The pace of change in China is reflected in Shanghai’s juxtaposition of old meets new, both in architecture and in retail. Upon landing at Pudong International Airport, you can sense the high level of consumption that occurs here in the shipping containers that dominate the Huangpu River, the smog that blankets the city, and the endless number of shopping outlets that line the streets. Wander through the old city, for instance, and you’ll find that even traditional vendors accept mobile payment (Figure 1).
Figure 1. QR Codes for Mobile Payment
One thing is certain: China is a hotbed of retail innovation. Having undergone its own digital transformation in recent years, China now leads the way in online-to-offline integration, guided by Jack Ma’s “new retail” concept. While the U.S. retail landscape pales in comparison to China’s sophistication, underlying learnings from the land of new retail, including the widespread adoption of mobile commerce, a focus on service and product quality, and the seamless connection between online and offline touchpoints, are certainly relevant in the West.
As we keep an eye on China for what’s next in omnichannel, my colleague Oceanne Zhang admits that it is hard to fathom further innovation given the country’s already advanced retail ecosystem. Ultimately, though, she expects that “every touchpoint will be shoppable.” For now, we can look to China for best practices when it comes to mobile optimization, in-store experiences, omnichannel integration, and data activation to inform further innovation in the U.S.
Read on for key takeaways from my Shanghai retail safari:
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Meaghan Werle, Principal Analyst