Alibaba is rapidly expanding its new offline retail food store chain, Freshippo (Hema in Chinese), with stores operating on cutting-edge innovations.
South-East Asia has become the latest battleground for e-commerce companies. Can China’s tech giants win by proxy?
Foreign supermarket giants are losing their dominance in the Chinese market to local competitors. The retreat of foreign supermarkets is reinforcing China’s reputation as an infamously difficult market to break into.
Adidas’s Yeezy sneakers designed by rapper Kanye West have been among the world’s best-selling footwear since they were released in 2015, and a pair of Yeezy Boost 350 V2s retails for up to $1,000 on most e-commerce sites. But on Alibaba’s Taobao site, the world’s largest online marketplace, vendors offer the same pair of sneakers for as little as RMB 300 ($45). That sounds too good to be true, and it is. They are counterfeits.
Compared to other sectors, Chinese e-commerce firms are among the first batches of firms to embrace automation. China accounts for nearly half of global demand for AGVs, enabling one warehouse to process up to 100,000 orders a day with a staff of 20 human workers, work that previously would have required 300-600 people, according to Beijing-based startup Geek+, a leading domestic robot maker in logistics industry. Other tech giants, like Alibaba and JD.com, have also announced plans to invest billions of dollars to roll out next-generation technologies including totally unmanned warehouses and last-mile delivery robots and drones.
Becoming a movie star isn’t attractive anymore. For many young netizens in China, online stardom is the ultimate dream, not only because online celebrities now earn even more than A-list movie stars, but also they are able to influence hundreds and thousands of people just by go livestreaming, sharing beauty tips and fashion trends and posting their own selfies. Consumer brands and clients are chasing after these online celebrities. Reports say the online celebrity economy by some calculations is worth more than the country’s domestic film industry. How to become an online star? How do they make money? What’s behind the rise of “wanghong culture”?
Medical spending in China is increasing every year, and people have started to buy medicine online, with nearly 3 million people buying medicine through mobile apps, among which the largest one is Yiyaowang–the”No.1 pharmacy.” Set up by Yu Gang and his partner, the founder of China’s first large online supermarket, Yihaodian, Yiyaowang is also a key part of a healthcare ecosystem that combines an online hospital, a drugstore and patients. Yu, an experienced businessman and a scholar, tells how he built the ecosystem, how it simplifies the medical process and gives patients access to cheaper drugs.
NetEase is the Chinese internet pioneer you have probably never heard of. Founded in 1997, before its bigger and better-known Chinese internet peers Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent (collectively known as BAT), it is largely unknown outside of China. NetEase is currently making big pushes into many new businesses: e-commerce, online learning, music streaming and a host of other businesses, but it still has a long way to go to climb back to the top of the China tech tree. Analysts note that NetEase lacks the breadth of its rivals’ businesses, and that will likely stymie its growth, unless it can continue to diversify successfully.
At the enormous Pacific Department Store on Shanghai’s Huaihai Road, barriers block the street entrances and windows are shuttered. The store, which was one of the largest on one of the city’s busiest shopping streets for nearly two decades, closed in January. The shell of the store now sits incongruously opposite the K11 mall, which has been thriving ever since implementing a smart re-think of the shopping mall concept a couple of years ago. The lesson of the different fates of these two shopping centers is clear—adapt or die. Retail is not declining in China, it’s just changing.
After incredible growth in recent years, e-commerce in China seems to be slowing down. One reason behind this is the high penetration rate. By 2016, 62% people in Tier 3 and 4 cities were shopping online, while the number in Tier 1 and 2 cities stood at 89%. On the other hand, consumers in China have also changed over time, now the middle class are shifting their money from cheap products to premium services and goods where experience and recognition ties take priority. So does it mean online retail will go gloomy and physical stores may return to the spotlight?