The first quarter of 2016 is already behind us, are you still figuring out how to start your e-commerce business in China? For some of us e-commerce still feels like a new business model, however, China has long passed this stage, various data suggests that it has already become a traditional industry in China. Traditional or not, let us sort out the current e-commerce situation and forecast its areas of development.
Ecommerce is on its way to become a traditional industry in China
Ten years ago the ecommerce in China was brand new. Taobao was the most popular C2C online platform. At that time, people who had the technical skills and knowledge of search engines could get over 80% of return of investment on a Taobao shop. Nowadays, Taobao offers more than 1 billion products, has over 10 million sellers, and around 320 million active users. These huge numbers only come from one of Alibaba Group’s marketplace so you might be able to reckon the whole picture. After ten years high-speed development, China’s ecommerce is not a new industry anymore; its development is now as mature as the real estate or the catering industry.
Traditional industry vs Ecommerce
In recent years, the traditional industry has been strongly affected by the online market, some companies have managed to adapt their business to the new online scene, but some have failed at this task. This trend of transitioning from offline to online businesses will speed up this year, and although there are currently more traditional businesses than online ones, online businesses will eventually catch up.
It seems that both business models cannot co-exist, however, if the resourceful traditional industry would explore Chinese digital marketing and ecommerce solutions, they would be able to achieve better results with half the effort.
Develop a 020 (Online-to-Offline) business model
In coming years, online retailing will be a fully integrated part of the market, it will help companies grow, and sale more efficiently. On the other hand, they will also have to implement the offline part of it, a successful integration of a good O2O business will, without a doubt, thrive in market. Suning began handling deliveries for Alibaba, in order to push Tmall Supermarket into the massive market, and Jingdong is promoting Jingdong Daojia, all the actions from the leading Ecommerce companies indicate that the O2O model is inevitable to come.
Ecommerce in the rural areas
Last year ecommerce in rural areas had a rapid development. Alibaba made a long-term project to promote online shopping in order to expand its business coverage. The central government formally issued a document to help the promotion of rural ecommerce and facilitate the integration of online and offline. Alibaba, Jingdong and Suning are also pushing the development of ecommerce in rural areas so we should expect an huge increase this year.
Great development of CBEC (cross-border ecommerce)
Over the past 2 years, CBEC has become one of the most popular business models in China. It has given import business a lot of opportunities; moreover, since the Chinese middle class has grown considerably (first place in the world with over 100 million), it turns out to be a very profitable business. The main consumers are people between the ages of 30-40 and have great acceptance for foreign products, this will bring a lot of overseas ecommerce companies into the Chinese market.
Here at 2Open we specialize in ecommerce and digital marketing. Our goal is to understand our clients business needs in order to provide the best possible services. If you have any questions or require any information about our services, please do not hesitate in contacting us, our group of specialists will happily assist you.
This article was edited by Andres Arroyo Olson from 2Open.
E-commerce has grown internationally over the past few years; China is one of the countries with the fastest e-commerce growing market, Alibaba has become the largest business-to-business (B2B) platform in the world. Tmall is the largest business-to-customer (B2C) website in Asia, with more than 90 billion RMB in revenue recorded on Nov 11, 2015(China’s “Singles Day”). Despite their success, return rates have also grown accordingly. Compared with offline physical shops purchases, online shops experience a higher rate of refunds and exchanges. The lack of the buyer experience is perhaps the biggest weakness of e-commerce, that is the main reason why the online to offline (O2O) business strategy was created.
O2O is a business model where companies attract potential buyers to their physical stores through online marketing strategies. These strategies often consist in in-store pick up of items purchased online as well as offering the option of buying or experiencing the items directly at the store.
Fast moving consumer goods do not really have to offer the buyer experience since they are expected to sell quickly and for a low price, this is the main reason why O2O does not really suit this field. Durable consumer goods, like clothing, seem to have a huge potential, they are probably the best candidates for the implementation of O2. Let us say, for instance, that you would like to buy a new camera, you compare all the features of several models online, experience them in physical shops and then after you finally decided the model, you would simply place order online for a reasonable price. Everything fits perfectly. There has been an ongoing talk about this for years, Manufacturers know this, they would like to see this, but unfortunately results are not ideal.
Why is it so difficult for O2O commerce to evolve? Who has the advantages to start implementing an O2O business model? Should large Manufacturers, like those who own multiple shops, implement it? Should offline chain shops do it? Logistics companies? Online platforms? These are questions that have to be discussed. Let us talk about these one by one.
Most Manufacturers with lots of physical shops operate offline, they usually carry out the traditional business scheme; they manage shops and focus resources on shops rather than the end users. Very few manufacturers have their own Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system for consumers, and even when they do, what happens to the employees at the shops? Sales volumes usually measure commissions and performance for employees, however with an O2O business model it makes it harder for manufacturers to keep track of their physical shops and employees performance. No companies have solutions for this, so employees in physical shops resist O2O, so for manufactures O2O is harder to be executed.
In the case of offline chain shops, employees manage products rather than sell them directly, and they have CRM systems for most of the consumers. The real problems these companies face is related to online traffic, do their offline consumers also have the habit of buying online? Even if they do, do they know the chain shops started an online business? Despite the attractiveness of implementing a fully online business, they are still more likely to succeed with a O2O business model. Suning is a real life example of this, with thousands of offline physical shops of household appliances, also expanding its categories one store at a time, and being the third in the Chinese E-commerce field. Their market share is a little more than 3%, far behind the first two companies, O2O is the trend but there is still a long way to go.
What about Logistics companies? Logistics means warehouses and more detailed consumer data; this is the main advantage here. SF-express started Hi-ke in 2014; the goal was to steal market shares from online platforms like Tmall and JD with SF-express’ logistics. This resulted in a lack of experience for consumers and complex order placing procedures.
Online platforms should also implement O2O for one reason, to keep the current e-commerce market share. Tmall and JD just started this; we will have to wait to see how it works out. Their weakness is still the lack of physical shop operation experiences.
O2O needs someone who can successfully implement the business model, in China currently there has been no one who had manage to do this, it seems that what the market needs is a pioneer in this field, future is bright, and the market gap is there, let us wait and see who will rise up.
This article was edited by Andres Arroyo Olson from 2Open.