How Marketing Trends Are Shaping Organisational Needs in China

4 minute read

Two key aspects needed to unlock success in China are: having the right organisational design, and recruiting and retaining the best talent.

While Hot Pot helps forward-thinking brands with a holistic approach to China marketing, we rely on our trusted partner network to advise on wider operational considerations across the China value chain.

Adam Sandzer, Strategy Director at Hot Pot, recently spoke to Chris Hu, BI Development Director, at retail and consumer service company FESCOAdecco, to discuss key trends in the China retail market and the impact that they are having on human resources.


Adam Sandzer: China is a leading market for eCommerce and online/offline integration, which has grown even larger as a result of Covid-19. How has this shift towards digital impacted organisational design?

Chris Hu: Digitalisation has been accelerated by Covid-19. Chinese consumers have been spoiled by the convenience of combining well-established shopping platforms with a strong nation-wide logistics network.

Organisations are definitely moving more headcount to digital functions, however, where that headcount sits within the organisation is evolving.

Previously, the digital function typically sat within the Marketing team. Now, it is often a parallel function, or a digital version of the trade marketing team. Corporations, such as Unilever, even have a special operations team to cooperate with Alibaba/Taobao, similar to a key accounts team dedicated to serving large customers like Carrefour or Tesco.


AS: And what impact does this have on recruitment?

CH: Digital hires used to receive comparatively high packages, as a result of fast growth and limited talent. However, it has evened out as the pool of qualified talent has grown wider.

That said, shoppers still desire personal experiences with the products they plan to purchase. While some innovation has attempted to humanize the online experience, especially during Covid-19 lockdown, digital connections between store staff and shoppers are still weak.

Brands need a new generation team that combines retail, marketing and operations. Team members will need to combine in-store experience in shopper engagement, store management, and logistics, with digital solutions covering data collection, analytics, and BI systems. To lead agile practices, they will need to be open-minded, willing to develop new solutions, and always learning.

Internally, companies should empower passionate and experienced employees across retail, marketing, trade and research teams, who can upskill their knowledge about digitalisation and BI systems. Then, they can focus on how to solve pain points, such as staff ROI, management efficiencies, and membership activation.

Externally, brands should look for talent that understands the possibilities of digital solutions and also have a strong understanding of the underlying business. Most organisational needs can be fulfilled by ready-made solutions from digital vendors, so companies should look for talent that has experience in adapting those solutions to businesses.


AS: As a result of lockdown, many Chinese consumers have reassessed their values and have placed a greater emphasis on their health and wellbeing. How has this increased focus on work-life balance affected work practices?

CH: Flexible staffing is the hot topic of 2020 in the HR industry. Lots of companies – from traditional HR service companies, new online solution companies, and transformational HR service companies like FESCOAdecco – are keen to get a slice of the pie.

Our definition of flexible staffing positions is those for whom employers do not pay social insurance.

Employers face less risks, such as layoff costs, and therefore it means a more flexible staff cost. This mitigates risks if a future crisis such as Covid-19 were to come again.

Flexible staffing positions should have specific deliverables, be measurable by the job or by time, not require comprehensive training, recognise relevant experience, and can be paid on an hourly or daily basis.

Flexible staffing positions are mostly in the logistics and delivery industry, followed by retail store staff. There are very few roles in areas that require more nuanced experience or skills. That said, there are exceptions such as designers, finance, and accounting.

Flexible staffing will make it easier for people who are looking for a work-life balance, as they can only work for 4 hours a day if they wish. However, this also means unstable income. Younger people in their 20s love this new way of working, as they can try different roles and different locations. However, older workers are typically less interested in flexible positions.


AS: Particularly among younger consumers, we have observed a rise in national pride, with growing interest and demand for Chinese brands. Has this also had an impact on how quickly domestic brands are hiring? Has this had any effect (positive or negative) on how international brands are hiring?

CH: I’m not an expert in macro-trends related to staffing, so my point of view is based on my personal experience.

For the past 30 years or so, international brands have helped to develop a lot of marketing and retail talent within the China market.

National pride is rising, and China is growing. At the same time, international companies are becoming less competitive in the market. The movement of talent from international brands to domestic brands has always been present, but it has definitely accelerated over the last 10 years.

International brands are now on the same level playing field with domestic brands. To be more attractive to the top talent, they need to demonstrate unique advantages and benefits of working with the company.

Get in touch with us to find out how savvy strategic planning, campaign management and in-market support can help you make the most of your China opportunity.

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