When Belle accepted a Hillhouse-led bid to go private in 2017, it cited the need to leverage technology more efficiently in its business as a key reason. Over the last 18 months, the company has made huge strides in building technology into its business, with a particular effort placed on re-imagining how to help consumers get the best personalized products more efficiently.
In an interview with the Chinese version of Harvard Business Review, Belle’s Executive Director Liang Li explains how the company has modernized it operations to better serve customers, both online, and in their stores. Belle has looked at sales conversion rates of women trying shoes on in stores, and by identifying weaknesses in the existing model, was able to improve that rate from 3% to 20%. Similarly, Belle used new technology to look at the different shapes of people’s feet and adjust designs of styles that people like, but were not buying because of comfort issues.
Rather than shying away from its traditional model that leverages the company’s control of its supply chain and footprint of more than 20,000 self-operated stores, Belle now looks at how to use these to its advantage through the use of technology. For example, with foot traffic of more than six million daily customers, Belle has an advantage over online stores, which are seeing growing costs of traffic. The key for Belle ensuring that it can convert that huge traffic into real sales–by having the right products in the right locations, and giving the sales staff the tools to ensure customers could get exactly the products they want quickly and easily.
In the article, Liang Li explains how Belle, which a mere two years ago had fallen behind the retail curve dominated by e-commerce in China, is now using an omni-channel strategy that uses technology in every aspect of its business, to not only catch up with the industry, but in many areas, set the pace for the industry.
The original Harvard Business Review article is available in Chinese.