Three Things Retailers Can Learn from Alibaba’s Jack Ma

Ally Feiam By Ally Feiam | 13 Sep 2019

In the wake of Alibaba CEO, Jack Ma, formally leaving his role in the multi-billion dollar business, there are a few lessons all retailers can take away. 

On Tuesday, the Co-Founder and of Alibaba, has stepped down from his role as CEO on the Chinese e-commerce’s 20th birthday. This comes twelve months after he promised to hand the reins over to Daniel Zhang. Mr Zhang was the previous CEO of Taobao and Tmall, subsidiaries of Alibaba Group.

Despite being a multi-billionaire himself (and the richest man in China), Jack Ma started out poor as he grew up in Communist China, failed university and still managed to create a company that takes up 80 per cent of the Chinese e-commerce share. Alibaba’s sites also account for over 60 per cent of the packages delivered in China.

Today, 20,884 people work for Alibaba, which is more than Yahoo and Facebook combined. But unlike most e-commerce founders and entrepreneurs, Jack Ma had no prior computer or technology experience, yet has proven to be one of the biggest names in the e-commerce industry. So, what are some lessons that e-commerce retailers learn from the proponent of the online conglomerate?

1. Act Fast

When a good idea comes around, don’t waste time before acting. Jack Ma recommends being agile when you make a mistake. If something goes wrong, it’s best to not dwindle on the past, but keep pushing forward as fast as you can. “Adopt and change before any major trends or changes.,” he said. This can be applied to the latest technology, new strategies and other fast-growing tactics. Fro automation to listening to the ‘craziest’ ideas from your employees, it’s important to stay ahead of the curve before you fall too far behind.

2. Focus on Customers

As with most retailers, the focus on Customer Experience is the key to success. Building loyalty is one of the most important parts of creating a profitable company, as Jack Ma often pointed out. “Forget about your competitors, just focus on your customers,” he explained. “Customer first, employees second, and investor third.” Putting the customers above anything else makes a lot of sense. Without the customer, there would be no brand. “I know nothing about technology, I know nothing about marketing, I know nothing about (the legal) stuff. I only know about people,” he said.

3. Automate, Automate, Automate

Innovation is one of the driving points that made Alibaba what it is today. While some companies may shy away from RPA (Robotic Process Automation), Jack Ma and his team utilised it to propel the Chinese e-commerce platform to its current size. “Never ever compete on prices, instead compete on services and innovation,” Mr Ma noted. It’s not just Jack Ma that recommends this tool. “To become a smart business, your firm must enable as many operating decisions as possible to be made by machines fueled by live data rather than by humans supported by their own data analysis,” said Alibaba’s Strategy Chief, Ming Zeng.

Other things that Jack Ma has accomplished can inspire e-commerce retailers. From his menial tasks when he first started Alibaba in 1999 to the empowerment of the ‘little people’, he has created a huge global platform that millions of retailers wish to emulate.

If you’re planning on taking any of his advice, follow a few more of his other rules:

  • “You should learn from your competitor but never copy. Copy and you die.”
  • “If you want to win in the 21st century, yo have to empower others, making sure other people are better than you are. Then you will be successful.”
  • “Don’t hire the most qualified, hire the craziest.”

Jack Ma left Alibaba with a bang on Tuesday, with a four-hour concert, featuring Chinese traditional dances, music and Mr Ma himself ‘shredding’ the guitar in a wig.

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