In the two decades since China saw its first-ever internet shopping purchase on March 6, 1998, online retailing in the country has enjoyed explosive growth, swelling to an expected RMB 9.4 trillion in 2018. Today China is the world’s largest e-commerce market, having far eclipsed the US two years ago.
Homegrown e-commerce giants Taobao, JD.com and Pinduoduo are local household names, attracting shoppers with their low prices and convenience. Yet, sales at brick-and-mortar stores still account for 80–90% of the overall market.
That’s because online shopping still can’t beat the experience of physical stores. People want to feel the goods in their hands. They want to know if a dress looks good on them or if the greens are fresh enough to make a delicious dinner, before committing to spend.
With such a massive offline market waiting to be cracked, online players have continued to rack their brains to come up with ever more