Chinese companies can leverage their expertise in merging online and offline commerce to prompt cross-border trade in economies related to the Belt and Road Initiative, according to industry experts.

The combination of big data, blockchain technologies and local supply chains will result in a so-called "New Retail" world in which products are designed based on the analysis of customer behavior and are created before people even realize they have such needs, said Yi Qing, executive president of Osell, a cross-border e-commerce site.

"Many countries and regions (participating in the initiative) still lack mobile payment and logistics capabilities that are essential to a seamless O2O (online-to-offline) shopping experience," Yi said during a New Retail-themed discussion during the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2018 on Wednesday.

"Chinese companies can dip their toes in bridging local needs with tailored manufacturing at home, based on their successful New Retail attempts," he said.

A term increasingly used by analysts, New Retail features the use of technologies, upgraded manufacturing, novel financial tools and data-backed logistics to fundamentally change the interplay between consumers, merchandise and the retail space.

According to Yi, insights about consumer needs via the internet will remove much of the guesswork in the retail world and pinpoint needs, thus boosting cross-border trade.

"Through the internet, businesses can see the potential needs of customers by studying consumer behavior data, and then design, market, sell and serve in order to satisfy them," he said.

For instance, data generated through e-commerce platforms suggested that residents in Bahrain prefer artificial lawns to natural lawns. This finding would in turn reshape the production side, consequently boosting sales in a local marketplace by 2.5 times in just one year's time, he said.

According to Yi, Belt and Road-related economies are more likely to embrace emerging technologies such as blockchain, which can facilitate point-to-point transaction with enhanced security and at substantially lower costs than previous transaction modes.

Chinese tech majors and numerous startups are all riding on the New Retail wave. Two-year-old e-commerce site Reflower sold 300 million flowers last year by utilizing customer purchase history as a guidance for flower planting to peasants, said the company's founder Zhu Yueyi.

"The key to the future retail is to really know your customers and create an experience beyond just purchasing. This requires constant experiment by mining and working on data," said Hans-Paul Burkner, chairman of Boston Consulting Group.

 

Email: gaohan@nbd.com.cn