The British Museum was Tmall’s summer sensation after launching in July 2018. Three-quarters of the store’s items sold out in a matter of days, the now-iconic Rosetta Stone tape became a must-have accessory, and the site drew over 131,000 followers in its first month. Little surprise, then, that the London-based museum has doubled down on its China sales strategy with the launch of a Taobao store.
The institution made an estimated $51 million by selling licensed products in China last year, and although both inventory and pricing will remain the same across the sister platforms, the addition of Taobao (a ubiquitous name in China’s e-commerce scene) will likely improve searchability and visibility for the world’s oldest public museum.
The jewelry showcased for the British Museum Taobao launch is indicative of the overall approach to producing cultural products, or wenchuang, for a contemporary Chinese audience. From a ring based off a 600 B.C. Egyptian scarab beetle amulet to bracelets inspired by elements of sketches by the 18th-century painter James Ward, the museum leans on its vast and diverse collection of artifacts to create collectibles with a modern aesthetic.
The roughly 400 items for sale on the Chinese e-commerce platform take inspiration from both the museum’s famous and lesser-known works of art. Furthermore, products stretch beyond jewelry and include everything from luggage and cosmetics to kitchen appliances and phone accessories.
In recent years, Chinese museums and institutions have used wenchuang products as a means of branding and a way to connect with a generation of young and culturally-engaged Chinese consumers. From cleansing Sichuan Opera face masks to limited-edition Terracotta Warrior figurines, Taobao and Tmall have already housed a myriad of products, some collectible and others intended for everyday use. Predictably, Chinese museums have been the trailblazers in this field, with the Palace Museum exceeding $145 million in sales in 2017 and Suzhou Museum and Shaanxi History Museum also setting up successful e-commerce platforms.