Wang Jianlin's (L) Wanda has been forced to pull back from overseas investment by Beijing, while Jack Ma's Alibaba is drawing scrutiny form the other side in the US. Photo: AFP

Beijing-based consultants at Egon Zehnder warn this week in Forbes that, as Amazon’s new wave of retail disruption in the US leaves a trail of brick-and-mortar tears in its wake, a storm is brewing in China and retailers are not ready for it.

Retail mogul Wang Jianlin famously bet Jack Ma that brick-and-mortar was here to stay in China, but Paul Liu and co write: “it turns out the real battle isn’t between online and brick-and-mortar at all. Instead, it’s between old retail and New Retail.”

From their article in Forbes:

“The impact of the online-to-offline (or ‘O2O’) revolution is being highly underestimated and stands to take legacy retailers almost completely by surprise. […]

Armed with capital reserves, government protections and growing troves of consumer data, Alibaba and Tencent have both the means and the motive to redefine traditional in-store shopping. And when they do, existing players in the retail ecosystem—from big box retailers to malls, real estate agencies and developers—may face unprecedented disruption. […]

This data [from Amazon’s new grocery shopping HEMA app] gold may be even more valuable than traditional performance indicators like value per order. By bringing online technology for the collection and application of big data into the offline world, Alibaba can ultimately simplify and personalize the shopping experience—creating a competitive edge over traditional retailers which will only intensify. […]

Executed properly, Alibaba’s ‘New Retail’ vision promises not just to remake shopping inside the country, but to leapfrog China ahead of the U.S. and Europe in terms of retail innovation. China is already at the vanguard when it comes to blurring lines between social media, search and e-commerce, with social platforms like Tencent integrating seamless payment and shopping functions, all inside one walled garden.”