The pandemic greatly accelerated digital transformation. As consumers increasingly turned to online platforms, traditional retailers responded to lockdowns and social distancing restrictions by facilitating online shopping, click-and-collect services, and home deliveries. The past 18 months have also highlighted that businesses – both large and small – who embrace digitalisation are well-placed to take advantage of the abundant opportunities in markets such as China.
China is a burgeoning consumer market – with a middle-class expected to reach 550 million next year and a growing Gen Z population who are shaping new ways of discovering and consuming goods and services. Its economy is recovering strongly following the e pandemic. According to the latest world economic update from the IMF, China’s economy outpaced all of the world’s major countries during the pandemic and is forecast to be a top performer in 2022 too.
All of which is great news for British businesses looking to make inroads into China. Demand for British products from Chinese consumers remains high. The value of goods sold by UK brands on Tmall and Tmall Global (Alibaba’s China marketplaces) increased by 27% year-on-year in 2020. British brands also fared well last November during our annual 11.11 Global Shopping Festival, selling US$494 million worth of goods during the eleven-day event.
But businesses that want to share in these successes must think of technology as a tool to engage and develop relationships with consumers, and China is no exception. Chinese consumers want a seamless interaction between on- and offline shopping experiences. For example, when IKEA launched a flagship store on Tmall, it offered a virtual 3D furniture-filled showroom of 3,800 products with consumers able to experience its signature maze-like walkthrough online. More than 60 million consumers used the 3D shopping feature during last year’s 11.11 Global Shopping Festival.
A key trend for Chinese consumers at the moment is livestreaming – it is the go-to option for consumers when seeking out new products and deciding what to buy. The livestream shopping market in China is expected to reach RMB 2 trillion, or more than US$300 billion this year. It is the primary medium for key opinion leaders (KOLs or influencers) to engage with their followers in China. Fans can ask questions about products and post comments to hosts.
Livestreaming has been shown to make a huge difference to the brands who embrace it. For example, Welsh beauty tech brand SmoothSkin’s livestream during Alibaba’s 11.11 Global Shopping Festival last year was viewed by more than 103 million Chinese consumers. This resulted in it becoming a top ten brand at the 2020 event. Meanwhile, working with celebrity-turned-livestreamer Li Xiang helped clothing brand Boden promote its products to more than seven million viewers, which again led to a sales spike.
Alibaba has played a pivotal role in building China’s digital economy over the past 20 years which has helped us garner tremendous insights and create best practices. We believe that by sharing our experiences with entrepreneurs and business owners, they can capitalise on the opportunities on offer.
It’s why Alibaba Global Initiatives, the training and education arm of the Alibaba Group, is offering its Netpreneur Masterclass to UK business leaders. The six-week masterclass covers a rich programme of online workshops aimed at the founders and owners of UK small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) eyeing an opportunity to further harness digital technologies and make their mark in China.
With this programme, we aim to share our experience with leaders from across UK business sectors, to enable them to transform and grow their businesses, and in turn the wider economy in these challenging times.
During the six-week masterclass, participants will gain insights into the cutting-edge trends and practices shaping China’s digital economy and explore how leveraging new technologies can enable business growth. They will also develop a deeper understanding of the business frameworks and strategies that strengthen an organisation’s capacity to innovate and achieve greater results, learning about Alibaba’s own successes and mistakes as it grew from a fledgling start-up into one of the world’s biggest e-commerce ecosystems. Attendees will be given exclusive access to business leaders from across Alibaba and China, as well as an opportunity to connect with like-minded, leading entrepreneurs in their region.
The Alibaba Netpreneur Masterclass arrives at a challenging time for UK firms. We want it to serve as a catalyst for business leaders to consider digital as an engine for growth and a driver for recovery. For the entrepreneurs – or rather “netpreneurs” – of today and tomorrow, the keyword is adaptation, to a world where digital is transforming production, organisation and consumption models. With the masterclass, our aim is to support British companies in this transition, and ultimately contribute to the advancement of a vibrant, digital and global ‘Made in the UK’.
The Alibaba Netpreneur Masterclass UK programme is free of charge and runs from 2 November – 14 December 2021. Applications are now open and seats are limited, so prospective participants are encouraged to apply early. Applications will close by the end of September. Participants who successfully complete the online programme will receive a certificate and have access to the Alibaba Global Initiative’s global alumni community, as well as be considered for the related offline programme which will be organised in Hangzhou, China after the pandemic. To find out more or submit an application.