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Seizing China’s e-commerce opportunities

Global retailers not yet reaching out to Chinese consumers are missing out on a major growth opportunity.

A new report from business consulting firm Bain & Company says with China’s total e-commerce spend soon to exceed that of the US, retailers who are not reaching Chinese consumers seamlessly across all channels are turning away sales.

To take full advantage of the nation’s booming e-commerce market, Bain has provided five key success factors:

  • Invest early. Leaders stay ahead of the curve by having a clear vision and strategy to either grow organically or make key acquisitions. Most successful bricks-and-mortar retailers take about two years to scale up their digital businesses, but it is a period of rapid change.
  • Build a dedicated digital team. A successful team incorporates digital capabilities into different functions. It is typically a separate team at first, with a highly entrepreneurial culture.
  • Develop a world-class website. The site must be strong enough to win new consumers and earn their loyalty. Companies should not try to do it alone, but rather work with third-party website developers to speed the process.
  • Expertly manage assortments and price. Pricing and merchandising are essential tools for retailers to differentiate themselves from pure-play e-commerce sites. A mix of special online-only products and identical products keeps each channel interesting to consumers.
  • Develop a seamless cross-channel experience. Winners create an enriched shopping experience by integrating their online, mobile and social-media presence and taking full advantage of their stores.

Bain said bricks-and-mortar retailers should act quickly and thoughtfully to marry offline and online strengths.

“Otherwise, they risk becoming irrelevant over time as pure-play e-commerce takes hold,” said Bain’s head of retail practice in China Bruno Lannes.

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