New Shopping Patterns?
The retail sector has been heavily affected by the Coronavirus. In the second episode of Fireside Wednesday, guest host Julian Law (LLB 2000; MJ 2003) and guests Chan Chi-Kin (BEng(EComE) 2006) and Terence Hon (BBA 2019) discussed how retail businesses and e-commerce should change their strategies during this unprecedented time.
Chi-Kin, Head of Hong Kong & Macau of Tmall World, which is the largest third-party online and mobile commerce platform for brands and retailers in the world, believes that besides the products, logistics and frontier service, the customers’ shopping experience is of paramount importance to e-commerce. “Companies must own and keep track of the service data and record it in a central system. Even when sales staff leave, the company can still maintain a positive relationship with the customer by providing good after-sales service. Now that people are familiar with software like Zoom, e-commerce should make more use of it to enhance communication with clients. Through different social media channels, companies can reach out to different segments of customers and co-ordinate sales,” Chi-Kin says.
Terence, Founder of GreenPrice, started his business venture in his second year at HKU when he won an entrepreneurship competition with his teammates. His brand GreenPrice, which has opened three physical stores in Hong Kong, retails goods including food and cosmetics that traditional shops cannot sell because of past “best before” dates or damaged packaging. The mission of his brand is to reduce landfill waste and change the habits of buyers. Terence says, “90% of my business relies on the sales at the physical shops. Sales dropped over 50% at the beginning of the epidemic. But now it is getting better with more shoppers. While it is less busy in the shops, we post more videos online introducing our new products. Our online business has increased 10 times when compared to the pre-virus time. But since we don’t have our own logistics team, the delivery costs are high and online sales cannot compensate for the reduction of sales in the physical stores.”
With the changing market, Terence would consider more O2O (online to offline) strategies to bring online customers to the actual stores. After all, the investment cost of online retail business is comparatively high for SMEs.”
Chi-Kin thinks businesses should seek out more partnerships and look for new opportunities. “Hong Kong cannot only rely on tourists from the mainland. Rather, retailers should look into the needs of local people in regard to products and services.”
Terence agrees, “When the economy is good, businesses tend to neglect the creativity and attitude of sales and services. Now we can spend time to improve and increase the variety of products. With the economic turndown, landlords of shopping malls are now more welcoming towards SME as tenants. Small business may have more choices now than before.”
“The same as how I thought when I started my venture in Year 2, this can be a good time to create a start-up as the opportunity costs can be comparatively lower. Try to form teams with your University mates to think of new ideas. In this fast-changing social and economic environment, start-ups have an advantage as their structures are simple and hence can respond quicker. Also rents are now lower and it’s easier to hire staff, so it is time for you to develop and act,” Terence says.
Chi Kin advised current students and fresh graduates, “We should always aim high, although it can be difficult at the beginning. But as HKU alumni, we should know how to stand out from the crowd even in difficult times, and contribute to the economy. Under this new social environment, young people can in fact make an impact. You should make use of your abilities to excel; for example, using your knowledge and skills of social media.”
Julian, reflecting on his experience in journalism and the government, noted that “now is the time to change and to find partners. No one knows everything, so collaboration is important and it will increase your chance of success. The University is a good platform to find and form your team.”
- 羅永聰 Julian Law (LLB 2000; MJ 2003), an award winning journalist who has served in the newsroom for over 12 years. He joined the government in 2012 and took the position of the Political Assistant to the Financial Secretary. He resigned in 2016 and assisted Mr John Tsang to run for the Hong Kong Chief Executive in the 2017 election.
- 陳子堅 Chan Chi Kin (BEng(EComE) 2006) – Head of Hong Kong & Macau, Tmall World 天貓海外
Chi Kin is a senior executive in e-Commerce and supply chain management, with global experience in leading digital transformation of multi-national and local listed companies. He is currently Hong Kong and Macau Head of Tmall, which is the largest third-party online and mobile commerce platform for brands and retailers in the world.
- 韓駿謙 Terence Hon (BBA 2019) – Founder of GreenPrice 綠惜超級市場
Terence is one of the few social entrepreneurs who started a venture early in their university lives. His brand, GreenPrice, retails goods that traditional shops cannot sell because of incorrect labelling, past “best before” dates, or damaged packaging – in order to reduce landfill waste. The startup has opened three physical stores across Hong Kong.
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Fireside Wednesday 星期三開爐 new online series presented by Development & Alumni Affairs Office for the HKU Family – alumni, students, staff and friends – to connect with each other for partnership, passion and paths. The 10 episodes will cover tourism, retail, culture, social, NGOs, freelancing (slash), education, technology… Resources and support available to students and fresh graduates at HKU iDendron. Tell us if you want to suggest themes and speakers for future episodes. Share and stay tuned!