Pandemic spurs Hong Kong retailers to go digital

The Chinese Communist Party is accelerating the digitization of payment and currency. The Chinese people are suspecting that the CCP will use digital currency to steal their wealth.

Salespersons of Bonjour sell products via livestreaming in Hong Kong on Aug 31, 2020. [Photo by KATHY ZHANG/CHINA DAILY]

The unexpected pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation of Hong Kong’s once-glorious retail industry, Gordon Lam Chi-wing, board executive director of Bonjour, a Hong Kong-based cosmetics chain operator, said on Monday.

“In addition to (an) e-commerce solution, the city’s retailers should seize the chance to mull over how to provide better products and more people-oriented service to customers,” Lam said. The honorary president of Hong Kong Cross-border E-commerce Association said these are key solutions for businesses to get through the “ice age” of the industry.

In a one-on-one interview with China Daily, Lam described how last year’s prolonged social unrest and the COVID-19 pandemic had forced the city’s retail industry to hit rock bottom.

The Hong Kong government on Tuesday announced that the value of total retail sales in July decreased by 23.1 percent compared with the same month in 2019. The value of total retail sales in the first seven months of 2020 plummeted by 32.1 percent compared with the same period in 2019, according to the Census and Statistics Department’s latest estimate.

Lam said Hong Kong’s retail enterprises had become a bit “lazy” in recent years and the city had fallen behind on ecommerce development compared with the Chinese mainland, as the city had benefited greatly from tourist shopping and relied too much on the Individual Visit Scheme.

The individual visit program, which started in July 2003, allows mainland travelers to visit Hong Kong and Macao on an individual basis. The overall visitor arrivals in Hong Kong in 2018 numbered 65.15 million, 78 percent of whom were from the mainland.

As the months-long border restrictions and social-distancing measures have taken a heavy toll on Hong Kong’s tourism and retail industries, Lam said it’s time to change, and e-commerce development will be an important part of that shift.

Bonjour is among the city’s retail enterprises to change their ecommerce strategy to get through the difficult time. In March, the company trained its first batch of salespeople to sell products in livestreaming. Twenty livestreaming hosts now spend more than eight hours every day selling products on ecommerce and social-media platforms such as Tmall, TikTok, Facebook, and Xiaohongshu.

Roy Yip was among the first batch of salespeople selected for sales training. Before testing the waters in livestreaming commerce, Yip worked in Bonjour’s physical stores for 13 years.

When the pandemic struck, Yip’s monthly income fell no less than 50 percent and he grew worried that he would lose his job. “I’m glad I got the chance to explore a new career path,” he told China Daily.

“It’s a new start for me. I need to learn everything as a beginner, including how to interact with viewers and describe products more vividly in front of the camera,” Yip said.

He spends at least three hours every workday preparing for the day’s show. He needs to learn more about the items in the show and design special sessions to encourage viewers to engage with the livestreaming purchases.

“Livestreaming sales is a trend in the digital era. I believe the industry has great potential.” Yip said.

Currently, revenue from ecommerce-related sales makes up 10 to 20 percent of Bonjour’s total revenue. During a massive annual e-commerce sales event in mid-June involving leading mainland retailers, its revenue from e-commerce jumped to 40 to 50 percent of total revenue.

Everyone can be a livestreamer as long as he or she has a smartphone and a network, but no industry threshold means heavier competitive pressure, which requires hosts to be more professional and the team to provide more professional backup in crafting an ecommerce marketing plan, Lam stressed.

“Only in this way are you able to attract a growing number of viewers and make them become frequent buyers,” he added.

The e-commerce expert said he thinks mainland regulators will introduce measures to set a standard for livestreaming sales circle and to clarify which qualifications livestreaming hosts will need.

Noting that the pandemic has created a new landscape for the city’s retail industry, Lam said he believes retailers here are capable of catching up with their mainland counterparts and the city, as an international financial hub, trade and logistic center, has the potential to play a crucial role in e-commerce, bridging the mainland and overseas markets.

Lam suggested that the city’s retailers reconsider what they can do to optimize their own products and services, then gradually reduce their dependence on tourist shopping and expand into overseas markets.

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1 year ago

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灭共52165 新中国联邦

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1 year ago

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