HONG KONG: JD.com, the online retailer, is shifting its focus from simply retailing towards technology that can be placed at the service of brands both online and offline, a leading executive has said.

“The first 12 years as a retailer we were Gross Merchandise Volume-focused,” Winston Cheng, president/international at JD.com explained.

“The second 12 years is going to be about helping brands and retailers and others build their online presence, build their brands and have more efficient marketing,” he told Inside Retail Asia.

The huge amounts of data that JD.com generates from the 300m-plus customers it serves every year will be central to this and the online business also plans to gather data from bricks and mortar stores to build a complete picture of consumers and trends.

“Then we will help them [brands and retailers] on the supply chain ... they need to make sure they’re producing the right things.”

Rival Alibaba already links offline data collected from in-store visitors – using beacons and wifi – and data from Alibaba’s own online properties to build “big-picture” customer models that offer significant insights to offline retailers (For more, read WARC’s reports: How Alibaba uses big data to understand China’s shoppers and How Alibaba uses consumer data models to drive offline conversions.)

While mainland China has enthusiastically embraced online shopping, Hong Kong has been more circumspect – e-commerce accounts for less than 5% of its total retail spending.

That still represents a large figure in absolute monetary terms, Cheng pointed out, and while the penetration of online shopping is low “that’s an opportunity” – especially among younger consumers who can imagine better things to do with their time than the chore of grocery shopping.

“It’s not exciting to have to go and buy your toilet paper or your bottled water, for example. You should be able to just tap those things and order them,” said Cheng.

That said, he acknowledged that it’s not so simple when it comes to fresh foods – “certain things, like making sure that this fruit looks exactly like the picture, are very hard to satisfy”.

Sourced from Inside Retail Asia; additional content by WARC staff