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Qurious China Podcast Episode 2: New Retail & Social E-Commerce in China - with Michael Norris

Updated: Jun 28, 2018

In this episode, I reached out to Michael Norris, Consumer Research Manager of Resonance China, a Shanghai-based digital and social media agency using predominately ethnographic methodology servicing lifestyle brands.

Michael hails from a management consulting background but has showcased a keen interest in China for almost a decade. Being named the "Face of the Future" for promoting #AusChina trade relations by Westpac, Michael also earned himself a scholarship under the Prime Minister’s Australia Asia Outgoing Undergraduate Award to study at Tsinghua University (also touted as the MIT of China) for a year. He reads and writes Chinese at a level not far below a highly-educated Chinese national and often finds it difficult getting recognised by the local delivery guys for his impeccable pronunciation paired with a non-Chinese appearance.

Michael and I tried to cover quite some topics in this episode with mainly two foci: New Retail and Social eCommerce, which in the digital side of the world have been two outstanding phenomena in China and discussed their influence and lessons for foreign brands trying to enter the Chinese market. We then delved deeper into case studies such as Starbucks, Chinese shopping malls, A2 Milk, Apps i.e. Pingduoduo, Dianping and Red, which I'll place the links in the show notes below.

Michael also shared his careful thoughts on individuals and organisations trying to tap into the China market, the dos and don'ts and challenged some conventional methodologies currently seen in practice.

In his spare time, Michael contributes regularly to Campaign Asia, Jing Daily, WeChat and LinkedIn as well as sells his eco-friendly reusable cups to Australia.

I highly enjoyed the conversation and I hope you do too. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Show notes:

2:40 Michael's China Story

9:36 Michael's thoughts on whether living in China is essential to become a subject-matter expert

15:24 Intro of New Retail

18:00 Intro of Social eCommerce (with the case study "Pinduoduo" and "Dianping")

24:10 Whether the New Retail experience can be shared in a different context such as in Australia? (Bringing up the concept of Showrooming and how it's different from Australia to China using the example of Nike)

31:48 The shifting dynamic of o2o (offline to online/online to offline) in China

37:09 Michael's advice for a foreign brand to enter China (using the example of selling a dummies brand as opposed to a cosmetic brand such as Aesop on platforms like, and Red)

44:10 Niche vs Mass approach for brands

48:01 a2 Milk, Daigou and what's the lesson for brands here

57:38 Social eCommerce and Xiaohongshu as a particular example

1:07:48 What type of brands can leverage off the social eCommerce channels the best? (Case study of Pinduoduo, luxury brands and fashion brands)

1:15:05 Michael's advice for working and starting a business in China and challenges some of the conventional practice adopted by some businesses

1:26:45 Michael's upcoming projects

What's mentioned: 京东 唯品会

Hema Supermarket - Fresh Hema 盒马生鲜

Starbucks AR Experience in Shanghai

Xujiahui 徐家汇, a historical and commercial hub in Shanghai

WeChat Ecosystem

Pinduoduo - 拼多多

Taobao 淘宝

Tmall 天猫

Live Streaming 直播

Dianping - 点评

Tencent ecosystem - (I found this online, photo credit goes to Der Aktionär)


Influencers /KOL (Key Opinion Leader) 网红

Social Sharing

City Shop 城市超市

Ole'精品超市 (Netease) 网易考拉 苏宁

a2 Milk

Daigou 代购

Red - 小红书

Produce 101 - 创造101

Fanbingbing 范冰冰

Group buying 团购

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