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China to Overtake US as Biggest Retail Market This Year, Data Shows

If your brand doesn’t have a China strategy, you’re missing out on what’s expected to become the world’s largest retail market before 2019 is over, according to new data from digital commerce research firm eMarketer.

If all goes as projected, the achievement will be the second notch in China’s retail belt. The nation of more than 1.3 billion people has already led in e-commerce sales since 2013, eMarketer said.

eMarketer’s most recent worldwide retail and e-commerce forecast calls for China’s retail sales to reach $5.636 trillion, ahead of the $5.529 trillion projected for the U.S. Retail in China also is growing more quickly than in the U.S., 7.5 percent versus 3.3 percent.

Lauded for its embrace of digital innovation, China’s retail market leapfrogged the U.S. years ago with regard to online shopping. eMarketer said 35.3 percent of China’s retail sales will come from e-commerce this year, representing 30 percent annual growth and about triple the forecasted 10.9 percent the U.S. is expected to pull in in the months ahead.

How Suning is making retail smarter in China

At CES, Dr. Jack Jing, COO of Suning Technology Group, reaffirmed how Suning in particular, and China in general, innovates within retail.

The company launched its Retail-as-a-Service (RaaS) platform, open sourcing its cloud-based platform that ties together the best of artificial intelligence (AI)-powered algorithms, big data and eight business engines to give small and mid-sized enterprises plug-and-play commerce. Suning used data from more than 4,000 stores plus AI to determine how best to optimize its total of 40 million products down to the roughly 2,000 that most small stores carry, Jing told Sourcing Journal.

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Suning’s smart home exhibit at CES gives a glimpse into just how much China outpaces the U.S. in digital connectivity. Included among the many smart products on display was a smart bathroom mirror giving consumers the option to shop a variety of products or watch their favorite content—all while brushing their teeth.

Suning’s Silicon Valley R&D Centre, one of its 25 global innovation outposts, developed the Magic Mirror on view within the smart home exhibit. The most recent “smart stylist” update to this high-tech mirror references demographic information, such as age and gender, to suggest on-trend outfit recommendations, according to Dr. Jing.

Another look at where Chinese retail might be heading is found in Suning’s Biu Robot, a sort of mobile vending machine that can be programmed to roam within a predefined area offering a selection of products, purchasable by Chinese-standard QR codes, to nearby consumers.

These advancements dovetail with Jing’s assertion that technology without relevant commercial application yields little value—and that small retailers need expert help so they can be free to focus on their businesses. “We want to share our expertise with all of the enterprises focused on retail,” Jing said.