Small stores rely on new retail revolution

Updated: 2013-04-30 01:55

By XU JUNQIAN in Shanghai (China Daily)

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Small stores rely on new retail revolution

An operator of a small store introduces newly arrived goods through Sina Weibo to netizens in 2012. It is a thing-to-thing exchange store, which is on Tongming road, in Hongkou district, Shanghai. The unusual store attracts many customers. Provided to China Daily 

For the past eight months, 31-year-old He Chang has been promoting his products on what is arguably China's most powerful retail marketing tool, and they have been selling like hotcakes.

His Chinese pancakes, or jianbing guozi — a famous product enjoyed by millions of people for centuries — have become a hot topic on Sina Weibo, China's most popular social network, which now boasts over 500 million users.

While the Twitter-like social network, which kicked off in August 2009, is yet to make a profit — its latest financial report showed an income of $66 million dollars in 2012 against expenditures of $150 million — thousands of shrewd entrepreneurs such as He have managed to establish money-making businesses on the back of the platform, by grabbing the attention of more than a third of the nation's population.

"So far, we have 300,000 verified corporate users," explained Hu Weixi, who works in Weibo's business management department, which was set up a year ago.

Although there is no distinction as to whether its verified-business "blue V" users are start ups or multinationals, Hu says the number of small operators like He could be "substantial".

Last December, Weibo's Hu and his team launched an online campaign called "those small and beautiful stores on Weibo", so more users could know about these "tiny but unique stores that were submerged in the sea of millions-of-followers-owning big Vs".

"We have received more than 2,000 applications, far more in number and richer in diversity than we expected," said Hu.

A total of 118 corporate users have been selected and listed, free of charge, on an electronic-magazine-like page, approximately 30 stores a month, which features banner ads on the page of every user, with links to every one of the other stores.

The stores vary from sneaker makers to organic farms, cafes, bridal gown makers, music venues and clothing.

"The service has attracted more than 2 million clicks, and followers of some stores have been increasing several times over as a result," said Hu. "I wouldn't say it's the most successful campaign, but definitely one of the most."

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