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A big Chinese retailer begins selling online

April 8, 2015 04:46 PM
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The overlap between online and offline retailing in China is accelerating from both sides. While web-only retailers open more offline stores, traditional retailers are investing in selling via the Internet.

The latest move comes as Dalian Wanda Group Corp. Ltd., a large shopping mall operator and retailer in China, last week began to test its first e-commerce site Ffan.com.

Wanda manages 109 shopping malls and 99 department stores. The company says its revenue grew 30% to 242.48 billion yuan ($39.32 billion) in 2014.      

Web shoppers will be able to place orders at Ffan.com, but they will have to pick up goods in stores. Wanda says it will not provide delivery in order to encourage consumers to visit its stores. Ffan.com is still in the trial stage and Wanda has not said when it will launch officially.  

“Consumers like to shop in the bricks-and-mortar stores. The total visits of our shopping malls increased 33% to 163 million in 2014,” says Wang Jianli, the chairman of Wanda. “As long as we can keep improving our shopping experiences, the shopping center is always a fun place to visit, although consumers sometimes like to buy online.”    

Wanda says it is developing a loyalty program that will give consumers points for purchases and other online activities, including writing product reviews and checking in at stores via smartphones. 

Wanda says Ffan.com’s mobile app will make a trip to the mall more convenient. For example, a shopper will be able to put her name on a list for a restaurant table, then browse the shops in the mall and get a notification when her table is ready. Other major features include store navigation, consumer reviews, electronic coupons and online payment.  

Wanda aims to attract 100 million loyalty members for Ffan.com in 2015, the company says. 

Wanda in 2014 introduced free wireless Internet service in all its retail locations. Wanda also acquired last year a 68.7% stake in Chinese online payment platform 99Bill. Consumers on Ffan.com use 99Bill as a major online payment option, the company says.

Wanda plans to open the website as a marketplace to enable any stores to sell products online. “We plan to open Ffan.com to all offline stores in the future so that every offline store could reach to online consumers without building their own online systems,” Wang says.

Besides Wanda, Ffan.com is backed by two Chinese Internet goliaths, Tencent and Baidu, both rivals of China’s dominant e-commerce company, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.

Baidu is China’s leading search engine, accounting for 77.31% of Chinese online searches engine in 2014, according to Chinese research firm iResearch. Tencent Holdings Ltd. is the operator of social media and internet portals. Weixin, a social media platform owned by Tencent, exceeded 500 million monthly active users in 2014.

Wanda controls a 70% stake in Ffan.com, while Tencent and Baidu each hold a 15% stake. The three companies said in 2014 that they plan to invest 20 billion yuan ($3.22 billion) into Ffan.com over the next five years.

 

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