Burberry Bridges NFT With Physical Limited-Edition Scarf Ahead Of Alibaba Singles’ Day

Singles’ Day, China’s annual shopping phenomenon makes a return this year with new products and services to re-energize consumers’ appetite. In 2020, the Chinese e-commerce platform raked in $74 billion in Gross Merchandising Volume and is expected to achieve a sizeable revenue once again. Taking last year’s learnings powered by failproof livestreaming strategies and the new NFT (non-fungible token) trend, China is set to break another record success.

Just shy of a month away from the cyber festival, Alibaba’s Tmall marketplace has kicked off its ‘Tmall Super Brand Day’. A mega-sale campaign driven to spotlight select brands for Chinese consumers, foreign brands flock towards the opportunity to cement their footprint in the lucrative China market and at the doorsteps of 1.4 billion consumers.

Tmall Enters the Metaverse

This year, Tmall launched a ‘Double 11 Metaverse Art Exhibition’ within its mobile app, presented by meta-human virtual idol Ayayi. Developed by Ranmai technology, the avatar is a hyper-realistic digitalized person who has an appearance comparable to a real human. With Chinese consumers increasing interest to engage with new technologies and flawless virtual idols, Ayayi has already amassed near 114,000 followers and attracted the attention of top luxury brands including Guerlain.

The exhibition acts as a campaign leading up to the Double 11 event, showing eight limited collections from different brands in the form of NFTs, with British luxury label Burberry being a part of it. The NFTs are sold at affordable price points removing the barriers of entry to improve consumer acceptance and participation of the new digital art form.

Being a pioneer in innovative digital technology within the fashion realm, it comes as no surprise Burberry is involved. Having debuted luxury’s first-ever social retail store in Shenzhen equipped with social commerce and a gamified AR experience, the label this time has forayed into the blockchain scene. Previously, the brand partnered with Mythical Games and created a vinyl NFT toy of its signature Sharky B character clad in Burberry’s monogram print, and sold out all 750 NFT units within 30 seconds.

For Singles’ Day, Burberry unveiled a 3D animation of its deer mascot. Users can interact with the digital piece, clicking into the museum gallery to view the deer donning a Burberry scarf. As per the gallery’s description, the design concept of the NFT was ideated from Ayayi’s friendship with Burberry’s deer, who plays the part of being her fashion advisor.

In promotion of Singles Day, Burberry will be launching 1000 units of the deer NFT with a limited-edition scarf at RMB2900 ($454). Each with a unique identifier, the piece is guaranteed to be one-of-a-kind. Upon purchase, buyers will also receive the scarf physically and can access their NFT collection within an Alipay mini program. As of current, Tmall only accepts a RMB100 deposit before the piece is open for sale on November 11.

Trading NFT’s in Crypto-less China

Since May, China’s central bank and the National Development and Reform Commission outlawed cryptocurrency mining and declared all transactions illegal. The June publication of Communist Party-owned People’s Daily stated that the NFT Market “can be hyped up, leading to chaos, while decentralisation may lead to security concerns.”. Despite so, China’s recent 14th Five-Year Plan which runs from 2021 to 2025 has pinpointed blockchain to be a key technology and priority in the build of its digital economy. The only digital currency currently legal for tender is China’s own digital yuan (e-CNY) pegged to the renminbi.

However, even China’s largest technology players cannot disregard the NFT trend. Despite the ongoing crackdown on Big Tech firms in an attempt to regulate the financial market, this has not stopped the BAT (Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent) trio from building their own semi-private blockchain infrastructure as a workaround of the system. The tokenless blockchain infrastructure is adapted in compliance with the local regulatory environment, further monitored by a selected group of members including government bodies.

Alibaba has since launched its own NFT marketplace, inviting budding creatives to tokenise their intellectual property on its platform. However, users are unable to sell or transfer purchases without violating the nation’s financial law. While typically NFT transactions are bound with cryptocurrency, the tech giants have been able to decouple the digital currency by allowing consumers to make payments directly with Chinese yuan as paid through Alipay and WeChat pay.

The Future of China’s NFT Landscape

Among Chinese consumers, the ownership of an NFT is not to make money, but a status symbol for the new generation of Chinese who are well-versed in technology with an appreciation for the arts – valuing experiences and intangibles over the materialistic goods they are known for.

Despite NFT trading being prohibited, China has shown innovative ways to bypass the ban with a unique blockchain system that does not require crypto to trade. For this, creators can continue to monetize their work and brands will leverage NFTs to generate engagement with new experiences. Many brands are also traversing the digital ledgers into tangible items as an extension of their engagement with the buyer in the real world.

The connection between the virtual and real-world is no longer restricted within a game, a showcase of how society is evolving towards a hybrid metaverse future. Despite the stringent surveillance on cryptocurrency movements, the NFT market will still be rapidly developing with continued high valuation among the arts, gaming and investment field in China.

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