(Re)building: How to connect online and offline retail - Beyond Retail Industry

With Asia the undisputed leader in digital innovation and consumer adoption of online shopping, this ‘next generation’ session focused on some of the key trends as retailers and brands navigate crossing channels to connect online and offline retail and create brand experiences.

Lorraine Dieulot, real estate and lifestyle business unit director of Paris-based Saguez and Partners, moderated the session and ideas on how to connect online and offline retail, debated by and featuring CK Chan, head of Tmall and Taobao, Hong Kong and Macau, Alibaba Group, and Delphine Lefay, CEO and co-founder of On The List.

CK Chan, head of Tmall and Taobao, Hong Kong and Macau, Alibaba Group, stressed that incoming brands to the Asian markets want to offer “brand experiences to the customer”.

If we want to further expand, we need to work with and embrace offline retail in a more collaborative manner. Merchants driving the business is not good enough, we need to bring in other players like content creators. We see that trend, not just in China, but in the world as well to enlarge the eco-system for the whole industry. We will change to more content creation, says CK Chan, head of Tmall and Taobao, Hong Kong and Macau, Alibaba Group.

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He said that one of the main strategies to connect online and offline retail for the company is to work with brick-and-mortar retailers to “improve the efficiency of how they work and boost the future of stores.

One such example is live streaming, which has been a way to reach customers during lockdown, also allowing offline retailers to go online. “We have seen this double year on year,” said Chan. “Customer behaviour is more adapted to online and live streaming and we see that speeding up”

Previously companies needed to open stores to create brand experiences for the customer. Now they can do that online and the audience is much wider. We see that trend speeding up, says CK Chan, head of Tmall and Taobao, Hong Kong and Macau, Alibaba Group.

An example of this bid to connect online and offline retail is online player On The List and Delphine Lefay, CEO and co-founder, admitted “profitability wasn’t the first thing we were thinking of in Asia when we opened a first store”, because of the expense, but that it was about “experience…to try on the fashion.”

She said that the opportunity to touch and feel the product and to try items on was very important in deciding to establish a store to support the online business.

The company was founded in Hong Kong in 2016 to try and connect retailers and brands with customers looking for end-of-season stock at significant discounts. It was created first with an offline showroom, working with luxury brands, before opening an online store in 2018, beginning with a flash sale. It now operates across several Asian markets, again starting with an offline store before expanding into online.

In terms of innovation, as a members-only business, people currently have to show their QR code to enter a store but the company is looking to make this easier with facial recognition, so that after being photographed the first time, when they return they are directly recognised. She added of the future of retail stores and online shopping:

The future will be O2O.

Connect online and offline retail for brand experience

Chan added that Alibaba had started exclusively online, with the main business focused on customers looking for deals. However, over the past decade this has evolved as customers have changed to value experience rather than simply low prices.

If we want to expand we feel we need to work more closely with offline retailers. We help brands to work more closely and make full use of their store network and our big data online to serve their customer so this is how we see that we add value to both the customer and the brands, says CK Chan, head of Tmall and Taobao, Hong Kong and Macau, Alibaba Group.

With Asia – especially China – typically ahead of the West in terms of e-commerce innovation and the future of online retail, Chan said that many of the brand experience trends becoming established in China are spreading across global markets and influencing physical stores.

People are looking more for content experience online,” he said. “That will be the trend.”

Lorraine Dieulot, real estate and lifestyle business unit director of Paris-based Saguez and Partners, moderated the session and ideas debated, featuring CK Chan, head of Tmall and Taobao, Hong Kong and Macau, Alibaba Group, and Delphine Lefay, CEO and co-founder of On The List. They were speaking at a special session called (Re)building The Next Retail Generation – Part 2, broadcast during MAPIC & LeisurUp Digital 2020, which brought the core retail and leisure industry trends together across a series of insightful live and on-demand sessions.

Watch the session in full below:

Read more on online meeting offline, on retail remixed in the online world, read an interview of Enrique Martinez, CEO of Fnac Darty on rebuilding the future of retail stores, and an interview with  Joanna Fisher, CEO of ECE Marketplaces on the how the future of retail keeps on changing.


About Author

Mark Faithfull is Editor of the MAPIC Preview and News Magazines, as well as Editor of online publication and analysis specialist Retail Property Analyst.

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