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Three Takeaways On eCommerce From My Trip To China

Lily Varon
April 30, 2018

I recently spent two weeks in China to attend an event hosted by eCommerce company for analysts and retail thought leaders. Here are my takeaways on the state of eCommerce in the world’s largest eCommerce market:

a photo of fashion retailer b+ab's storefront in Shanghai with a sign that reads "Make A New Look".

b+ab’s storefront in Shanghai, China

  • Customers in China seek novelty and individuality. Nearly 60% of metropolitan Chinese consumers are Progressive Pioneers — the most demanding, advanced, and innovation-hungry digital shoppers. (By comparison, Progressive Pioneers make up less than 1 in 4 US consumers.) To meet Chinese consumers’ expectations for novelty, retailers and brands are experimenting with new ways to sell, offering exclusive products and limited runs and partnering to offer cobranded merchandise. Steph Curry and Under Armour launched (and sold out) his Shanghai-inspired Curry 4 sneaker on with a “See Now Buy Now” live stream in China, underscoring how efforts such as live streaming and shoppable videos are taking off. And fashion brand Ralph Lauren launched a limited-edition Polo shirt on WeChat for $4,000 RMB/$600 USD that sold out within 48 hours.
  • Grocery and convenience stores offer the latest push in retail innovation. Both Alibaba and have opened grocery stores that push the boundaries of digital store innovation. Alibaba’s Hema and’s 7Fresh supermarkets use digital price tags, dynamic digital displays, and self-checkout using facial recognition and/or mobile payments, among other experiences. has also been testing unmanned convenience stores in its office buildings and recently announced a deal with a real estate company to launch the stores in cities across the country.
  • Omnichannel — or “Online to Offline” (O2O), as it is called in China — is nascent but growing fast. Alibaba and are both online pure plays that are trying, in various ways, to stitch together online and offline experiences for shoppers in China. And since they’re also marketplaces, they’re helping the brands on their platforms be more O2O-focused, too. For example, is using its logistics arm to help retailers, such as Sam’s Club, use their physical store inventory to fulfill online orders on their brand store on’s online marketplace.

Look for more insights examples in my upcoming research on eCommerce in China!

Related Forrester Content (For clients or purchase)

eCommerce Trends And Outlook For Asia Pacific
The State Of CX Management In China, 2017
China Tech Market Outlook, 2018 To 2019
The Forrester Wave™: Digital Agencies In China — Strategy And Execution, Q4 2016

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