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China new retail: A blend of the best of online and offline shopping

China · Dec 12, 2018 · By Wang Xiao'e

Players big and small are contributing to China’s new retail revolution

In the two decades since China saw its first-ever internet shopping purchase on March 6, 1998, online retailing in the country has enjoyed explosive growth, swelling to an expected RMB 9.4 trillion in 2018. Today China is the world’s largest e-commerce market, having far eclipsed the US two years ago.

Homegrown e-commerce giants Taobao, and Pinduoduo are local household names, attracting shoppers with their low prices and convenience. Yet, sales at brick-and-mortar stores still account for 80–90% of the overall market.

That’s because online shopping still can’t beat the experience of physical stores. People want to feel the goods in their hands. They want to know if a dress looks good on them or if the greens are fresh enough to make a delicious dinner, before committing to spend.

With such a massive offline market waiting to be cracked, online players have continued to rack their brains to come up with ever more retail innovations.

“The hundreds of millions of consumers [today] don’t just need physical goods. As they upgrade their lifestyles, they need more digital content, more services,” said Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang.

Edited by Bernice Tang

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