Screenshots of Archive Editions in WeChat's Mini-Program
On April 24th, 2020, a limited edition of 500 Crystalised Pikuchu by Daniel Arsham sold out within hours raising overUS$1 million exclusively on China's WeChat Mini-Program.
With a user base of approximately 800 million people in 2016, WeChat launched Mini-Program, small applications embedded and functioning within the WeChat ecosystem, providing advanced features such as e-commerce, games and task management, etc. Three years later, monthly active users of Mini-Program hit 300 million, generating CNY¥800 billion (about US$113 billion) of transactions in 2019, along with the rapid growth of WeChat Payment service. Today, WeChat Payment executes over 1 billion commercial transitions every day, serving over 500 million merchants selling products and services of all kinds, including of course, the arts.
Audiences to Customers
Launching official WeChat and Weibo accounts is a critical first step for an overseas brand entering the Chinese market, but when the traffic dividend of WeChat official accounts begins to fade and the cost of follower acquisitions starts to rise, what next?
A few of the world's leading non-for-profit cultural institutions have adopted mini-program into their China strategy, museums like Centre Pompidou and MoMA providing in-depth function of free audio guides and visiting map, etc through their Mini-Programs.
Mini-Program, with the magic to convert audiences or readers of WeChat accounts directly into consumers, seems to be the answer for many. In the art world, Daniel Arsham, a contemporary American visual artist, who is engaged with elevating the retail experiences of the world's most valued and known fashion brands, such as DIOR, RIMOWA and UNIQLO, through his branded art series Future Relic, has made quite a splash on Mini-Program recently.
With 45k followers on Chinese Weibo (posting since November 2018), Daniel Arsham landed on WeChat by announcing his new initiative Archive Editions to his followers on Weibo and Instagram. According to Arsham, Archive Editions is a platform selling limited editions by him or his fellow artists exclusively in China. The debut of the platform presented 500 editions of Crystalized Pikachu at CNY¥14,200 each plus CNY¥ 200 shipping fee.
Thanks to the collaboration with the world's most famous brands and his first solo exhibition in China at Shanghai How Art Museum in 2019, Archive Editions' inaugural online shopping scheduled on April 24th (10 days after the announcement) was very much anticipated among his mainly millennial Chinese fans. Daniel Arsham was also very busy with all kinds of promotions to maximise the sales and impact of the platform, from live-streaming with Vogue Business In China on Weibo and Yizhibo, to an unboxing video preview with Hypebeast Weibo Story, as well as using his own Weibo account.
In addition, celebrities/influencers such as Chen He (actor) and Liang Tao (Blogger, Mr. Bags) plus Daniel Arsham's friends in the Chinese art scene, such as Michael Xufu Huang (Collector and Founder of X Museum), Kelly Ying (Collector and Co-founder of ART021 Art Fair) were given access to purchase the product or received it as a gift prior to the public release.
Archive Editions as a Mini-Program
The interface of Archive Editions is no different from most Mini-program shops, including the function of shopping cart, payments, coupons, delivery tracking and customer services contact. The home page of the shop spotlights the star product and all the related information to make the customer appreciate the rarity, exclusivity and authenticity, such as a pair of "handling gloves included" and the "holographic label" and "numbered".
It came as no surprise that the 500 items were sold out very quickly, which means Archive Editions hit CNY¥7,100,000 (roughly US$1 million) revenue. However, the poor shopping experience is unignorable.
Privileged group with priority purchase access
Lessons to take
Technology capacity, transparency level, and instant communication with customers are the three key aspects to the success of a Mini-program-based shopping event.
With more than 500 million people actively swiping and scrolling on Instagram every day, the world's most eminent cultural institutions have embraced Instagram from its beginning. Leading museums, like the MET, Musée du Louvre, MoMA and the British Museum, diligently present their collections, spread their core values to, as well as socialise with their millions of followers from all over the world.
Although Instagram is blocked in China Mainland, many of the most active Chinese museums manage to register and operate an official Instagram account. Because of the different media landscape in China, Chinese museums spend most of their efforts on WeChat, Weibo, Douyin, RED and other Chinese social media platforms. However, the adoption of Instagram by Chinese museums reveals their demand for international recognition. There is no doubt, Instagram offers a huge potential for Chinese museums to interact and engage with international audiences, cultural institutions and overseas Chinese.
ARTouch Consulting monitors the Instagram performance of 28 Chinese public and private museums, and introduces the first of its kind "Chinese Museums Instagram Index".
Timeline: M Woods (Beijing), Times Museum (Guangzhou), Minsheng Art Museum (Shanghai) and K11 Art Foundation (multi-locations) were the early-adopters, making their first Instagram posts in 2014. The latecomers are the X Museum (Beijing, open in May 2020) , Today Art Museum (Beijing) and MoCA Shanghai.
Museum locations: Shanghai accounted for 46%, followed by Beijing with 29%, and the rest from cities like Nanjing and Guangzhou.
Private vs Public: Among the 28 museums tracked, 79% are private museums. This is easy to understand. Firstly, the decision-making process in private museum is much less complicated; secondly, the owners and the employees of private museums usually are with stronger international visions and overseas background, and it's also likely that they are Instagram users themselves.
Language: Among the 28 museums, 79% only use English, while 14% use both English and Chinese, with the rest using Chinese but English hashtags. It is very clear that their target are global audiences.
Followers: K11 Art Foundation is of the most followers at 37,000 (with 1,070 posts, 2-3 posts weekly), while Long Museum Chongqing only has 34 followers (only with 4 posts, stopped updating in 2016). The average followers level is at 5,513.
Followers engagement: We are looking at the percentage of followers who like or comment on the new posts over the month. The average level is around 5%.
Frequency: 39% of the museums made no update over the last month, while Power Station of Art was super productive, generating 24 posts. The average is posting 4 new contents each month.
Usage of IGTV and Story: The usage of IGTV and Story was not very high, with 89% museums never used IGTV and under 50% museums not used Story, this might partially due to the inconvenience of syndicating Instagram simultaneously in Mainland China.
K11 Art Foundation is the only one verified Instagram account among our Index. All posts are in both English and Traditional Chinese. Because of the multi-location nature of the foundation, it usually covers the contents related to exhibitions happening across their locations inside and outside of Mainland China.
With 15,000 followers, M Woods is one of the most popular and active Chinese museum account on Instagram. On April 8th, M Woods announced their virtual museum on Animal Crossing —— Nintendo's biggest hit of the lockdown, riding on the phenomenal popularity of the console game globally. With hashtags including #stayhome and #animalcrossing, as well as 10 cute images of their virtual museum on Animal Crossing, the post won 527 likes and 51 comments. Again, the is might also be attributed to the co-founder of the museum, Wanwan Lei, who was educated in the US and radiates her influence on Chinese social media as well as Instagram to over 4.8 million followers all together.
X Museum is the first Chinese museum which launched their official instagram account (December 2019) before the official opening of their museum (scheduled in March 2020, now postponed to May 2020 due to Covid-19). This is partially attributed to its founder Michael Xufu Huang, who is extremely sophisticated and connected in the international art scene and also an Instagram influencer with over 108,000 followers. On March 6th, X Museum posted the launch of "the first naked eye 3D virtual museum in China" with a very Instagram-friendly and visually intriguing video, which hit 1, 091 views, at nearly 50% of follower engagement rate.
Chinese Museums Instagram Monthly Active Top 5
ARTouch Consulting will publish Chinese Museums Instagram Monthly Active Top 5, examining the monthly amount of new posts, followers growth rate, followers conversion rate per post as well as followers engagement rate.
Stay tuned. Until next ARTouch Insights time. Stay safe and well.
Is your museum ready to turn curators to live-streamers, or even retailers? Here are the most pioneering answers from peers in China.
China is digitally transforming at an unmatched rate, especially during the current mass quarantine when online communications and entertainment is more on demand than ever. In the last two weeks, the ever-popular live-streaming has swept and overwhelmed the museum world nationwide, public and private.
Taobao Live, a live-streaming arm of e-commerce behemoth Alibaba, witnessed a great leap during the lockdown of the country. According to Taobao，the number of live broadcast rooms grew 700% in January to February 2020. Over this Easter Weekend, the 6th Vol. of Taobao Yunyou or Taobao Cloud Tour provided a live-streaming relay, joining hands with nearly a dozen museums, including Dunhuang Academy China, Fosun Foundation, How Art Museum, K11 Guangzhou, Red Brick Art Museum and teamLab Borderless Shanghai, etc. The live- streaming slot of each of the cultural institutions was scheduled with an hour gap between one another (see picture below), and the institutions were given the rehearsal or testing opportunity before the live-streaming day. With the push of Taobao, the campaign brought around 80,000-90,000 viewers to each of the live-streaming sessions.
Q: Who are the live-streamers?
A: Anyone from museum curators, to museum members, or museum staff from public program departments, or museum shop assistants. It can be one person, or two-persons, or a variety show. Fosun Foundation invited one member to co-host the live-streaming with their staff; while How Art Museum and Red Brick Art Museum both had curators in front of the cameras.
Q: How to utilize the hours-long live-streaming?
A: Anything from special exhibition tours, to museum architecture and garden tours, or a walk and talk in the museum shop, and even having afternoon tea streamed on screen.
Q: What's the process?
A: Greeting and Introduction → Schedule Announcement (including lucky draw, gifts) → Touring → Product/Membership Ad Placement → Interactive Chatting → Gifting→ Touring → on a LOOP ... During each of the live-streaming, there were about 15 to 30 products introduced by the host, time-based special discounts were offered too.
Q: What are the gifts?
A: Ranging from special exhibition tickets to membership, limited-edition tote bags, licensed products, artist's editions, afternoon tea vouchers, etc.
Dos and Don'ts
1. Make sure you've got the right gadgets! You need video STABILIZER, you might need extra lighting, and you definitely need ultra-fast INTERNET!!! The technical quality of IMAGE is the KEY to a successful live-streaming. No one would stay to be tortured by the desperate "loading". If the connection speed and quality is poor, then it is "DEAD-Streaming" rather than a "LIVE-Streaming".
2. The quality of the SOUND is equally crucial, which means you'd better have professional MICROPHONES. Also, make sure there is no other disturbing background music to distract your long-distance viewers, who can't contextualise the sound naturally from afar.
3. Lots of INTERACTION please. This is the main element differentiating live-streaming from a video. If there is no simultaneous interaction, it is a waste of people's efforts to make such an online appointment happen. Two way communication, also read and respond to people's comments and react. Lots of gifts!!!
4. Good balance of the role as educator and salesperson! Keep reminding yourself of the nature of museums! People are buying products from the museums not because museum is a department store, but because it holds the knowledge, the art and the rarity of human excellence. Do NOT sacrifice the museum brand to drive sales.
Are you ready to give it a go? Please share it if you feel it's useful. Until next ARTouch Insights Time! Stay safe and well.