ZJU and Alibaba host joint forum to highlight the future of New Retail


No one can ever ignore this rising disruptor in China. From automated retail stores to car vending machines, New Retail has revolutionized the structure of commerce and customer shopping habits.  

The future of New Retail was the focus of a joint forum co-hosted by Zhejiang University and Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group on January 28.  

A term coined in 2016 by Alibaba Founder Jack Ma, “New Retail” refers to the integration of online, offline logistics and data across a single value chain. According to Ma, pure e-commerce will be reduced to a traditional business and replaced by the concept of New Retail, which will provide integrated service with the consumer at its core.  

“This forum represents a stride in deepening the collaboration between the University and Alibaba since the signing of a strategic partnership last May,” said ZJU President WU Zhaohui in his opening address to over 1500 participants from the academia and industry.

Alibaba co-founder SHAO Xiaofeng spoke on the history of collaboration between ZJU and Alibaba in e-commerce, high-tech, and other research fields.

“Approximately 2400 graduates from Zhejiang University are working at Alibaba Group and we are delighted to have the fresh blood. I see an agglomeration of high-technology and new industry to be built by Zhejiang University and Alibaba in the future”, said SHAO.  

“New Retail is restructuring the whole business ecosystem. Everything is being redefined today,” said Professor WEI Jiang, dean of ZJU’s School of Management (SOM-ZJU), in a keynote speech titled “The Future of Retail, Declining or Remodeling?”.

Professor WEI said the future of New Retail belongs to people, sustainable system and full-chain innovation. He further stressed that SOM-ZJU will stand as an open platform, connecting industry, students and society.

Taking a different perspective, Alibaba co-founder and Vice CPO JIANG Fang shared her thoughts on corporate culture. She said that Alibaba’s fast development owes much to idealism in the era of uncertainty. This secret formula has been pushing the company to constantly innovate. The future belongs to those who provide the best services for people, she added.

CHEN Xiaodong, CEO of Intime Retail Group, emphasized the interaction and sharing between retailers and customers. As one of the largest traditional department store retailers, Intime kept closely to the trends. He pointed out that with the "click-and-mortar" model, customers could better enjoy the fun of shopping.

LU Tao, director of Alimama, Alibaba's marketing technology and big data platform and general manager of the Uni Marketing and Strategy Center, touched upon the role of Uni Marketing in the era of New Retail. “Marketing today is no longer relying on creativity, content or advertising,” she said. “Data and technology are now playing an increasing role in integrating this fractured era.”

LU considered the essence of new retail as digitalized business operation and by adopting data and technology, Uni Marketing is digitalizing relations between brands and customers and will ultimately change the future of marketing.  

The afternoon session centered on three key players in the New Retail era –  “innovator and entrepreneur”, “new retail enabler”, and “investor”. Academics and industry leaders shared their views on opportunities facing New Retail and how they tackle future challenges with new business models.  

In his concluding remarks, Associate Dean of SOM-ZJU XIE Xiaoyun said the core elements of retail have experienced a significant shift over the past decade – from real stuff as the center to field and people as the new centers.  

He said the wonderful speeches made by company owners and entrepreneurs at the forum could indicate an evolution history of retail industry, and in fact the most fundamental impetus for the changes in China’s retail industry is Reform and Opening-up.

“The most important purpose of hosting this forum is to pay tribute to the 40th anniversary of Reform and Opening-up, which is precisely why the economic miracle of China and the great times of today could have been created,” XIE added.

The forum “Foresee and Witness: the Future of New Retail” was co-organized by ZJU’s School of Management and Taobao University. For more details, please contact: Ms. BAI Yujie at yujiebai@zju.edu.cn.