Ever since online shopping became a reality, retail has become increasingly digital and internet-driven. In fact, traditional street-side businesses have adopted elements of online shopping that give us the confidence to continue visiting them.

It is truly a big step for such businesses as they usually rely on offering their products and services to their customers face-to-face in an office or store that the business owns or rents.

However, these brick-and-mortar companies have made it easier by playing to the strengths of the consumer by creating a path that can provide in-person experiences such as more personal levels of service.

However ever since the pandemic hit, offline shopping has taken a hit particularly, giving more velocity to online shopping and China did not waste a minute but swooped in and quite possibly may have brought about a retail revolution.

How Did China Bring About A Retail Revolution?

China has been reigning in the manufacturing industry for quite some time now and the country’s middle class has seen a rapid growth in the past 20 years and has finally entered the middle-income bracket.

Such an economical boost has not only led to the introduction of new startups and businesses but has also given an opportunity to the country’s retail industry to satiate the growing appetite of consumers.

China’s Economic Growth

According to Professor Mark Greeven of Innovation and Strategy at IMD, who draws on a decade of experience in research, teaching and consulting in China,

“By putting the consumer’s needs at the center, China’s retail companies have rethought the value chain and reinvented the retail model, delivering a greater and more relevant retail experience to consumers.”

China is the future of e-commerce and here is how it brought about the retail revolution:

Omnichannel – Merging The Offline With Online

The amalgamation of offline with online is already familiar with consumers worldwide. However what makes China stand out is her digital platforms like Taobao, JD.com, and Meituan that offer things on a more varied scale than the likes of Amazon.

Taobao Chinese app

They have everything from food staples and technology to travel bookings and construction. This also involves the coming together of several different trends, including AI, robotics, IoT, and extended reality (XR) – which includes virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR).

VR environments will allow online retailers to provide shopping experiences that are enriched with features and are immersive whereas AR will be deployed by offline retailers to allow customers to access information about products they find on shelves.

Meanwhile, the only hindrance in this particular kind of shopping is the supply of fresh produce that is, vegetables, sea food, etc. These are easily perishable products. And so to avoid any rot or spoil, some brands have been using their very own warehouses that deliver fresh food within an hour.

Introduction Of Lifestyle Commerce

After generations of endemic poverty, there has been a spike in the wages of hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens thereby leading to a higher disposable income. Hence, even after paying for basic necessities, they have extra money to save or spend on consumer products such as fashion, travelling, going to restaurants, etc.

So China came up with the idea of lifestyle commerce – an idea whose main framework is built on ecosystems that can deliver all the products and services within a short period of time. This idea was executed with the help of ‘super apps.’

Growth of China’s e-commerce market owing to the introduction of lifestyle commerce

Super apps gather and integrate third-party businesses to deliver the whole variety of products and services anyone might need or want. These super apps are a lot like our Zomato and Amazon but they offer things on a wider spectrum.

For example, Meituan has a user base of over 600 million users and is priced at 100 billion dollars. It provides almost every type of lifestyle service and entertainment. It offers restaurant reviews, takeaway deliveries, travel bookings, movie tickets, bike rental and more.

Chinese app Meituan’s logo and tagline

If there was ever an integration of Uber, Zomato, BookMyShow and Make My Trip, it would be Meituan for sure.

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Invisible Selling Or Invisible Commerce

Invisible Selling is a lot like the cooking or fashion videos we see on YouTube. It involves an ordinary person going about her day-to-day life and making a video out of it without any specific product recommendations. The trick lies in making whatever product is being used, alluring enough without mentioning any details for potential consumers to lap it up.

The anonymity of the product is the bait. Hence, when customers watch the videos they want to covet a similar lifestyle thereby leading to a demand for the products on screen.

Selling without promoting is a rather fresh and novel concept and definitely has a lot of caliber if used wisely.

Livestream Retail

The origins of this kind of retailing can be traced back to Taobao which is a Chinese shopping platform that was launched in 2003 and was popularized by Douyin which was China’s domestic version of TikTok.

The app was mostly used by content creators, who made the app their personal marketing tool for the products they loved.

Livestream Retail

In layman’s terms, Livestream retailing involves the promotion of a brand or product via video wherein a person is seen to be using the product or the product of a particular brand. That way, it forms a bond of trust between the product or brand being promoted and the consumers and viewers, thereby encouraging them to buy it.

Livestream retail is even more impactful when celebrities promote the products. For example, Dong Mingzhu, chairwoman and president of Gree Electric, which is the world’s largest residential air-conditioning manufacturer, sold $9.3 billion worth of products through 13 live streams in 2020.

Dong Mingzhu

Social Commerce

This particular idea gives an opportunity to those who can not afford much and do not have a payslip of over $150 to buy the necessary commodities. It includes broader access to the basic affordable things that are used daily.

This was achieved by a technology called Pinduoduo which focuses on rural needs and its target audience is groups of people and not individuals.


The idea was to make online shopping more accessible and interactive for people living in rural areas. Pinduoduo operates by having friends recommend things to each other, then band together to get group discounts. The idea was welcomed wholeheartedly and took on a massive scale, moving beyond its initial target mark.

The only reason for its gain in popularity is because it includes people at all levels of society. Today, the company has more than 800 million users.

What makes this a retail revolution is that many retail models usually focus on customer experience innovation through digital channels but new retail is distinguished by its focus on digital transformation, which integrates the entire supply chain from sourcing through manufacturing to delivery to a vast array of user experience.

Owing to digital transformation, in this manner, new retail puts the customer right at the center.

Image Sources: Google Images

Sources: CNBC, The Conversation, The Economist

Find the Blogger: @Rishita51265603

This post is tagged under: China, retail, retail revolution, Chinese retail revolution, Chinese retail innovations, merging online with offline, social commerce, invisible marketing, lifestyle commerce, live stream retail, economic boost

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