China O2O: 7 Incredible Innovations You Need to Know!

China O2O: 7 Incredible Innovations You Need to Know!

2017 will probably go down in history as the year when the China O2O story really took off. They range from Alibaba’s Hema supermarket to shared mobile phone chargers to shared umbrellas. In a bizarre marriage of IoT devices and QR codes, consummated by the 2 major payment platforms — WeChat and Alipay, it seems like a match made in heaven!

I’ve attempted to click and describe 7 hand-picked examples of O2O applications seen in and around Shanghai. I’ve myself used each one of these, and also there’s a couple of these that I swear by. So, here they go:

1. HEMA — “New Retail” by Alibaba

No O2O story can start without mentioning Alibaba. And this one (the mother of all O2O use cases) is part of Alibaba’s “New Retail” initiative to seamlessly blend offline and Online retail experiences. With a chain of Supermarkets named “HEMA”, Alibaba has entered into the hyper-local groceries space, and how!

  • The aisles contain digital signages with QR codes, which can be scanned via HEMA App to “add items to a virtual cart”, while you are in the physical supermarket
  • You can checkout right there (via the App) and schedule your stuff to be delivered at any 30-min interval throughout the day

2. Mobike: Making the planet greener

This is by far my favourite China O2O startup / story / use case. Ever since it first launched last year, I’ve been hooked to the service, and have ridden close to 500 Km already. Dock-less biking is healthier, greener, and convenient. Triple Whammy!

What I love about them is that they stick to their mission, and are constantly innovating on the User Experience. For example:

  • You can Reserve a bike for 10 min while you walk to it.
  • You get extra points (redeemable) for parking your bike at appropriate positions

And my favourite one: During this Christmas Week, the usual “beep-sound” while unlocking a bike has been replaced by “Jingle Bells!” 🙂

3. O2O Massage Chairs (you heard that right!)

Now these have been in Shanghai for a while. At least 3 years – and would be one of the earlier applications, given that massages are popular in China for therapeutic reasons. Right from being in the middle of malls to co-working spaces, they are seen quite frequently. The use case is simple:

  • Scan QR Code, use WeChat / Alipay to pay the 3 RMB for the 10-min massage.
  • The fancier ones also have an in-built screen that you can watch TV/content on as well. Which can also be purchased on-the-fly while you get the massage!

4. Umbrella-sharing (at Subway Stations)

Yes, you heard that right too! — Since the last monsoon seasons, we’ve seen a few of these “umbrella-sharing” startups sprouting up on metro/subway stations. The use case is:

  • Scan QR Code, register to be a member. Pick-up umbrella at Subway Station.
  • Drop-it-off at the closest convenience store (they’ve tied up with the likes of Family Mart / 7–11 / Lawson’s, etc)

The verdict is not out on this one yet. But it is an interesting take for sure. And really useful on those days when it suddenly starts pouring!

5. Anywhere charging for your phone

Phones are getting smarter. And battery life is getting shorter. So a few smart men decided to marry IOT with QR codes, and launch these chargers which can be rented at restaurants and coffee shops @ 1 RMB / hour. So, how does this one work?

  • Scan QR code, pay 1 RMB via WeChat / Alipay (usually with a 99 RMB deposit. Select Android / IPhone, and a drawer opens up with a portable charger inside.
  • Take it to your table, change for an hour, and then drop it back before you leave.

6. Passport / visa photos at Subway stations

Pretty simple and self-explanatory. It’s a small photo-booth. Fully automated. How does it work?

  • Stand in front of the camera. Get yourself clicked. Choose Visa / Passport Type, as needed. And Print!
  • The good part is, you also get a QR code ID. So the next time you need a few more photos, just walk up to any of the booths, retrieve your photo from their cloud DB, print and go!

7. Karaoke “in a Box”

Waiting for a movie to begin? Or for your turn at a popular restaurant? — No worries. Get into a “Karaoke Box”, scan QR code, select your songs and sing. These have been cropping up across malls in Shanghai.

  • Gamification: Your music can be rated, and you can compete with your friends by linking your social profiles.
  • Oh, and if (like me!) you love your own singing, you can immediately transfer the recording to your phone via WeChat!

Love the pace at which O2O innovation is happening here in China. And I’m sure there’s innovation happening elsewhere as well. Any interesting O2O examples you’d like to share?

What does True “O2O” mean for Retailers in China?

What does True “O2O” mean for Retailers in China?

The term “O2O” is, of course, a buzzword. It has multiple applications in every industry, region and market. In China, O2O has transformed from being a “trend” to being the de-facto operating model for digitally-oriented businesses in China.

So, what does O2O really mean in the context of Retail business in China?

At a very basic-level, O2O brings a retail brand’s offline presence (customer experience and CRM Loyalty in Offline Stores) in sync with their digital presence i.e. WeChat.

Brands have been doing this in China for a while, with WeChat paving the way for deep (but controlled) customer engagement.

A simple H5 page, powered by WeChat can enable brands to:

  1. Register / Sign-up members via WeChat using QR Codes which can be augmented by showing Member Points / Coupons / Transaction history.
  2. Link Offline Stores’ POS systems with their WeChat presence to help proactively identify customers when they visit offline stores, using WiFi and multiple location-based techniques to offer better in-store experiences.
  3. Drive games and engagement-based campaigns to personalize the user journey and create “touchpoints” or “moments” to tell brand stories (and drive repeat purchases!)

Here is an example of how a WeChat H5 sign-up page might look on WeChat:

H5 WeChat Sign Up

So, essentially, your OFFLINE + WeChat presence are linked. Looks like we’re all sorted, right? … Mmm.. Not Really!

All of this has been done and dusted in 2015-16-17. So, what does the future hold for us in 2018?

So far retail brands in China have been content with doing just this. But now, they want more. The share of 3rd party eCommerce platforms (a la TMALL, JD, etc) have been growing for almost every major Retail brand.

This is driving some key questions:

  • How can I combine data from transactions across Offline Retail stores as well as 3rd party marketplaces?
  • How can I get a SINGLE VIEW of all engagement touchpoints for deeper personalisation?
  • Is there a way for me to give consumers a seamless view of their”relationship” with me across all transaction and engagement channels in ONE place?

The answer to all these questions lie in tying the dots together across TMALL + WeChat + Offline Retail, all combined together with Loyalty.

Explore our completely integrated WeChat CRM platform to easily attract your brand-followers and convert them to brand-loyalists through highly personalized and relevant engagement on their favorite app.

We’ve done this already for a few of our customers in China, and the results are great!

Contact us for a demo, and see how we can enable True O2O for your brand in China!