On Tuesday, IKEA officially launched a flagship store on Tmall, marking the first time the world’s largest furniture retailer is selling its products on a third-party platform. “The hi-tech and virtual store, which is integrated with IKEA’s membership program, offers over 3,800 popular products and furnishing solutions,” stated the Sweden giant. For now, the new virtual store is only available to consumers in Shanghai and the provinces neighbouring the city.
Then people in Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Anhui could easily buy formiture using Tmall, but the store will gradually expand its coverage to other locations in China, the companies said. Ikea has been relatively slow to adopt e-commerce in China, which accounts for 6% of its global revenues. It started online sales on its own Chinese website in 2018, but they accounted for only 5% of its revenue in the country last year.
“IKEA is the world’s leading home-furnishing retailer and loved by many Chinese consumers,” said Jiang Fan, president of Tmall and Taobao on Alizila. “It is truly exciting for us to help IKEA explore online channels and to enable more Chinese consumers to purchase its products with greater convenience”.
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The Swedish furniture giant recently invested heavily in digital channels and new retail formats, including smaller outlets closer to customers in urban centers as well as a mixed-use shopping center. “The launch of the virtual store at Tmall is truly exciting, and we believe that it will complement existing sales channels, such as our IKEA stores and e-commerce as we come closer to our customers in China,” said Tolga Öncü, retail operations manager of Ingka Group, which owns most IKEA stores worldwide. In China, IKEA operates 30 standard stores, two concept shops and a small-format store. Online, it has its website, app and now the Tmall flagship store.
Virtual shops are not new in China. Chinese e-commerce retailer Yihaodian was the pioneer on this sector creating in 2013 a mobile app that made shopping its site more like an in-store experience. By the way, three years later Alibaba introduced VR shopping, launching its “New Retail” strategy.