Discussion

A new focus on digital commerce
requires revolutionary changes in work styles and our entire company

  • Masanobu Kusaka: Joined Fast Retailing as a new graduate in 1995. Currently, Group Senior Vice President in charge of Global E-Commerce Operations.

  • Xiaozhou Wang: Joined Fast Retailing in 2011 from an internationally affiliated strategic consulting firm.
    Currently Group Senior Vice President in charge of Global E-Commerce Project Promotion.

  • Shinpei Otani: Joined Fast Retailing in 2016 from a large e-commerce firm. Currently Group Senior Vice President in charge of Global E-Commerce Systems Development.

  • Hideaki Takada: Joined Fast Retailing in 2016 from an international investment bank. Currently Group Senior Vice President in charge of Global E-Commerce Logistics.

The ultimate aim is not to create a perfect e-commerce operation, but to explore how we can change and improve value provision

Masanobu Kusaka
I have worked at Fast Retailing for nearly 25 years now, and seen the company grow much faster than I would ever have imagined. No sooner had the company branched out from regional Yamaguchi Prefecture into Tokyo than it became Japan's No.1 specialty retailer of private-label apparel (SPA), and subsequently rapidly developed a grand-scale global operation. I had the privilege of working as the first manager of the New York Fifth Avenue store when it opened, competing alongside many global brands from around the world. I also got to experience how the rapid digitalization of American society threatened to destabilize existing industrial structures.
Shinpei Otani
Uber and Airbnb are great examples of new digital technology-driven business models that are eating away at former industrial structures, and offering revolutionary new services for our future society.
Masanobu Kusaka
I first sensed this when I was working in the United States, and the fact that our competitors were starting to change. We realized that there was nothing to stop new entrants to Uber and Airbnb disrupting the fashion industry. That's when our CEO Tadashi Yanai formalized his vision to transform our company into a digital consumer retailing company, and I was assigned to lead the development of a solid e-commerce operation after returning from the U.S. That vision was the solution to my nascent concerns. It is clear that UNIQLO's former way of doing business by "mass producing large volumes of quality goods to sell at reasonable prices" had reached a crucial turning point. Under that model, we suffered shortages of strong-selling items, and were left with excess stock of less-popular items. A wasteful operation makes neither the company nor its customers happy. The answer is simple. Offer customers the exact amount of desired products, when they want them. To date, the customer has been positioned at the end of our supply chain. From now on, the customer will be the source, or the font, of all our business operations. This is the format we need to build a digital retailing business, and, in essence, kickstart a UNIQLO-driven industrial revolution.
Xiaozhou Wang
The things Kusaka-san is talking about are only possible because UNIQLO has developed an extremely successful physical business on a global scale. This means our aims for developing a digital retailing focus are completely different to our competitors. We don't just want to sell products online. UNIQLO already boasts a network of over 2,000 stores worldwide, and that is one of our great strengths. As far as our customers are concerned, they are just looking to get the items they want when they want them, regardless of whether they purchase online or instore. We are currently working hard to coordinate our physical store network and online operation by optimizing online-to-offline (O2O) benefits, and creating broader frameworks to empower this drive.

Determine, develop and control
all e-commerce related operations ourselves.

Hideaki Takada
Our company is so much more dynamic since we started pursuing a digital retailing focus. Before that, we often used to outsource the development of e-commerce related functions, and weren't able to achieve what we wanted with any speed. We completely changed direction by taking on the responsibility for devising and implementing all necessary e-commerce functions ourselves. The same goes for the logistics functions that I am in charge of. Our distribution operation used to be outsourced to an external partner, but about a year ago, we decided we should manage its ourselves, and started building an insourced distribution operation with the introduction of the automated Ariake warehouse. We are determined to take over end-to-end responsibility for our entire operation from product manufacture right through to end-customer delivery. By controlling everything ourselves, we are able to carve new value that only UNIQLO can offer, and our staff feel motivated to rise to the challenge.
Shinpei Otani
I am responsible for e-commerce related IT, but I am also wanting to promote powerful insourced development of e-commerce systems for global application. As Wang-san mentioned earlier, the e-commerce operation we are aiming for is different to our competitors, and is much harder to achieve. Right now, there are few successful global internet companies from Japan, and even fewer examples of companies which manufacture actual products themselves and then seek to transform into a digital-oriented company. UNIQLO has already developed a strong presence through its products and stores, so our current mission is not to operate as a simple online company, but to maximize the strength of our products and store networks to help create a framework that enables customers around the world to easily purchase UNIQLO items, whenever and wherever they want. It is a really challenging mission, but leading a team tasked with building such a framework at tremendous speed is also extremely exciting and stimulating.
Masanobu Kusaka
Otani-san, as the name suggests, your Global E-Commerce Systems Development team is truly global isn't it!
Shinpei Otani
Yes, it sure is. My team is made of up staff with many different nationalities, ways of thinking and values. For me, it is very interesting to create a single, solid vector that helps all staff understand UNIQLO's culture and philosophy, and build a strong global organization.
Xiaozhou Wang
Fast Retailing's corporate statement commits to "Changing clothes. Changing conventional wisdom. Change the world" but we haven't achieved this yet in the e-commerce field. I want to make sure we do achieve this, and also become the world's No.1 in various different areas.

Pursuing customer-driven e-commerce
will ensure UNIQLO position as vital infrastructure

Masanobu Kusaka
Our ultimate aim is to develop UNIQLO into such a vital part of social infrastructure that we can't imagine life without it. In other words, we need to develop our e-commerce operation into essential life infrastructure just like electricity or water, and until we do that, we can't call ourselves the true No.1 global brand. I think we definitely have the potential to achieve this. It is a fact that many people around the world today wear UNIQLO brand clothing. Whenever I go to a parents' evening for my child, lots of the other mums and dads thank me and UNIQLO for the clothing we offer (LOL). In fact, I don't think any other company has such a great impact on people's everyday lives. Having said that, people also come to us freely with their complaints. That's because they expect so much from us, and we have plenty of opportunity to improve and expand.
Shinpei Otani
Our customers have the answers, don't they! The closer we get to fulfilling their demands, the closer we get to becoming world No.1.
Masanobu Kusaka
I think UNIQLO is one of the few Japanese companies that could command a strong global presence even in e-commerce. Most of today's online operators are just simple product-selling platforms. They conduct one-to-one marketing. However, customers don't necessarily want to be given personalized product offerings, but just be able to buy what they want with the least stress. Pursuing customer-driven e-commerce will enable us to learn just what customers really want. That in turn will enable us to make and offer ultimate, perfectly finished products.
Hideaki Takada
We want to exceed customer expectations on the distribution and delivery front as well. Today, we all accept that we have to wait to receive online purchases at a fixed delivery time, but what customers really want is to have their online purchases delivered at a time and place most convenient to them. We have already set up a system for picking up online purchases from a local UNIQLO store, but there are many hurdles still to overcome before we can deliver purchases to customers without them having to select from specific delivery time and location options. We are currently exploring different ways of overcoming these hurdles.

Chances to change the world from Japan
don't come around often

Xiaozhou Wang
Our ultimate aim is to make our e-commerce systems a breeze for customers to use without placing an excess burden on our in-store staff. We want to use digital technology to make our operations more efficient, so that any time gained can be channeled into communicating with customers. It is extremely difficult to achieve these aims to an equally high standard. Furthermore, UNIQLO enjoys an extremely broad customer base among men and women of all ages, and not all our customers are familiar with digital devices. We have to devise an e-commerce operation that those customers can also enjoy.
Hideaki Takada
We have to develop these challenging areas across our global operations. The scale of this task can sometimes feel overwhelming, but it is also a great source of motivation and inspiration.
Masanobu Kusaka
Yes, we are presented with a constant stream of difficult issues and are always having to rise to the challenge, but I think this is what is so exciting about working at UNIQLO. We often look back with amazement on the great things we have achieved, but that is precisely why we have chosen to build our career here.
Shinpei Otani
I am an IT specialist, but I like the fact that I am not treated any different to anyone else at UNIQLO. The world we want to build cannot be created by IT alone. It requires combined, concerted effort alongside business team members. I feel right at home here. As Kusaka-san said earlier, many of my family, friends and people around me love UNIQLO clothes, and it feels great to know that any new system we create will make many people happy. We can also provoke great changes in the physical world as well. I don't think I would have felt this influence so strongly if I had worked in an IT company.
Masanobu Kusaka
We are not looking for people who want to work in a high-tech company, but rather people who want to apply their different fields of expertise to the pursuit of commercial business. At UNIQLO, we are in the business of making customers happy through UNIQLO clothing. We are keen to invite people who find that battle attractive to come and join us.
Xiaozhou Wang
I think our company is in a great position right now. We have a global store network and strong brand visibility. We also have ample resources at our disposal. Our efforts to expand our e-commerce business will have a huge impact on the world, and the work that we do will leave a positive mark on society. To have the chance to do all that from Japan. That kind of opportunity doesn't come around every day.
Masanobu Kusaka
I believe UNIQLO is the only Japanese company capable of fueling a digital revolution in the retailing industry. When I am asked what UNIQLO business will look like ten years from now, I don't think we have the words in the Japanese language to explain the concept and how far we will have progressed. That is the level of ambition at which we operate. UNIQLO is determined to create LifeWear that enriches people's everyday lives, and completing this industrial revolution will make people happy all over the world. I invite anyone who shares the same level of ambition to further UNIQLO's unique strengths and strategies to join with us in what I can guarantee will be an exciting career journey.

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