities to interact and connect online, Taobao would act as an intermediary to enable e-commerce, helping celebrities launch and market their brands in the process.

Celebrities can choose to either launch their own brand or work with manufacturers to come up with co-branded items to sell. Celebrities manage two pages, a store page and a social media page on the platform where they post updates, pictures and interact with fans, giving them to opportunity to build brand equity.

Today, the site plays hosts over 300 “star shops” with celebrities from television, music, movies—there are even a couple of famous monks running Taobao storefronts. Celebs hail from Asia, not just China, with Hong Kong and Taiwanese stars forming the bulk of overseas luminaries. JJ Lin, an award-winning Taiwanese singer, has a store on the platform selling his line of urban-inspired caps and T-shirts, while Chinese television actress Sun Li, who has collaborated with Jet Li, sells a mix of knickknacks ranging from expensive gold bracelets to a horse-shaped piggy bank.

“This (platform) is where celebrities can express themselves and their interests,” said Ren Xiaoying, manager of the Star Taobao platform. “For fans, they come to the platform because they need to be the first to find out what’s happening with their favorite celebrities, so this also a fans’ destination,” she said.


A perk of having a store on the Star platform is that Taobao provides celebrities with a support team to handhold them as they venture into e-commerce. This team answers their queries, gives suggestions based on sales data and troubleshoots their problems to help them manage their e-businesses. The Star Taobao team also runs offline marketing events, such as meet-and-greet sessions between fans and celebrities to help build store traffic and increase rapport between celebrities and their fans.

For a celebrity, being able to channel their creativity into something they can then develop into a business is the most appealing proposition of the Star Taobao platform. Alice Tseng, a Taiwanese Golden Horse-nominated actress, wanted to design and sell her own line of organic baby wear when she became a mother in May. For that, Tseng turned to an organic baby apparel manufacturer based in Shanghai, Green Days, to collaborate on her business plan.

“When Alice gave birth, she became very interested in the quality of baby products in the domestic market,” said Yao Meihua, the Green Days manager of Tseng’s star store on Taobao. “The quality of infant apparel in China is low, so together we wanted to create a line of baby wear where the color and design would be attractive and the material used would be environmentally-friendly.” Tseng’s whimsical doodles provided the design template for baby onesies and t-shirts made from organic cotton that are sold in sets starting from RMB 69 ($11).

By teaming up with Tseng, Green Days, an OEM manufacturer, gets a celebrity endorsement of their manufacturing capabilities and in return, Tseng is able to tap into their know-how. By selling through the Star platform, Tseng is able to tap into a large customer base, some of whom may be already pre-disposed to by her products because they are her fans.

“A shop on the star platform is great because it allow more people to come across the creative work of the celebrities and exposes the brand to a large customer base,” Yao said.


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