E-Commerce in China Includes 'Butlers,' Anti-Fraud Chips


The Corner

Online Italian retailer Yoox is about to bring its multi-brand luxury boutique, the Corner, to China.  An outline of their launch shows some noteworthy differences between e-commerce in the West and East.

First up is counterfeit prevention: every item the site sells comes embedded with an anti-fraud chip operating on a radio frequency.  That way, if someone returns a garment without a chip, everyone knows immediately that the return item’s a knock-off (compare this to what we have in the U.S. — a paper tag).

Then there’s a difference online retail shoppers might actually like — besides the anti-fraud chips, all of the Corner’s next-day deliveries in China arrive with a “butler.”  This person waits outside while buyers try on their orders and decide what to keep.  (How is this possible economically?  Those deliverymen can’t be paid much if this business model is sustainable.  Wage gaps in China must be even worse than we thought we knew.)

Meanwhile, there are a few more differences — the 60/40 ratio of women’s to men’s clothing is reversed for the Chinese site, and the clothing will all be altered to include tags with Chinese sizing.  After hearing about other online retailers’ blundering attempts to launch in China, it sounds like the Corner is experimenting to find just the right model. Still, it remains to be seen whether it’ll work.