i3 | August 16, 2017

Suning's Chairman Zhang Jindong

Cindy Loffler Stevens
Suining's Chairman Zhang Jindong

Zhang Jindong is the co-founder and chairman of Suning Holdings Group which includes Suning Commerce Group (listed on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange) and LAOX (listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange). The current annual sales volume of Suning Holdings Group is 510 billion RMB (US $74 billion). By 2020, it aims to have sales volume exceeding one trillion RMB (US $145 billion). Suning Commerce Group is the largest retail chain in China.

As a self-made billionaire, he has a powerful and inspirational story. Born in Jiangsu Province in 1963, he graduated from the Nanjing Normal University. In 1990, Zhang opened a small retail shop selling air conditioners. Under Zhang’s leadership, the company has seen phenomenal growth.

Powered by cloud computing and big data technologies, the retail platform offers more than 30 million SKUs from 30,000 merchants. SKUs include traditional appliances, consumer technology products, supermarket products, mother and baby care products, general merchandise products, financial and entertainment products. The company has also been building its service capabilities using three unique cloud platforms for logistics, financial and data.

Suning’s vision is to become a “high-tech smart services” international conglomerate with diversified businesses in China, Southeast Asia, Europe and the U.S.

Zhang was also elected to the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a senior governmental body and serves as a vice president of the All-China General Chamber of Commerce of the Private Sector. He recently shared his insights with i3.

What makes Suning so innovative?

All of the innovations are satisfying our users’ needs. This is a time to manifest consumers’ rights. Consumers are dominators of the commercial value chain. Nowadays, they express more concern about individualization and have a higher demand for consumption experience, so all enterprises must listen patiently to customers’ voices. Retail companies should focus on the essence of retail sales and center on customers. Big data and other innovative methods are applied to transform retail operation to satisfy consumers’ ongoing needs.

The 27-year development process of Suning has experienced three phases – from physical store retailer, unmixed online retailer and O2O (online-to-offline) retailer. It is by holding tight to the retail essence and putting constant emphasis on consumers that has enabled us to strive in the innovation frontier and accomplish the achievements we have.

At the physical retail stage of the business from 2000-2010, Suning accelerated expansion of 1,500 chain stores all over China, making the company No. 1 in the business field. During the online retail era, Suning was the first to transform onto the track of online-of line integrated development to become the leader in O2O retail business. Last year, Suning fulfilled strategic deployment in six vertical industries covering retail, real estate, media and entertainment, financial services, investment and sports. It’s the innovative spirit, achievements and consumers that have led us to great opportunities.

How do you market to consumers?

No matter how the external environment changes, Suning always holds tight to the essence of our industries in order to manage the demands of cutting edge advanced new products and services that benefit consumers across Suning’s platforms. So far, Suning has been a home for the convergence of global 3C trends and the largest partner in China for international mainstream brands. All of these have benefited Suning as customers’ first option in 3C domestic appliance consumption.

The best marketing lies in individualized services. The enormous breakthrough of internet technology has entirely changed traditional shopping methods and there is an unprecedented revolution in the marketing environment. The retail industry has to comply with these trends in mobility, socialization and localization – it’s a new way of intelligent retail through internet and big data.

Suning has built dynamic networks everywhere to satisfy consumers’ needs through our intelligent retail net system. Our online platform, Suning.com, has reached 280 million users, while establishing almost 3,700 direct stores. We expect to reach 5,000 by the end of 2017 and to spread in both big cities and rural towns and village markets as well. In regard to operating types, it has preceded layouts of Suning Plaza, Suning Cinema, Suning Media & Entertainment VR experience hall, sports flagship stores and Suning Finance Wealth Management Center to overall satisfy users’ needs. Suning’s antennas have even stretched to users’ sides, at their residence quarters by fulfilling O2O distributions within the last kilometer, while offering comprehensive coverage through Suning direct stores and Suning mobile phone monopolized stores.

Beyond that, we have built a massive logistics service network. Suning has offered logistics services to more than 1,200 companies so far and by the end of June 2016, a colossal logistics service system composed of 12 automatic picking centers, eight national logistics centers, 47 regional logistics centers, 465 city distribution centers and 19,359 terminal express delivery lattice points (with selfpicking function) were established.

Which technology products will be most popular incoming years?

Undoubtedly, as living standards of users are rising, high-quality, intelligent, scientific and technological products as well as interactive experience products will become new growth areas for retail business. For the 3C industry of home appliances, smart home furnishings share an enormous space as all the domestic 3C appliances will be made intelligent.

Suning has invested hundreds of million yuan on smart home facilities and has established the first independent retail brand of intelligent products – YOUQU. Leveraging the incomparable advantages of industrial chains, Suning’s project for the smart home manages to realize cross-brand and cross-category interconnection and interworking, offering consumers complete solutions and applications of intelligent home furnishings. The platform also enables great dockings to product manufacturers, data and interconnections between a large quantity of smart home furnishings and massive numbers of families.

How does Suning plan to expand into the U.S. market?

We have systematic planning toward the U.S. market. Suning is positively exploring the American market through our Silicon Valley Institute set up in 2013. This is our first overseas research institute with a current team capacity of more than 100 experts. Suning is the initiator of intelligent retail, while Suning Silicon Valley Institute has reached great achievements in frontier  technologies like big data collection, high-performance computing and enabling new interactive technologies such as IoT, smart home furnishings, artificial intelligence, AR and VR to be adopted into online and offline applications, making channel businesses and manufacturers more attached to consumers’ demands. Suning also hopes to upgrade the buildup of the supply chain in the U.S. to bring good quality commodities to China.

What is the company’s biggest challenge in the year ahead?

Suning is examining a model of “Amazon + Walmart” without an existing route to follow. Compared to other global retail businesses, what Suning is engaging in both in sense of mode and innovation are all prospective and exploratory. To Suning, the past means from zero to one, and the future is from one to endless developments. The internet and artificial intelligence are altering day by day and we definitely need more global partnerships to explore the unknown world.

How would you like Suning to be viewed in the industry?

Suning’s value proposition is creating a higher quality of life for all through industrial advancements. Quality experiences are emerging to become mainstream. Therefore, Suning will center on consumers’ demands through providing suppliers with big data for reverse customization, pushing forward transformation of the supply-side for a series of quality commodities and services. This is to strengthen Suning as a provider of quality lifestyles and an eco-leader across the whole business field.

Suning's Holdings Group Strategy Crosses Six Industries

  1. Suning Commerce (internet-based retail strategy)
  2. Suning Financial Services
  3. Suning Real Estate
  4. Suning Sports
  5. Suning Media and Entertainment
  6. Suning Investment


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