HKTDC International Sourcing Show: O2O strategies vital for businesses during pandemic

HONG KONG, Mar 23, 2021 – (ACN Newswire via – The ability to harness big data and leverage e-commerce opportunities has become key to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) looking to make breakthroughs under the new normal. To help SMEs adapt to the changing landscape and adopt online-to-offline/offline-to-online (O2O) strategies, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) has launched the “Let’s Go Phygital: Power Up for the New Normal” seminar series with the support of AsiaWorld-Expo and the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. The first round of webinars was held as part of the HKTDC International Sourcing Show with sessions including “International Sourcing Outlook”, “Survive and Thrive: Leveraging End-to-end E-commerce Solutions” and “Utilising Licensing to Expand Your Business”. Speakers used insights derived from big data and e-commerce solutions to identify some of the paths to business success in 2021.

At the Plenary Session of the HKTDC International Sourcing Show, industry leaders shared on the latest market trends at a webinar titled “International Sourcing Outlook”. Speakers included (L-R) Benson Ng, Hong Kong Business Consulting Leader at EY; Shinya Hisanaga, Director at AEON Stores (HK); Flavien Serra, Founder at DTL Sourcing; and Fione Tan, Co-founder at

Plato Wai, General Manager Hong Kong at SHOPLINE, shared his experience helping brands open their online stores at the “Survive and Thrive: Leveraging End-to-end E-commerce Solutions” webinar

Ryan Lee, Co-founder and EVP of SmartStudy, shared his insights and experiences from the perspective of a licensor at the “Utilising Licensing to Expand Your Business” webinar

Three product categories with big prospects

During the webinar titled “International Sourcing Outlook”, Benson Ng, Hong Kong Business Consulting Leader at consulting group EY, reviewed World Trade Organisation (WTO) statistics showing that the volume of world merchandise trade shrank 9.2% in 2020. Asia experienced a lesser decline, however, with imports falling 7.1% and exports dipping 3.9%. Following a challenging 2020, Mr Ng expressed a degree of optimism for the year ahead. “The anticipation for 2021 is that we will all start to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. The WTO projects that global merchandise trade will grow by 7.2% during the first quarter of 2021 and could “recover a significant portion of what was lost in 2020”.

To spur trade, Mr Ng suggested that businesses focus on three major themes for corporate development. First, they need to pay attention to the changing global supply chain, which saw more customers sourcing within the region during the pandemic. Second, they must be willing to adopt digitisation – an area on which EY is placing considerable emphasis, “not just for content, but also for electronic transactions and insights for automation”. Third, they should focus on sustainable products, plant-based nutrition and electric vehicles. In the next 10 to 20 years, these three themes will be highly influential and “enterprises will find tremendous opportunities by focusing on these areas,” Mr Ng explained.

Devin Dai, Director of Category Management at, identified the sales trends of 2021 by deciphering the market data collected by his company. He said that casual is the most popular style for fashion, while for home furnishings the keywords are “transitional, modern luxury, glam and minimalist”. In the beauty products arena, home-use beauty equipment is a breakout category while the market for natural and organic products is growing substantially with a loyal customer base. In addition, the printing and packaging market is growing at a blistering pace, in part because beauty products need reliable packaging when they are sold overseas, and also because brands are increasingly looking for environmentally friendly biodegradable packaging materials to enhance their branding power.

Livestreaming and KOC marketing yield remarkable results

Although many SMEs recognise the power of e-commerce, few have the capabilities to follow it through. At the “Survive and Thrive: Leveraging End-to-end E-commerce Solutions” webinar, Plato Wai, General Manager Hong Kong of SHOPLINE, spotlighted three smart commerce trends that his company observed after helping brands open online stores. The first is O2O data synchronisation. Many companies operate both physical and online shops yet keep sales data and customer information separate. To improve administration, SHOPLINE provides an iPad point of sale system that helps merchants synchronise their online and offline data. Secondly, SHOPLINE’s Smart Ads system uses artificial intelligence to measure the performance of online ads. When an ad underperforms, the system will reallocate the budget to better-performing ads so that merchants can deploy their advertising budget more effectively.

Mr Wai also suggested that Hong Kong businesses be aware of the potential of social commerce – a form of sales using livestreaming to showcase and sell products that has become particularly popular in Mainland China and some Southeast Asian countries. “Many brands that focus on selling through livestreaming do not even have an online storefront,” Mr Wai said, noting that some social media platforms do not include a sales function. In response, SHOPLINE offers a convenient service to partner brands. When a customer types in a keyword while watching livestreaming on Facebook, for example, he or she will receive a link via Messenger. Clicking on the link will lead the customer directly to the store’s checkout page with the product already in the shopping cart.

Elijah Whaley, VP of Marketing, APAC, at PARKLU by Launchmetrics, is an expert on key opinion leader (KOL) management and marketing strategies in Mainland China. He said that the customer acquisition cost of online advertising in the mainland is rising continually, which is leading to Chinese brands developing new collaboration models with their KOCs – key opinion consumers. KOCs are new customers who become return customers and then promote the products to family and friends to turn them into loyal customers. The KOC market is expanding rapidly and Whaley cited the example of Wang Liao Ji, which created a marketing campaign that fused celebrities and KOCs and generated 362 million impressions. “This was much more than any KOL could have achieved and created a community around the product itself,” Mr Whaley said.

Prospective licensing agents must “do their homework”

At the “Utilising Licensing to Expand Your Business” webinar, Marilu Corpus, Managing Director for Asia at MDR Brand Management, offered what was essentially an introductory course in brand licensing. She went over the responsibilities of stakeholders and the preparations and considerations that prospective brand licensees need to make. She also reminded those interested in becoming licensing agents to “do their homework”, such as finding out whether a brand already has other licensing agents to avoid potential problems. They should also consider cultural differences and whether the products they represent are incompatible with certain religions. Ms Corpus added that licensed products are all competing for shelf space. “Since the stockpiles of 2020 are still unresolved, department stores and physical stores may not be keen to bring in new products. As a result, online sales become a key channel.”

Speaking from the perspective of a licensor, Ryan Lee, Co-founder and EVP of SmartStudy, explained how Pinkfong and Baby Shark evolved from a nursery rhyme into a global brand and generated impressive returns for the licensing agents. For example, after WowWee, a toy brand, was granted the license to produce Baby Shark dolls, it created a product that at one point became the world’s best-selling toy. And, after releasing Pinkfong Baby Shark ice-cream, Nestle Malaysia attracted more than 15,000 participants to related events and sold 12,000 ice-creams in four days. “The partner companies achieved remarkable results, and the customers were happy. It was fantastic,” said Mr Lee.

The International Sourcing Show is the first online-and-offline exhibition organised by the HKTDC. The event runs from 17 March to 29 July under the theme “Your Source of Inspiration” and showcases a spectrum of quality lifestyle products and solutions under four main categories. The show is hosting a total of 17 webinars with more than 60 industry luminaries invited to share their insights and ideas. A number of highlighted webinars were held during the first three days of the online show (17 to 19 March), to allow buyers and exhibitors more time to focus on making business connections on subsequent days up until 31 March. These highlighted webinars are available for viewing now at the International Sourcing Show’s Intelligence Hub website.

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The Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) is a statutory body established in 1966 to promote, assist and develop Hong Kong’s trade. With 50 offices globally, including 13 in Mainland China, the HKTDC promotes Hong Kong as a two-way global investment and business hub. The HKTDC organises international exhibitions, conferences and business missions to create business opportunities for companies, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), in the mainland and international markets. The HKTDC also provides up-to-date market insights and product information via trade publications, research reports and digital news channels. For more information, please visit: Follow us on Twitter @hktdc and LinkedIn

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