Retail Week’s latest report – Spotlight on China: the future of retail – looks at how retailers can learn from the tech trends driving the country’s thriving retail scene.
Whether we look to discount shopping, social commerce or mobile payments, Chinese shoppers have operated at the very forefront of retail behaviours for some time. Leaps such as using one app – WeChat – to pay bills, find local hangouts and book doctor appointments have become ingrained in society and set shopper expectations for a seamless online-to-offline journey and for sharing these experiences within social networks.
Now these shoppers are driving revenue for western brands with the rise of cross-border commerce and global travel, increasing pressure on western brands to get to know these customers and deliver experiences that meet cutting-edge consumer expectations.
From Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer, to Clarks, many international heritage brands have already established a presence on online marketplaces such as Tmall or JD.com to test the market and maintain an omnichannel customer service. These brands have learnt that product listings which resonate with western audiences are unlikely to win traction in such a vastly different market like China. Not only does the language need to change, but sometimes so does the colour used or the discount offered. And of course, the products themselves must often be reviewed in line with local demand.
Likewise, where retailers are looking to tap the ever-growing pool of Chinese travelers they must ensure their products and store pages are visible through search engines beyond Google, which is blocked within China and on Chinese mobile phone services. Again, local language product listings, alongside accurate information about store locations and opening hours is key to enable offline conversion.
Another lesson from China’s tech titans is that of shopper urgency. Alibaba kick-started a shopping phenomenon when it commercialised a young people’s celebration called Singles’ Day. Adjusting prices and marketing around existing events and exploring how to drive urgency around bespoke promotional events and experiences is critical in driving both conversions. In fact, promotions are often the starting point for brand discovery.
In sum, success is attributed to a real understanding of the priorities for these digitally savvy shoppers.
There is enormous opportunity for retail marketers to tap one of the largest global groups of affluent consumers. For many this will prove a vital testing ground for their ability to deliver a consistent experience across the entire digital ecosystem.