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中国电子零售革命

2013-05-17 15:36

当你想到技术创新的中心,硅谷、西雅图和首尔可能是你第一个想到的地方。毕竟,它们是Facebook、亚马逊、苹果、英特尔、微软、谷歌和三星的家——这些公司的创新改变了其它行业,从金融服务到电信和媒体的业务模式。

然而现在,中国“网上零售”(面向消费者的电子商务)的崛起使杭州——阿里巴巴,中国最大的在线零售商的所在地,加入了它们的行列。实际上,4月29日,阿里巴巴通过购买新浪微博,中国版Twitter 18%的股份表明了自己的野心。与其他技术中心一样,在杭州诞生的创新正在确定相关行业的发展道路。

中国网上零售市场是全球第二大的(仅次于美国),估计去年收入达2100亿美元。自2003年以来,该市场年复合增长率超过110%。到2020年,中国网上零售市场可能和如今美国、日本、英国、德国和法国网上零售市场加起来一样大。

尽管宽带普及率只有30%,2012年,中国网上零售占到了零售总额的6%,与美国不相上下。该行业已经有利可图的:中国电子零售商去息、税、折旧之前的利润收入为8%-10%,略大于实体零售商的平均利润率。

中国电子商务有两个突出特征。首先,大约90%的中国网上零售基于以广告为收入来源的虚拟市场。在这些平台上——类似于eBay和亚马逊——制造商、零售商和个人通过网络店面向消费者提供产品和服务。相比之下,在美国、欧洲和日本,大约有70%的市场份额来自电子零售商自己经营的网站,如亚马逊等在线商家,或传统实体零售商,如家乐福、迪克森和沃尔玛。

此外,根据麦肯锡全球研究院的一项研究,中国网上购物不仅仅只是取代线下购买。相反,网上零售支撑消费增量:1美元的在线消费产生大约0.40美元的额外销售量。在中国欠发达城市中,额外支出占总支出的比率甚至更高,实体零售商的短缺意味着网上购物提供了接触本来买不到的产品和品牌的机会。

中国和其他新兴经济体的大众消费在迎来互联网时代。鉴于这些国家的产业结构仍在发展中,网上零售不仅将确定零售版图,还将影响制造和金融服务行业,甚至城市本身。

在大多数国家,零售行业发展主要有三个阶段:首先,当地或区域参与者占主导地位,随后少数全国企业接手,最终网上零售商挑战传统企业。但中国缺乏全国性领导者,前五名零售商在各自的领域里占有不到20%的市场份额,相比之下,美国为60%。在整个国家建立强大的存在感将会很耗时且昂贵。

不过,阿里巴巴(拥有淘宝)和京东(关注于电子产品)跻身中国十大零售商,提供覆盖全国的快递运送服务。因此,中国零售行业似乎更有可能遵循两个阶段的发展路径——各大零售商成为全国零售业务参与者。

在不需要大量投资的情况下,网上市场给新的市场参与者提供了获得国家——国际——地位的可能性,这将影响到零售商和制造商对待新的消费市场的方式。例如,日本零售商优衣库2009年就利用这一市场扩张到中国。

同样,通过消除消费品行业规模和专业化的一些好处,网上零售使新的厂商加入市场,直接从车间和工厂向消费者销售产品,如服装和化妆品。这样的企业也可以利用其公认的品牌来扩大他们在金融服务行业扮演的角色。

最后,网上零售可能会影响中国城市发展,改变休闲活动。全球城市中心都围绕着商店,无论在大街还是在商场,很多消费者将购物作为一项休闲活动。中国的状况是较小的主要街道和商场,大型配送中心则在市区附近。公民将更多的空闲时间用于从事其他活动,如外出就餐。所有的这些变化会改变房地产的使用和定价。

其他新兴市场可能会遵循类似的进程。中国网络零售商已经利用出口优势进行国际扩张。其他国家的企业也在采取类似的在线商业模式。

中国可能在很大程度上错过了19世纪的工业革命。但其网上零售可能会塑造21世纪新兴市场的互联网革命。

China’s E-Tail Revolution

2013-05-17 15:36

When you think about centers of technological innovation, Silicon Valley, Seattle, and Seoul are probably the first places that come to mind. After all, they are the homes of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Intel, Microsoft, and Samsung – companies whose innovations transform the way other sectors, from financial services to telecoms and media, do business.

Now, however, the rise of “e-tail” (consumer-facing e-commerce) in China is enabling Hangzhou – the base of Alibaba, China’s largest online retailer – to join their ranks. Indeed, on April 29, Alibaba signaled its ambitions by buying an 18% stake in Sina Weibo, China’s version of Twitter. And, as with technology hubs elsewhere, innovations born in Hangzhou are determining the development path of related industries.

China’s e-tail market is the world’s second largest (after that of the United States), with an estimated $210 billion in revenue last year. Since 2003, the market has posted a compound annual growth rate of over 110%. By 2020, China’s e-tail market could be as large as today’s markets in the US, Japan, the United Kingdom, Germany, and France combined.

Despite a broadband penetration rate of only 30%, e-tail commanded 5-6% of total retail sales in China in 2012, on par with the US. And the sector is already profitable: Chinese e-tailers are logging margins of 8-10% of earnings before interest, taxes, and amortization, which is slightly larger than the average margin for physical retailers.

Two features of Chinese e-commerce stand out. First, roughly 90% of Chinese e-tail is conducted on ad-funded virtual marketplaces. On these platforms – which resemble eBay and Amazon Marketplace – manufacturers, retailers, and individuals offer products and services to consumers through online storefronts. By contrast, in the US, Europe, and Japan, roughly 70% of the market is composed of e-tailers running their own Web sites, whether online-only merchants like Amazon or traditional brick-and-mortar retailers such as Carrefour, Dixons, and Walmart.

Moreover, according to a study by the McKinsey Global Institute, online purchases in China do not simply replace offline purchases. Rather, e-tail supports incremental consumption: $1 of online consumption seems to generate roughly $0.40 of additional sales. And incremental spending as a share of total spending is even higher in China’s less-developed cities, where a shortage of brick-and-mortar retailers means that online shopping provides access to otherwise unavailable products and brands.

Mass consumption in China and other emerging economies is coming of age in the Internet era. Given that industry structures are still developing in many of these countries, e-tail is set to shape not only the retail landscape, but also the manufacturing and financial-services industries – and even the urban landscape itself.

In most countries, the retail sector has typically developed in three stages: first, local or regional players dominate, before a smaller number of national companies takes over, with e-tailers ultimately challenging traditional businesses. But China lacks national leaders, with the top five Chinese retailers in different product categories commanding less than 20% of the market, compared to up to 60% in the US. And establishing a strong physical presence throughout the country will be time-consuming and expensive.

By contrast, Alibaba (which owns marketplaces such as Taobao) and 360buy.com (which focuses on electronics) rank among China’s top ten retailers, and already provide national coverage through the reach of express delivery companies. As a result, China’s retail sector seems more likely to follow a two-stage development path, with e-tailers emerging as the major national players.

The ability afforded by online marketplaces to new players to attain national – and international – prominence without massive upfront investment will profoundly affect how both retailers and manufacturers approach new consumer markets. The Japanese retailer Uniqlo, for example, used such marketplaces to expand into China in 2009.

Likewise, by removing some of the benefits of scale and specialization that characterize the consumer-goods industry elsewhere, e-tail enables new manufacturers to join the market, selling goods like apparel and cosmetics directly from workshops and factories to consumers. Such businesses are also leveraging their broad access and widely recognized brands to expand their role in the financial-services sector.

Finally, e-tail could shape China’s urban development and transform leisure activities. Urban centers worldwide revolve around shops, whether on main street or at the mall, with many consumers viewing shopping as a leisure activity. China’s evolution will likely entail smaller main streets and malls, with large distribution centers near city limits. Citizens will spend more free time engaging in other activities, such as dining out. All of these changes could alter the use and pricing of real estate.

Other emerging markets are likely to follow a similar course. Chinese e-tailers are already using their advantages in exporting products from the country’s factories to expand internationally. And enterprises in other countries are adopting a similar online business model.

China may have largely missed the Industrial Revolution in the nineteenth century. But its approach to e-tail is poised to be one of the forces shaping the emerging-market Internet revolution of the twenty-first century.

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