BEIJING — Things are changing so fast in today's world that companies need to stay on their toes to adapt and innovate to consumers' needs and wants, Suning Vice President Steven Zhang told CNBC.
It's impossible to predict what the world will look like a few years down the line, he said in a rare, exclusive interview. Even with today's e-commerce boom — long hailed as the end of brick-and-mortar stores — Zhang pointed to how customers still check out widgets in shops. Younger consumers, in particular, are looking for a more unique experience.
"Nobody can say in five years … what kind of way people want to shop," Zhang said. "We really need to [understand] our consumer, every second, and study them, and only providing services or things that they want, and be ready for it … what people want is the most important thing."
Suning had a humble start in 1990 distributing air conditioners, and has morphed since then into a retail giant both online and offline, operating 1,600 stores across 700 Chinese cities with a huge digital footprint. It's now China's second-largest private company, and has business in real estate, financial services, media and entertainment.
The Nanjing-based firm, founded by Zhang's father, Zhang Jindong, already owned a top Chinese football club when it made international headlines last year by sweeping up a 70 percent stake in illustrious Italian football club Inter Milan for about $300 million.