Case Study

HEMA in China: Is Alibaba ahead of Amazon in retailing?

15 pages
February 2020
Reference: IMD-7-2097

The case describes the dynamics and potential transition of grocery shopping into New Retail concept – a term introduced by Jack Ma and projected to disrupt the way retail industry is working now. The Case discusses and hints that there might be a different game Alibaba and Amazon are playing when merging online and offline shopping and creating a new customer experience with their respective HeMa and AmazonGo initiatives. The hype around the concept with likes of Starbucks and Zara trying to create strategic partnerships with Alibaba for creating the New Retail format suggest that there is a bigger picture involved. The Case highlights the difference in the resources and capabilities utilized by the New Retail players and the traditional brick and mortar retailers, such as Wall Mart, Carrefour and others and suggests that the wholistic “ecosystem” approach might bring a different flavour to the traditionally low margin industry through leveraging the payment system and creating a last mile delivery platform for further growth.

Learning Objective
  • How and why develop long-term initiative outside of its core business and what are the strategic implication in terms of resources and competences adaptation.
  • Understanding the difference between traditional and platform business scalability, networking potential and monetization.
  • How grocery Key Success Factors are influenced by introduction of new technologies.
  • How initiative addresses one or more aspects of the “protecting”, “growing” and “creating” strategic horizons.
Platform, Digital Transformation, Retail
Alibaba Group, Hema, Amazon, Consumer Services, Retail, Consumer Goods, Information Technology, eCommerce
Published Sources
© 2020
Available Languages
Related material
Teaching note
Case clearing houses
IMD case studies are distributed through case clearing houses. In order to browse the collection and purchase copies please visit the links below.

The Case Centre

Cranfield University

Wharley End Beds MK43 0JR, UK
Tel +44 (0)1234 750903
Email [email protected]

Harvard Business School Publishing

60 Harvard Way, Boston MA 02163, USA
Tel (800) 545-7685 Tel (617)-783-7600
Fax (617) 783-7666
Email [email protected]

Asia Pacific Case Center

NUCB Business School

1-3-1 Nishiki Naka
Nagoya Aichi, Japan 460-0003
Tel +81 52 20 38 111
Email [email protected]


Research Information & Knowledge Hub for additional information on IMD publications

Best-selling Case Study
Discover our latest research
IMD's faculty and research teams publish articles, case studies, books and reports on a wide range of topics