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In this interview series, I talk to ecommerce experts, industry professionals, and thought leaders with in-depth knowledge and experience in online shopping trends. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Franklin Chu.

Franklin Chu

Franklin Chu is managing director U.S. for Azoya International, a provider of turnkey cross-border ecommerce solutions to assist retailers looking to expand into China through a cost-effective and lower-risk method. To date, over 100 international retailers and brands in 14 countries have partnered with Azoya to expand into China with ease.

 

He is a trusted China retail expert who is sought-after by global media outlets, including BBC News, WWD, Digital Commerce 360, Retail TouchPoints, SmartBrief, Beauty Matter, American Banker, and Jing Daily.

Can you tell us a bit about your backstory and how you grew up?

My primary professional background is in finance and investing. Investing in the emerging Chinese market enabled me to combine personal and professional interests.

What led you to this specific career path?

Working at Azoya has provided an in-depth involvement in bringing international retailers and brands to China via cross-border ecommerce.  Our core business models integrate detailed knowledge of applicable technologies, marketing practices, logistics, and international finance, which are all brought to bear on behalf of our diverse and global client base.

Can you share the most exciting story that has happened to you since you began at your company?

The most exciting part of working at Azoya is the position and perspective to participate in a dynamic, complex, and vast marketplace while advising clients on how to implement their China entry and growth strategies.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people? 

In addition to launching brands and retailers on China's leading ecommerce platforms, we also offer various other asset-light and cost-effective business models that enable Western brands to access China's consumer base easily.  This also encourages the average Chinese customer to try a wider variety of international products not currently available in China.

What are three traits about yourself that you feel helped fuel your success?

  • Multi-disciplinary approach to problem-solving 
  • Sensitivity to cultural and geographic nuances among global clientele
  • Lifelong learner

What was the original vision for your ecommerce business? 

Our original vision for the business is to facilitate Chinese consumers to buy good products from abroad easily. And ecommerce is the best method to enable that because of the ease of trading via cross-border ecommerce. We are very much reaching our vision.

What pain point(s) were you trying to solve for your customers?

We have two types of customers: global retailers/brands and Chinese consumers. For retailers and brands, the booming Chinese ecommerce market will be irrelevant to them if they cannot break into the market, and their pain point is to discover a solution that can deliver sales and profit while being affordable. Consumers in China are looking for high-quality and original products that are not yet in China, and our solution helps them to buy authentic and high-quality products directly from brands and retailers. 

How do you see the ecommerce industry evolving in the coming years? 

1. Mobile commerce will continue to grow because of the popularizing rate of terminals. 

2. Expansion of social commerce. We can see the trend now, but it will still go viral in the next few years.

3. Cross-border ecommerce will develop in the context of globalization.

How do you balance the need for innovation and experimentation with maintaining a stable, reliable ecommerce infrastructure?

Our digital product team will develop a product roadmap for as long as 36 months to make sure we have a long-term vision of how our infrastructure will develop and make critical changes if needed to be compatible with future businesses. At the same time, we closely monitor consumer behavior changes, operational challenges and allocate resources for innovations. This continued to work well for us as we have always used our technical capability to grow our efficiency or reduce waste.

What five emerging trends do you believe will have the biggest impact on the future of online shopping?

1. The rise of one-hour real-time ecommerce is set to transform the retail environment. According to market predictions, China's one-hour real-time ecommerce business will be worth 11.8 trillion RMB (US$1.7 trillion) by 2030. The increased adoption of online-to-offline (O2O) platforms (particularly Meituan) and unmanned delivery drones and automated vehicles will drive this exponential expansion. This novel retail model provides ease and efficiency and creates new potential for global businesses to contact Chinese consumers in real time.

2. Cross-border ecommerce will inevitably increase, which will be convenient to both merchants and consumers. The advancements in logistics and availability of secure payment solutions play significant roles in it. Consumers benefit from the accessibility of them. Also, the rising of global ecommerce platforms like Amazon, eBay, and Alibaba provides opportunities for people to startup businesses or meet their consumption requirements.

3. Consumption will be personalized products due to the development of soft supply chain skills. Youth groups, especially Gen Z, account for 50% of China's cross-border ecommerce consumers and long for diversified and customized commodities. It could be satisfied by soft supply chain skills based on audience segments and specific big data. A study by the Boston Consulting Group found that consumers were 110% more likely to add additional items to their cart when offered a highly individualized shopping experience. 

4. Merchants or brands will be more anthropomorphic. Leveraging cutting-edge technology like Chat GPT, AR, and VR, brands provide more immersive shopping experiences for consumers, increasing sales. Amazon launched “Room Decorator” to show the actual effect of the furniture placed in users’ houses by AR to improve the efficiency of decision-making.

5. Various ecommerce business models may come up and evolve. In the last few years, short videos, live streams, private traffic marketing, united ecommerce, and social media shaped the industries. Once novel applications or convenient channels show up, brands and merchants will invest in them.

Is there a past trend that’s now common practice in ecommerce that you would have spent 50% more time focusing on? Which one and why?

Integrating ecommerce technologies and complex digital marketing has raised the demands for all serious players in cross-border ecommerce. 

Looking ahead, what are the biggest opportunities and challenges facing the ecommerce industry, and how do you plan to address them in the coming years?

The biggest opportunities: As more regions and countries continue to improve their internet infrastructure and increase internet penetration, ecommerce has the potential for further global expansion. This opens up new markets and customer bases for businesses to tap into. Additionally, incorporating emerging technologies like augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and voice commerce can provide immersive and convenient shopping experiences.

The biggest challenges would be, first, competition and market saturation. As the ecommerce industry continues to grow, competition among online retailers intensifies. Staying competitive requires businesses to differentiate themselves through unique value propositions, superior customer service, and innovative offerings.

Then we have last-mile delivery and logistics. Efficient and reliable last-mile delivery remains a challenge for ecommerce companies. Businesses need to optimize their supply chain, explore innovative delivery options, and collaborate with logistics partners to ensure timely and cost-effective order fulfillment.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most good to the most people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Global ecommerce offers many opportunities to educate consumers about diverse cultures that may encourage greater mutual understanding and goodwill among people worldwide.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

On LinkedIn and at www.azoyagroup.com.


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By Francois Marchand

Francois Marchand is The Ecomm Manager's content strategist and editor. He is passionate about helping and educating business leaders, ecommerce professionals, and digital marketers grow their skill sets to stay ahead of the competition. Francois holds a BA Specialization in Communication Studies & Journalism from Concordia University (Montreal, QC) and 20+ years of experience in ecommerce, marketing, traditional and digital media, and public relations, including The Vancouver Sun, National Post, CBC/Radio-Canada, Unbounce, and Vancouver Film School. He also hosts The Ecomm Manager Podcast, discussing ecommerce best practices, customer experience, branding, inventory management, shipping and delivery, and analytics with expert guests.