Interview with Don Zhao, Co-Founder, Azoya
What are the most exciting opportunities in retail right now?
The rise of e-commerce has greatly changed the landscape of traditional retail. Among the top changes shaping the rules of retail are consumer demand for personalization, all-channel strategy and value chain restructuring from manufacturers to consumers.
For both retailers and even brands, the opportunity here is to embrace these changes. On the other hand, the ones who cannot keep up with these changes will be squeezed out by leading e-commerce marketplaces, vertical e-commerce giants, convenience shops, and brick-and-mortar shopping and experience destinations.
What are the top 3 things that a company must do to prosper?
The first thing is to stay on top of changing industry trends and prepare to adapt your solutions to embrace these trends. In particular, retailers must think strategically and pick the right building blocks to integrate into their conventional offerings to create a highly dynamic ecosystem capable of adapting to consumer and competitive trends.
Another thing is to keep an eye on the pioneers (“blackhole enterprises”) in the industry, such as Amazon, Google, Tencent and Alibaba, among others. As the biggest players in the industry, these companies often own significant resources, which enable them to innovate and lead the trends. To help retail companies that are affected by and face direct pressure to keep up with these global enterprises, solution providers must offer the most effective solutions accordingly.
At last it comes to company culture and human resource management, which Azoya has continuously practiced and improved since day one in 2013. Azoya realizes how crucial talent is to our company’s success, and how important it is to encourage talent to work together toward the same objectives in a new collaborative yet distributive approach that span the globe to serve our retail clients in 13 countries.
What transformations have you seen in your business that have had the most impact in the last three years?
The development of Azoya can be seen as epitome of the industry transformations.
We created China’s very first cross-border e-commerce marketplace (Haituncun.com) in 2013, which reflected the demand of the first stage of cross-border commerce. Soon we saw the limitations of marketplace, which gave us the initiative to set up Chinese E-com Cloud Service (CECS). Since then, CECS has helped overseas retailers enter the booming China market with superior brand awareness and greater potential to promote brands as well as products. That’s the second stage of cross-border e-commerce. Another key trend we have noticed is the increasingly demanding delivery experience, as online shoppers now expect fast, free delivery. As a result, we are working on pushing stock from overseas retailers and suppliers’ warehouses to near-border locations, such as Hong Kong or domestic warehouses in China.
Not just in mainland China, Azoya has been working on a bigger picture of other APAC countries. In fact, we recently enabled and empowered a German online pharmacy, www.ba.de, to further explore business in Korea (via http://kr.ba.de), to expand with scale beyond its successful China business. We believe this will be the future of cross-border e-commerce: evolving from a point-to-point, one-directional online trading approach to a point-to-multi-point, two- directional business approach to meet global consumer demand.
Who or which company has been your biggest inspiration?
That’s an interesting question. My biggest inspiration is Li & Fung, an end-to-end supply chain solutions provider with expertise in global supply chain management. Another one I would like to mention is Dairy Farm, part of Jardine Matheson Group. Together they have formed the model of retail brand operation, including localization for effective, relevant marketing that drives results. Also, Wanda Group, now the giant of China commercial property development and operations, started as a residential property developer; however, the company successfully attracted traffic and provided a traditional industry perspective. More importantly, their traffic values are sure to keep growing.
And of course no one in retail industry can forget about Amazon and Walmart. These retail giants have been leading the most drastic and innovative changes in the U.S. and global markets, while establishing a huge influence on the cross-border e-commerce and local markets in the China/APEC region.