Thursday, June 18, 2015

UNILEVER, E-COMMERCE, CHINA

Unilever Expands Online Presence in China With New JD.com Deal

Unilver opens store on e-commerce platform JD Worldwide ahead of JD.com anniversary



Consumer-products giant UnileverUL1.01% PLC is expanding its e-commerce presence in China to keep pace with the growing number of consumers buying shampoo and deodorant online.
On Monday, Unilever announced the opening of a store on JD.comJD0.23%’s cross-border e-commerce platform to sell its Ponds, Dove and Vaseline brands, as well as offer for the first time in China some Lux shampoo products that are best sellers in Japan.
Unilever already has storefronts on JD.com’s direct-sales site as well as on Tmall, operated by JD.com rival Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.BABA-0.07% The company’s latest foray into Chinese e-commerce focuses on JD Worldwide, a platform for companies to sell goods as imports, meaning the wares don’t have to go through a lengthy registration process to be marketed in China.
The new store, which opens during a month of deep discounting on JD.com tied to the e-commerce platform’s June 18 anniversary, is expected to provide Unilever with an avenue to test new offerings online in China.
“If brands sell very well, we will import them in bulk,” and then sell them on other e-commerce platforms in China, said Andy Li, director of Unilever’s China e-commerce business.
Unilever’s sales on JD.com more than tripled last year, a faster growth rate than on Tmall, Mr. Li said. Unilever’s online sales total more than 1 billion yuan ($161 million) a year in China.
Unilever, like others in the consumer-goods industry, has increasingly relied on emerging markets to drive the company’s growth but has struggled to adapt to the migration of Chinese consumers to online shopping.
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Unilever’s China sales plunged in the second half of last year, which the company attributed to a slowing Chinese economy and a pullback in consumer spending. Retailing trends in China also suggest Unilever was among several Western companies that overestimated growth in brick-and-mortar sales.
Mr. Li said he believes Unilever has been ahead of many of its peers in the consumer-goods space in leveraging e-commerce in China to boost sales.
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“Everybody is having this situation with how to balance online and offline,” said Mr. Li, noting that a challenge is to accurately forecast online demand for Unilever’s products.