Innovation Hong Kong Insights

Digital retail can drive new era of HK economy


Digital businesses aspire to be the “next generation” of employers in the Hong Kong economy, says a senior representative of a leading Asia-focused E-commerce firm.


“We really hope… that we can represent the next generation of employment in Hong Kong,” as a digitally-enabled business that “plays to the strengths” of the Special Administrative Region’s past, said Will Ross, chief executive of Lazada Cross-border (Hong Kong), a business unit of Singapore-based Lazada Group.


Mr Ross was speaking at “Retail’s Cutting Edge”, a strand of the StartmeupHK Festival 2018, an initiative of the Hong Kong government’s InvestHK agency.The executive added however that despite the potential for digital technology to transform retailing, that should not obscure the fact that the needs of the shopper come first and that those needs are in some respects consistent over time. “Let’s not just fetishize the tech: let’s think about how, fundamentally, we are all here to service our customers – our consumers,” Mr Ross told delegates at the event at Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.


Lazada was launched in 2012 and has a market presence in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

The company says it helps more than 135,000 local and international sellers as well as 3,000 brands, in product categories ranging from consumer electronics to household goods, toys, fashion, sports equipment and groceries. According to its corporate website, Lazada serves 560 million consumers in the Asia-Pacific region through its marketplace platform, supported by a wide range of tailored marketing, data, and other services.


“The communication revolution sits at the heart of this fourth industrial revolution,” said Mr Ross. “There’s the ability to integrate value chains, the ability to allow people to speak to each other across different media; the ability for people to speak to machines, for machines to speak to each other. All of these things are enablers,” he noted.


There are however risks for retailers in terms of addressing such rapid technological development, noted the executive. “The moment that you forget that the consumer is at the heart of everything you are proposing, is the moment you as a business risk obsolescence: we’ve seen that in offline businesses, we’ve seen that in online businesses,” said Mr Ross.


“Let’s recognise that at some levels the consumers’ needs remain fundamentally the same: people need to eat, they need to sleep, they need love: all those sorts of things. But the medium of expression will continue to change,” he explained.