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Michelle Whelan 

Look to China for speeding up your 2022 ecommerce strategy

Look to China for speeding up your 2022 ecommerce strategy

Media LeadersWe all need to learn how to operate closer to ‘China Speed’, bringing new ideas to market more quickly, writes VMLY&R Commerce's CEO

It’s no secret that UK consumers are buying more goods online than ever; by the end of this year, online sales will make up almost a third (30.2%) of overall retail spending. That’s 11 percentage points more than its share in 2019, pre-pandemic.

Looking ahead to 2022, total online spend is predicted to level out, marginally increasing by 0.10% to £120.6bn. It’s estimated that the share of online sales as a proportion of total retail spend will fall to 28.1% as people get back to shopping at a mix of online and offline retailers.

Amazon 4-star is now open in Westfield and Bluewater, giving shoppers ‘The best of Amazon, now in store’. And Meta (or Facebook) is apparently also looking to open physical stores to allow people to experience their virtual reality products, which are in high demand.

Omnichannel retail experiences are more valuable than ecommerce only experiences. Ecommerce brands are realising that other routes to market offer significant value to people who need to trial and experience the brand and the product.

Having said that, ecommerce is firmly here to stay and is going through its own evolution.

As we go into our biggest shopping period of the year, starting with Black Friday this week, what can we can start predicting for 2022?

One of the places to mine for insights is the most recent Alibaba festival of shopping. Double 11 (11:11) in China shines a bright spotlight on the disruptive forces of commerce.

To quote Michael Evans, President at Alibaba Group: “if you want to know what the future of global retail will look like, just look to China today.”

Here are 5 insights to take away:

A Mega Sale is not all about the discounts

Chinese brands see it as non-stop content and entertainment. “Gamification” of shopping is a core part of 11.11’s success. Alibaba created a new feature this year which allowed users to share their shopping carts. By bumping into someone, and shaking your mobile phone, you could swap carts. It’s proved a huge hit.

Livestreaming (TV home-shopping channel meets Facebook Live meets e-commerce) sells

During this year’s 11.11 pre-sales period, China’s premier livestreamers, Viya and Austin Li, generated sales through their individual channels of over 20 Billion RMB - that’s $3.1 billion.

It’s critical to operate at ‘China speed'

Speed to market is a defining feature of Chinese retailing to satisfy the cravings of shoppers. In a social-media fuelled world, consumer preferences are changing faster than ever. We all need to learn how to operate closer to ‘China Speed’, bringing new ideas to market more quickly.

Data drives everything

The Alibaba Tmall Innovation Center (TMIC) is a dedicated retail innovation arm helping expedite the product development process. Brands collaborate with TMIC to mine the data from Alibaba’s ecommerce platform and identify new opportunities in packaging, product design and pricing. British vitamin brand, Vitabiotics, has leveraged this highly localised, highly personalised data to connect with millennial consumers who are looking for premium products from overseas.

The Metaverse is here

11.11 featured a gallery in the metaverse with an AI virtual influencer presenting a collection of digital artworks (NFT’s). Consumers who made qualifying purchases were given one of the NFT’s. Quite a shift from the standard gift with purchase!

Outside of Double 11, you might have run into avatars sporting Gucci handbags, sunglasses or hats on the Roblox online gaming platform. The Gucci Dionysus Bag with Bee was resold for over $4,100 worth of Robux (Roblox's in-game currency) – exceeding the price of a real Gucci Dionysus bag, even though it can only be ‘worn’ on Roblox. This is just the tip of the metaverse iceberg.

We may not see anything quite so ground-breaking in our own Black Friday sales this year. But innovations like this are undoubtedly coming soon.

What will be critical going forward is not just that brands ‘do new’, but that they find ways to deliver innovative experiences that elevate the overall shopping experience. How does what happens online impact CX in-store? How does the totality come together seamlessly in ways that provide better solutions to customers’ needs and wants?

Brands need to invest now in taking omnichannel experiences to the next level, or risk being left behind.

Michelle Whelan is CEO of VMLY&R Commerce UK

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