Alibaba’s head of Tmall Global in Americas Tony Shan urged retailers to make moves in the Chinese market, when speaking at NRF 2022 in New York this weekend.

alibaba app

Shan said that it was perfect timing as retailers interested in breaking into the region could take advantage of new types of consumer who are keen to explore global brands even when they cannot travel.

”There’s tremendous opportunity for international brands, both large and small, to sell to the Chinese market,” he said, speaking at a session on retail ecosystems in tandem with Latin American company Mercado Libre.

“The Chinese middle class has grown over the last few years to be the largest in the world - over 300 million of them, with more disposable income. They were travelling more pre-pandemic, where they had more interactions with and became more knowledgable about global brands and were looking for products to really upgrade their lifestyles.

The pull of Generation Z consumers

“China also has a large contingency of Gen Z consumers. On Tmall Global, 30% of our customers are Gen Z, and they are more in tune with global cultures and are excited to try new brands and products.

”Especially as global travel is going to continue to be more restricted in the near future, the only way for them to have access to these global products is online. This is a much easier way for thiose who do not have a physical presence in China to make their market entry for the first time.”

Shan added that he believes that the future of the store will develop to be much more in tune with the digital world.

online shopping

He said: “In China, brick and mortar shopping isn’t as well established as in the US, which is why online shopping is such a major facet in the Chinese market. I think as we see more merging of online and offline experiences, the need for physical stores will evolve.

“It’s not just about a point of sale or a brand identity anymore, we need to integrate the physical store experience with online to provide a seamless attraciton for consumers.

“Not only should physical stores emulate its digital counterparts, retailers need to think about ways to make improvements, like better checkout options or livestreams from stores. These are the things that will help physical stores evolve over time.”

Both Shan and Mercado Libre president of commerce Stelleo Tolda agreed that “consumer centric” and “data driven” are two overaching themes that will drive retail in 2022 - a sentiment echoed by PepsiCo Foods CEO Steven Williams in his featured session.