Interview: MINISO might ‘think small’ but markets big

COVID-19 has posed a challenging business outlook to many retail companies globally. But for Japanese-inspired lifestyle brand MINISO, undeterred it carried on with the opening of 364 new stores over the past year entering markets such as Italy and Portugal. Unconventionally, the brand also entered new, smaller markets such as Iceland, Laos, New Caledonia, and Malta.

“We opened nearly one store per day both at home in China, and across our global footprint,” said Robin Liu (pictured below), vice president, CMO and head of eCommerce in an interview with MARKETING-INTERACTIVE.

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“Now that we’ve established the MINISO brand in most major large markets and cities, our strategic focus is to ‘think small’ and explore smaller markets and smaller cities. This is what we’re currently doing in China,” he explained. Meanwhile, it also strengthened its presence across markets such as China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Mexico, Spain, France, the UK, Netherlands, and the Philippines.

However, the "think small" focus does not mean MINISO will push pause on development in larger markets, Liu quickly elaborated. Pending the pandemic recovery progresses, the team also sees a huge potential for growth across markets such as US, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Colombia, to name a few. The brand sees having a presence across these bigger markets as a means to ensure sustainability for the long-run.

Marketing amidst a pandemic

While each of its current set of stores in-market it has broken into has a different investment be it wholly-owned or franchised, store size, location and even opening timing, it all adds up to MINISO’s ambitious expansion plans to grow across Europe and Asia.

Liu also explained that a key reason MINISO was able to continue its expansion is because its products were priced in a manner that fell in line with consumers’ evolving budgets as the pandemic raged on. While most people in the world were indeed tightening their purse strings, they could still walk into a MINISO store and get essentials and “little luxuries” for an affordable price.

“Our business method and strategy fit the consumption downgrading trend very well, so MINISO was ultimately able to achieve more success by offering ultimate 'cost-performance' products which satisfied customer needs and budgets,” he added.

Coupled with its heavy reliance on eCommerce, MINISO was able to “meet customers exactly where they were at”, explained Liu, adding:

This growth – both in stores and revenue – supported the brand’s corresponding marketing budget to experiment.

Currently, MINISO spends roughly 60% of its budget on digital channels, and that percentage is only increasing. With most of its end customers spending more and more time and money online, it views websites and apps as not just channels for effective communication and brand awareness, but also revenue generation.

Marriage of communications and commerce

“I joined MINISO as CMO and head of eCommerce roughly one and half years ago, and it seems like every day the boundaries between marketing and eCommerce are blurring,” said Liu.

Liu added that the brand used to view traditional ad platforms such as print, TV, and radio, along with social media as the only marketing communication channels. However, today, there is no clear distinction between a communications channel and commerce. As such, marketing initiatives MINISO embarks on today often have eCommerce elements incorporated within such as appointing Wechat group leaders in specialised groups to promote products to increase the re-purchasing rate. This is a trend particularly prevalent in markets such as China where influencers on Taobao/Alibaba, Douyin and Redbook are driving huge traffic to sell products directly to customers.  

“It is fascinating to witness the transformation and to figure out the roles marketers can play,” he said.

The marketing team has also been hosting more livestreaming events under different themes, such as the recent NBA collection and valentines’ ones. Liu explained that livestreaming eCommerce integration is still new to some markets but the team sees immense potential in the space with social media platforms such as TikTok, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter all experimenting with a transition into becoming shopping platforms.

“We have already benefited a lot from the development of big data, and insights we generated from our own websites, app and CRM systems. We now understand our customers better than ever,” Liu said.