E-Commerce: Four Lessons from China

Headshot of Debbie Ellison with text: The Future of Brands

The Future of Brands live two-day event proved a hot ticket for marketers from leading brands and Debbie Ellison, our Global Chief Digital Officer, was there on stage. The topic du jour? How to accelerate growth in a complex and quickly changing market”.

Explained Steven Scaffardi, Head of Mediatel Events, “It’s a challenging time for brands. From navigating a way through the growing number of channels to market, to aligning brand values with an authentic tone of voice, to strategies focusing on core topics close to the modern consumer. Everyone is looking for growth, and quickly”.

Speaker line-up included game-changers such as Sebastian Munden (EVP & GM, Unilever UK & Ireland), Mitch Oliver (Global Brand & Purpose VP, Mars) and Uzo Oleh (award winning photographer & film director) – with attendance by over 400 guests.

“Speakers discussed everything from connected commerce learnings from China, to joining forces to move towards net zero, to unlocking the new era of measurement and data, to innovations in media channels translating to brand growth” said the event’s Sam Tidmarsh.

Highlights from Debbie Ellison’s keynote

2021 saw China contribute to over half the world's e-commerce retail sales, with sales value surpassing the combined total of Europe and the United States.  For context, projected market volume for ecommerce in China is US$1,412.00bn this year, compared to $880bn in the UK alone.

China has the largest online ecommerce population, with 780 million people shopping digitally (well over 10 times the total population of the UK). Yet, just 64% of shoppers engage in ecommerce, in comparison to the 87% of shoppers in the UK.

Four lessons to tap into

  1. Forget the divide between digital and physical retail.  Alibaba's new retail strategy invests in existing physical retailers to integrate e-commerce data into improving real-life customer experiences. For example, staff at its Hema supermarkets cook customer groceries to try on the spot – granting a tactile, immersive and interactive grocery shopping experience.
  2. Give people more reasons to shop.  China’s Singles Day has evolved – nearly 300,000 brands take part and has become an entertainment space for live performers by singers such as Katy Perry.
  3. Turn brand love into brand growth.  Sales generated from Chinese social commerce were projected to reach $363 billion in 2021, up 36% year on the  year. Social commerce will account for 13% of total e-commerce sales in 2021. The growth has largely been driven by Alibaba and Tencent, successfully integrating social media, digital payment infrastructure and product discovery into their platforms.
  4. Leverage the power of influencer commerce.  China’s new influencer economy is estimated to reach over US$1trillion by 2025.  From 2018, this number has doubled every year. Take influencer Viya, who livestreamed to over 150 million viewers on Alibaba's Taobao Live platform during Singles Day. If Viya's audience were a country, it would be the ninth largest in the world, larger than Russia.