'New retail' blurring the online / offline divide
Since its launch in 2017, Tencent's WeChat's 'mini-programme' functionality – or apps within its super-app – have grown significantly to more than two million today, with the messaging and social media app attracting more than 300 million daily active users.
Several luxury brands have been quick to recognise mini-programmes' potential to bridge the online-offline experience. For example, LVMH brand Celine's mini-programme incorporates the ability to browse Celine's latest runway collections and to virtually experience its international flagship stores as well as, crucially, enabling consumers to make digital appointments to visit offline stores.
Omnichannel strategies, where online and offline presences combine, are the buzz word in retailing and here China is setting the pace for the rest of the world.
Back in 2016, Alibaba coined the phrase 'new retail' and it has subsequently been transitioning its business model so that the lines between online and offline are increasingly blurred. In China, the omnichannel experience is all about providing a seamless, fast and convenient service where the customer is at the forefront of the solution.
Technology is embedded into the entire experience, rather than being a late addition to an existing solution. Facial recognition software, digital payments, big data analytics-driven personalisation and self-service are becoming standard in Chinese stores.