Date
20 October 2017
Wanda's Wang Jianlin envisions an e-commerce unit for his offline business empire that spans shopping malls, theaters, hotels and resorts. Photo: HKEJ
Wanda's Wang Jianlin envisions an e-commerce unit for his offline business empire that spans shopping malls, theaters, hotels and resorts. Photo: HKEJ

Wanda’s too late for e-commerce, or is it?

Back in December 2012, Alibaba founder Jack Ma made a 100 million yuan bet that e-commerce would gobble up more than half of the retail market in 10 years. Wang Jianlin, founder of the commercial property developer Dalian Wanda Group, accepted the bet, saying it won’t happen.

But just three days later, Wang announced that the group would hire over 10,000 people for its e-commerce business.

Wang said money is no object: “[The salary] the group is willing to pay would be enough to poach anyone except Jack Ma and [JD.com founder] Liu Qiangdong.”

However, Wanda so far has made limited progress. Even with its attractive pay packages, the group is having a hard time finding talent for the business.

Recently, Wanda’s e-commerce unit underwent a major management shuffle. Most of the senior officials have left, allowing fresh blood to be injected into the group.

According to Tencent’s news portal, Dong Ce, former chief operating officer of luxury products online retailer Jiapin.com, will soon be named chief executive of Wanda’s e-commerce unit, while Gao Xia, former vice president of group buying site Gaopeng.com, will be the chief operating officer. The two will be given three years to find the right business model for the unit, the report said, citing sources close to Wanda.

During the group’s work conference on Wednesday, Wang said he will invest 5 billion yuan to build up Wanda’s e-commerce business.

He said he has invited several technology players — rumors have it that one of them may be Tencent — to become shareholders of Wanda’s e-commerce unit.

That’s well and good. But with big e-shopping platforms like Alibaba and JD.com taking the lion’s share of the market, the entry barrier for Wanda may now be too high unless it can think of a niche segment that the others have not exploited yet or an area where rivals are not doing a good job.

Wang does not agree it’s too late in the day for his group to make it big in e-commerce. He envisions an online unit for his offline business empire that spans shopping malls, theaters, hotels and resorts.

“We may buy a bank, which will be responsible for issuing credit cards for the group,” Wang said, adding that members would be able to enjoy discounts and other value-added services by using the card.

This is what he calls big membership. “Big membership, big data: That’s the group’s future,” he said.

Through the card membership, Wanda will gather data on customers’ spending habits, analyze them and apply them on the marketing and promotion of its e-commerce business.

Many industry players have doubts about Wang’s strategy. But don’t forget this is coming from the country’s wealthiest guy. He just might know something others don’t.

– Contact the writer at [email protected]

CG

EJ Insight writer

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