SCMP | How China is Leading the ‘New Retail’ Revolution

By Edward Tse and Jackie Wang

Edward Tse and Jackie Wang say market moves by Chinese firms like Alibaba, Tencent and show how key players are experimenting with various forms of tech-driven ‘new retail’ in the O2O world, making the industry more dynamic than ever

While the past two years may have been brutal for brick-and-mortar stores worldwide, China’s online and offline retailers have witnessed a “new retail” revolution, driving an increasingly stronger national consumption.

Since China launched economic reforms in 1978, the country’s retail industry has undergone multiple stages of development.

With foreign retailers flooding in after China joined the World Trade Organisation in 2001, the scene was diversified. Offline retail started to be challenged by Taobao, Alibaba’s online shopping platform, which was founded in 2003 and grew -exponentially in the following decade. The transaction amount for Alibaba’s “Singles’ Day” 24-hour online sales each November 11 has grown from 50 million yuan (HK$59 million) in 2009 to 168 billion yuan this year (Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post).

With e-commerce booming, businesses have been adopting an “online to offline” (O2O) model, using online channels to attract offline traffic. In the past few years, this phenomenon has evolved into the notion of “new retail”.

New retail represents a trend of online merging seamlessly with offline, resulting from the prevalence of digital technology, like mobile payment, wireless internet, sensors and artificial intelligence (AI).

In this model, online is no longer just a sales channel, but provides ubiquitous touchpoints to interact with consumers and their social groups. By contrast, offline retailers are trying hard to keep consumers in their brick-and-mortar stores for longer, offering better customer experiences by leveraging digital technologies.

From sales and marketing to -logistics and inventory management, the new retail revolution is transforming the industry. For example, Amazon Go, the pioneer in new retail in the US, tracks purchasing behaviour with sensors placed on supermarket shelves. After consumers choose their products, they can just walk out of the store, with the amount payable automatically deducted from their mobile payment account.

Some aspects of the retail operation are also becoming less human-led. In China, logistics firm Cainiao is incorporating hi-tech-enabled hardware and software to improve efficiency. In its logistics park, -Cainiao deploys drones to monitor the security of the venue. Within the warehouse, several robots called “Geek+” work with staff to sort packages. It also uses computer vision to identify, monitor and -arrange different orders.

Improved logistics efficiency is contributing to the consumer experience as well. Consumers will not only receive their packages faster, but also with fewer errors and get fresher goods.

Whereas in America, Amazon is at the forefront of the new retail revolution, China’s speed and intensity have gone into orbit. Players big and small are experimenting with various forms of new retail, making the industry more dynamic than ever.

Driven by the huge market -opportunities and abundant venture capital, start-ups in China are actively participating in this revolution. For example, Xingbianli, a convenience store and vending machine start-up, offers many popular Korean and Japanese products that could mostly only be bought via daigou (individuals who shop overseas and resell to Chinese consumers). More importantly, it is testing the area of unmanned retail.

Products have their own bar code, which can be scanned by consumers when they choose their shopping and then check out on the Xingbianli app. There is also a mini-library and a -café within the convenience store, aimed at making consumers linger.

Traditional local retailers are also incubating their own new retail formats, such as Super Species, a subsidiary of China’s largest supermarket chain, Yonghui Superstores.

Super Species specialises in selling fresh produce, such as vegetables and seafood, and combines the traditional market with restaurants, -cafés, florists, and so on. It has also introduced a Yonghui Partnership Plan, allowing staff to present more innovative retail ideas and pilot them within the stores. Super Species itself is becoming an incubator for those innovative ideas, and new retail here is no longer just about changing the store format, but also the mindsets of all staff.

Tech giants like Alibaba, Tencent and are heavily investing and competing head to head in the offline battleground. Alibaba -invested US$2.9 billion in one of China’s largest supermarket chains, Sun Art Retail Group, in November. It aims to transform Sun Art’s offline business of over 400 -Auchan and RT-Mart branded -hypermarkets and provides technology to enhance customer data and inventory management.

In 2015, invested US$700 million in Yonghui Superstores. This month, Tencent, a close ally of, acquired a 5 per cent share in Super Species, and made capital injection for a 15 per cent stake in Yonghui Yunchuang Technology, Yonghui’s supply chain and logistics subsidiary.

To further compete with Alibaba online and enrich their own ecosystems, Tencent and are -investing in, a Chinese e-commerce platform specialising in discounted products for women.

They will together own 12.5 per cent of and, as they further monetise their traffic, the new retail battle with Alibaba will -get fiercer.

Foreign companies are also -actively piloting their new retail strategy in China. Earlier this month, the world’s largest Starbucks -Reserve Roastery opened in Shanghai, leveraging Alibaba’s technology to give consumers a more immersed Starbucks journey.

This is also the first mass offline application of augmented reality (AR) technology. Consumers can use the Taobao app to unlock the AR features in the store, such as learning about the details of the Starbucks coffee brewing process.

Technologies are enabling these companies to create new business approaches, while intense competition is driving all players to -become better. They can’t afford to slow down. China’s scale also allows companies to use the market as a business laboratory and to experiment with business models.

Through fast launch and adaptation, players can fine-tune their business model at a rapid pace.

Beyond retail, the future consumption landscape will be much more complicated and sophisticated. Digital technologies, especially AI, 5G network and the internet of things, are already blurring the boundaries of industries.

Eventually, retail will be merely one layer of the consumer lifestyle, albeit a high-frequency one. The internet of things will create a new ecosystem that is ubiquitous and interconnected. Also, 5G network development will facilitate this process in the near future and bring about disruption in the retail world.

Assisted by machine learning and big data, consumers will -increasingly be viewed as a “segment of one” and receive more personalised solutions, not just in -retail, but in every facet of their life.

To that end, China will be at the global forefront of innovation and experimentation.

Edward Tse is founder & CEO of Gao Feng Advisory Company, a global strategy and management consulting firm with roots in Greater China. Jackie Wang is a senior consultant of the firm

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: The future of retail


Ten Predictions on Business and Strategy in China for 2018

By Edward Tse | January 12th, 2018

It has become a tradition for people to come up with predictions around the new years and here’s my list for 2018. This is my first endeavor and given my professional focus, my predictions will center on strategy and businesses with focus on China and China’s increasingly involved role in the world.

No predictions of this sort will be totally MECE (mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive), including mine. I will attempt to go through my thoughts from the top of my mind. My predictions for 2018 will be as follows.

1. China’s GDP growth for 2018 will be around 6.5 percent

I don’t really have a crystal ball and as you know, this sort of predictions is anyone’s guess. Nonetheless, my work through different parts of China has allowed me to talk to businesses and people from all over, As always, there is both optimism and pessimism. Overall, I sensed more optimism than pessimism and I felt that a somewhat positive momentum is being built. Like always, there will be areas in which China will struggle, for example, sectors with chronic overcapacity and structurally low performing SOEs in parts of China. There are also doubts on the prospects of China’s property sector in 2018 and China’s debt level remains high, causing concerns about its financial risks; however, there will be areas in which China will continue to do well. According to a study by the Institute of Population and Labor Economics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, China’s new economy – Internet-based businesses ranging from e-commerce to car-hailing services – grew twice as quickly as China’s overall GDP in the past 10 years to 2016. The contribution from the new economy to the overall GDP growth will continue in 2018, along with an increase in consumption and investment as well as trade, all serving to continue to prop up the GDP growth. In summary, barring major Black Swan events, I expect China’s GDP growth would hover around 6.5 percent plus and minus some, consistent with what the Chinese government and institutions such as the World Bank and IMF predicted. The perennial prediction of the “coming collapse of China” will unlikely to happen (again).

2. China’s consumers will continue to trade up

The fact that the Chinese middle class is growing and that their ability to afford more products and services continues to increase shouldn’t be viewed as a prediction anymore. This will happen almost for sure, but it’s still an important trend that’s worth mentioning. Depending on whose estimates you believe, the number of China’s middle class is currently around two-and-a-half to three hundred millions. All estimates are pointing to an overall increase over time. And these consumers are trading up. Instead of basic products and services, Chinese consumers are increasingly looking for those who can cater for better lifestyle and health. They are also increasingly digitally savvy and globally mobile, and are becoming more individualistic in their needs and consumption behavior.

3. Innovation and entrepreneurship in China will continue to thrive

China has begun to shed off its image as a copycat nation as more and more companies, both large and small, are becoming innovators in their own right, mostly in tech-enabled business models. Entrepreneurship is spreading across China – not only in top-tiered cosmopolitan areas but also in lower-tiered cities and across a wide range of sectors. Additionally, the entrepreneurs are getting younger. Many of them are in their 30’s or even 20’s. The Chinese central government has embraced innovation and entrepreneurship as a core part of the national development strategy. In 2018, we would expect more to come.

Source: Google

4. Technology will play an even larger role in driving China’s innovations

The wireless Internet and the smartphone have played a major enabler role for helping to drive China’s rapid growth in innovations for the past decade. As Chinese entrepreneurs continue to search for the next rounds of innovations, technology will continue to play a major enabler’s role. The Chinese have embraced various forms of new technologies in artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT), augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), and are experimenting many different ways for innovations. Surely, many of these experiments would fail but some of them would succeed. Given the size of the Chinese market, the ability of scaling up gives experimenters opportunities to try, learn and adapt, allowing a natural selection of the right application of technology to businesses.

5. Continued hyper growth of the Chinese ecosystems organizations

In 2017, China made history as Alibaba and Tencent became two of the world’s largest market cap companies and their rankings continued to move up. These two companies are prime examples of “mega-ecosystems” as they have built out from their original core business to form various ecosystems that together form a mega ecosystem. They jump from sector to sector as they see new market opportunities pop up as China continues its reform and opening up, and as technologies become available as an enabler for disruptive means of doing business. Each mega ecosystem attempts to offer what the consumer needs for his or her “lifestyle needs”, so each of them could be a bona-fide exponential business. When put together, the mega ecosystem becomes “super exponential” in their growth. While leading US tech companies such as Amazon and Alphabet are also major ecosystems players and are very successful, the Chinese seem to be more inclined to migrate across sector boundaries and to create larger ecosystems. Companies like Geely, Didi Chuxing, Ping’an, Meituan are building out their respective ecosystems in incredible speed and intensity. Clearly, access to abundant users’ data is the core for this kind of companies. Even shared bikes start-ups like Mobike and ofo claim that they are data companies and not just shared bikes companies, meaning that they would also build out their ecosystems with consumer lifestyle at their core.

Source: Google

6. Mixed ownership reform of Chinese SOEs will finally happen

China’s SOE reform has been talked about for at least for the last couple of decades. In recent years, the notion of mixed ownership reform was mentioned many times as the solution to the structural issues of the Chinese SOEs. However, not much has taken place. In 2017, China Unicom’s mixed ownership reform was given the green light by the Chinese government. It looks like the Chinese government is ready to step on the gas pedal for this sort of reform in 2018. Not only SOEs at the central government level, but also many of those at local levels will be targets for reform. And, reform will likely be focused on enterprises in the “competitive sectors.” Let’s see how it would go but from what I saw and heard, it looks like things can get much more serious this time.

7. More opening up will be allowed for foreign companies’ ownership of their operations in China

Since its reform around three decades ago, China has been gradually opening up its industry sectors for foreign participation. Today, while some of the sectors remain pretty closed, some of them are entirely open. And, some are somewhere in between. I would expect the gradual opening process would continue but it is unlikely every sector would become entirely open overnight. In November 2017, the Chinese government announced the ease in foreign equity participation in a range of financial services sectors. While this move didn’t allow full foreign ownership in the relevant sectors, the increase in scope and scale was quite significant. I would expect more opening up in 2018.

8. Foreign companies’ performance in China will continue to be mixed

Some pundits have claimed that the golden era for (foreign-headquartered) MNCs in China is over. I don’t agree with that. China’s continued growth offers plenty of opportunities for foreign MNCs. It’s a matter of how the MNCs view the opportunities. However, the performance of these companies in China to-date has been mixed. Some came to China and were disappointed with the market. Some of them even decided to withdraw from the China market. Some other MNCs are engaged in sectors where there is significant and structural overcapacity. These companies tend to be in a wait-and-see mode. Yet, some others have found China to have become one of their most important and most profitable markets, or even the most important and most profitable. This overall pattern will probably continue in 2018 but the dynamics would evolve. For the companies who are in the third category, I predict most, if not all, of them would continue to invest in China, and for some, significantly. For some who have left or have de-emphasized the China market, they may return to and re-invest in China. For these companies, China is just too big and too important a market opportunity, as well as a pivot for these companies’ global strategy, to ignore. Competition in China’s open sectors will become even more intensive in 2018 driving foreign MNCs to become more competitive and more innovative in their own right.

9. Cross-border M&As will continue

While Chinese companies’ outbound investment in 2017 has dropped from its peak in 2016 due mostly from the Chinese government’s capital control measures, the 2017 investment level was modestly higher than that in 2015. Chinese companies’ interest in investing overseas has not fully cooled down as many of the Chinese companies are still seeking for ways to do these investments. From the Chinese government’s standpoint, the reason for investing overseas has to be legitimate. But as long as they are regarded as legitimate, it looks like the Chinese government would give the green light. Two recent cases in point were Geely’s US$ 3.3 Billion purchase of 8.2% of AB Volvo, the truck manufacturer, in December and the US$ 9 Billion deal completed by private oil company CEFC China Energy to take a 14% stake in Russia’s biggest crude producer, announced in September. I expect this trend will continue in 2018. Perhaps the total volume or value of the transactions wouldn’t shoot up in a major way, but I would expect a modest increase. Of course, cross-border Chinese investments are sometimes blocked by the host government due to “national security” reasons. I expect this would continue to be a challenge for the Chinese investors as they look to investing overseas.

Source: Google

10. The China development model continues to foster

For a couple of decades, the so-called “China Development Model” with which a top-down guiding hand by the central government and the bottom–up grass-roots entrepreneurship has worked remarkably well for China. This model has created several decades of high economic growth and has lifted several hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. While some pundits continue to argue against the legitimacy and sustainability of this approach, surveys have shown the Chinese people are largely supportive of the results that this model has generated. In addition to the top-down government guiding hand and the bottom-up entrepreneurship, the “China Model” also includes a middle piece which gives the entire model extra effectiveness and resilience. That is the intensive coopetition among various provincial and municipal governments. Over the years, local governments have tried to build their respective advantageous positions over others. To this end, various governments would choose certain sectors or technologies as focus of their developments. This competition has generated much progress across China and in some cases, much waste. While this kind of competition will continue in 2018, regional clusters of cities are also being formed such as the Greater Bay Area linking key parts of Guangdong Province with Hong Kong and Macau, the Greater Shanghai Area, the Greater Beijing Area (Jing-Jin-Ji) as well as the development of the Xiong’An New Area in Hebei Province. While cities within each cluster would cooperate with each other, competition is somewhat significant across the clusters. This coopetition will manifest itself more profoundly in 2018 providing an underpinning for further progress for China.

So, here they are – my predictions for strategy and businesses in China in 2018. As I said, these are not MECE. For example, I haven’t covered major topics such as Belt & Road, capital market, financial reform. property market, shared economy, etc. Nonetheless, hopefully these predictions offer some insights as you plan for your business in 2018.



文 | 谢祖墀













谢祖墀博士(Dr. Edward Tse)是高风管理咨询公司(Gao Feng Advisory Company)的创始人兼首席执行官。中国管理咨询业的先行者。过去的20年里,他创立并领导了两大国际管理咨询公司在大中华区的业务。外界评价他为“中国的全球领先商业战略家”和 “谢博士之于中国企业界就如大前研一之于日本企业界”。他曾为数以百计的公司(总部设在中国及其它地区)咨询过所有关键战略和管理方面的业务,涉及中国的各个方面和中国在全球的地位。他还为中国政府在战略、国有企业改革和中国企业走出国门等方面做过咨询。他已发表200多篇文章并出版了4本书,其中包括于国际获奖的《中国战略》和《创业家精神》。谢博士获得了加州大学伯克利分校工程学博士、MBA以及麻省理工学院的工程学学士、硕士。


新浪财经 | 谢祖墀:中国电动车市场的爆发

文 | 谢祖墀





由于上述原因,中国政府正使用多种激励方式促进和支持电动汽车行业的发展,例如购车补助、免除购置税及车牌费用等。今年九月,中国政府表达了在未来禁止销售燃油汽车的意向, 并且正在着手制定具体的实施时间表。事实上,在施行相关措施的城市中,牌照的限制与其电动汽车的发展程度之间有很强的联系:只需要让电动汽车更容易、更便宜地获得本地车牌,这些城市中购买电动汽车的人数就会大大增加。此外,《关于乘用车企业平均燃料消耗量与新能源汽车积分并行管理办法》也计划于2019年开始逐步实施,这将迫使汽车生产商在产品结构中增加更多的电动汽车,以避免相关惩罚。



蔚来汽车就是一家中国电动汽车初创企业,它于近期刚完成了新一轮超过10 亿美元的融资,由腾讯领投。蔚来将于2018年初推出第一款量产的电动汽车ES8。另外,有消息称电动汽车先驱者特斯拉计划在上海自由贸易试验区建造一座全资的工厂。在这场掌控未来交通的角逐中,腾讯不仅拥有特斯拉5%的股份,还投资了蔚来汽车和拜腾。


有强烈的迹象表明,移动按需出行(On-demand Mobility)的崛起加速了电动汽车在出行服务车辆中的使用。在联合国和全球能源互联网发展合作组织(GEIDCO)赞助的可持续能源峰会上,滴滴公司的CEO程维声称“交通的未来是新能源汽车,而共享出行将会成为推动新能源汽车的关键环节。”按他的计划,滴滴平台将在2020年前拥有一百万辆电动车,届时将占据中国电动汽车总量的约20%。此外,滴滴近期还宣布与NEVS公司合作。NEVS是一家中国和瑞典合资的汽车公司,它将为滴滴这家移动出行行业巨头生产投放于天津的符合共享出行需求的电动汽车。






谢祖墀博士(Dr. Edward Tse)是高风管理咨询公司(Gao Feng Advisory Company)的创始人兼首席执行官。中国管理咨询业的先行者。过去的20年里,他创立并领导了两大国际管理咨询公司在大中华区的业务。外界评价他为“中国的全球领先商业战略家”和 “谢博士之于中国企业界就如大前研一之于日本企业界”。他曾为数以百计的公司(总部设在中国及其它地区)咨询过所有关键战略和管理方面的业务,涉及中国的各个方面和中国在全球的地位。他还为中国政府在战略、国有企业改革和中国企业走出国门等方面做过咨询。他已发表200多篇文章并出版了4本书,其中包括于国际获奖的《中国战略》和《创业家精神》。谢博士获得了加州大学伯克利分校工程学博士、MBA以及麻省理工学院的工程学学士、硕士。


China Daily | E-mobility Alters Auto Industry Dynamics

By Edward Tse and Bill Russo | China Daily Europe | Updated: 2017-12-15

Competing no longer just about physical hardware, but also the capability to build a digital ecosystem relationship with consumers

The electric vehicle market is growing rapidly in China and is now outpacing its Western counterparts. Already the largest auto market in the world, China is now also the largest electric vehicle market. It is also the largest car market for many global automakers, including Volkswagen, BMW, General Motors and Mercedes-Benz. As a result, it is becoming essential for these companies to follow China’s mandate to electrify transportation.

China’s EV policy is largely an outgrowth of the nation’s desire to secure the energy resources needed to power China’s economic development, along with a desire to level the competitive playing field with global automakers who have long dominated the auto industry with the intellectual property related to conventional fossil-fuel-based propulsion technologies. China’s electrification plans are designed to build a globally competitive domestic set of capabilities that help establish China as the leading supplier of the raw materials and products needed to repower transportation.

Electrification will also permit China to alter its energy mix and expand its use of renewable energy sources. In addition, electrification provides China with an opportunity to establish leadership in segments where foreign companies do not have a deeply rooted technological advantage. China has selected new energy vehicles, which include battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, for its electrification push, since they offer Chinese companies a chance to leverage China’s favorable EV policies and large market scale to secure a place of strength as these enterprises strive to become global electric carmakers.

For these reasons, the Chinese government is using a variety of incentives to promote and support development of the EV industry. These include purchase subsidies as well as tax and license plate exemptions. In September, China announced its intention to ban the sale of fossil-fuel-powered vehicles, and regulators are working on an implementation timetable. There is also a strong correlation between license plate restrictions and EV penetration for cities that have implemented such measures. By simply making it easier and cheaper to get a license plate, China has significantly expanded the electric car population in these cities. A carbon trading program will be phased in starting in 2019, and this will push automakers to add more EVs to their product mix in order to avoid a tax penalty.


Facing these dynamic changes, local and foreign original equipment makers are accelerating their investments in EV product development. Emerging disruptors (Nio, Byton), hardware innovators (Tesla, BYD) and traditional experimenters (VW, Ford) are now seeking a place in China’s EV competitive landscape. They are competing with, as well as collaborating with, each other, as the original competitive advantages of traditional carmakers can no longer guarantee success in the new “e-mobility” business model.

Competing in this new business model is no longer just about the engineering of physical hardware, but also includes the capability of building a digital ecosystem relationship with consumers, especially in a market like China where companies like Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent are actively investing in future mobility technologies around connected, electric and autonomous cars.

NIO, a Chinese EV startup backed by Tencent, has raised more than $1 billion (849 million euros; £746 million) and will release its first mass-production EV, the ES8, early next year. Tesla, a global pioneer in the electrification of transportation, is planning to build a wholly owned factory in Shanghai’s Pilot Free Trade Zone. Tencent, which now owns 5 percent of Tesla, is also investing in NIO and Byton in the race to dominate the future of mobility.

Tencent is a co-founder (with Alibaba) of Didi Chuxing, China’s top mobility service provider, and is also the lead investor in Mobike, a leading bike-sharing mobility platform. The internet companies believe that connected, electric and shared mobility is an integral part of Chinese consumers’ connected lifestyle. By leveraging its vast insight and big data relationship with its users, Tencent aims to provide more-tailored mobility solutions to the market. E-mobility is not just about the vehicle hardware, but also about the broader digital ecosystem relationship with the everyday users of the mobility services platform.

There is already a strong indication that the rise of connected, on-demand mobility is accelerating EV adoption in mobility services fleets. In a sustainable energy summit sponsored by the United Nations and the Global Energy Interconnection Development and Cooperation Organization, Didi CEO Cheng Wei said the future of transportation “is new energy vehicles, and ride sharing will be a key link in promoting new energy on the road.” He aims to have 1 million EVs on Didi’s platform by the end of the decade, which will account for around 20 percent of the total number of EVs in China by 2020. Didi has also partnered with NEVS, a Sino-Swedish venture that will manufacture electric vehicles in Tianjin for the ride-hailing giant.


EV technology developments are paving the way for large-scale electrification of transportation. Anticipating this, Chinese enterprises are deploying a massive number of charging facilities, with a government target of a 1:1 EV-to-EV charger ratio by 2020. Improvements in battery chemistry and other potential disruptive technologies like wireless charging are also anticipated, which will further accelerate the transition.

For more than 30 years, China’s auto policy has required foreign original equipment manufacturers to establish joint ventures with local partners in order to access the market. However, in the age of e-mobility, industry dynamics are being fundamentally altered. Increasingly, Chinese companies are creating product and digital service brands that shift the focus from the hardware to the ecosystem of services that are derived from the hardware. In this new digitally enabled business model, Chinese companies are no longer following, but rather leading, the auto mobility revolution.

Edward Tse is founder and CEO and Bill Russo is managing director of Gao Feng Advisory Company, a global strategy and management consulting company with roots in China.