United NationsDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

New infrastructure of E-Commerce empowers women employment and career development in the digital era

    Description
    Intro

    United Nations Industrial Development Organization’s study has shown that the process of industrial digital transformation has created a unique opportunity to promote gender equality as well as inclusive and sustainable industrialization. Especially in the digital era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the new infrastructure of e-commerce is increasingly evolving in the direction of decentralization, which also leads to more opportunities for women empowerment and contributes to achieve the pledge of "Leave No One Behind". The Idol Group, as the pioneer in the industry, has innovated the infrastructure of e-commerce by using the decentralized community platform as a new type of internet infrastructure, which has improved the economic and social status of more than two million women across China, both in urban and rural areas. Idol Group’s practice contributed to promote empowerment of women through digital technology which enables them to have economic gains and self-employment opportunities while sharing their feedback as consumers and promoters. At the 2020 World Artificial Intelligence Conference Summit Online · AI Female Elite Forum, UNIDO ITPO Shanghai, together with Shanghai Women’s Federation and other organizations, jointly launched the “AI Development Needs More Women’s Power” initiative, and Idol Group actively responded to this call by establishing the "Enterprise-level Women's Federation" to further promote women empowerment and support more women across China. So far, the Idol Group has distributed corporate resources and 3-billion RMB promotion commission to the women involved, and helped millions of women to get decent jobs and considerable income, which significantly encourages women in both urban and rural areas to pursue economic independence, raise female voices and further ignite SHE power. Idol Group’s practice fully illustrates that building resilient internet infrastructure and fostering innovation will be beneficial to empower women’s career development, and increasing the number and quality of women's participation in the digital transformation of industrialization will bring positive economic and social benefits, as well as inspiring and creating more corporate innovation cases at the micro level.

    Description

    Idol Group’s practice is guided by three overarching objectives: developing new internet infrastructure and effective mechanism to improve online business-matching efficiency, empowering women employment across different tier markets through unleashing dynamic and competitive economic forces that generate income, and contributing to poverty reduction both in urban and rural areas. In terms of developing new internet infrastructure and effective mechanism, Idol Group aims to innovate and operate the new infrastructure platform of decentralized community e-commerce, which will be able to meet better needs of both brand-owners and consumers, and brings them closer with lower cost and higher efficiency, thus achieving more added value and improving online business-matching mechanism. All the relevant stakeholders are utilizing the new innovations brought about by the new infrastructure such as mobile Internet and 5G, as well as new communication models. The new mechanism will also be anticipated to activate the potential labor force that benefit from the sharing economy, especially the females in the low-income rural areas. Based on the development of this new infrastructure and new mechanism, growing women employment and career development will be likely to proportionally empowered across different markets, covering consumers and promoters from the top-tier cities to fifth-tier cities. The straightforward sharing mechanism and wide coverage will lead to positive impacts for females in different tiers of cities and working backgrounds to participate and progress. It is achieved due to the fact that the consumption and promotion process becomes more simple and convenient based on the new infrastructure and mechanism, which largely lowers the working barrier for females from all walks of life to have command of the basic operations with appropriate social attributes. However, it is not easy for these females to further improve their professional communication skills and serve their clients better on their own. In order to solve this problem and further ignite these females’ career potentials, Idol Group established Idol School to provide capacity building and systematic training for them. Both new infrastructure and women empowerment contribute to enable the efficient use of resources, and reduce poverty in the impoverished areas. The new business model based on the new infrastructure empowers more females with different academic and working background to gain the opportunity to develop their promising career through the systematic training and strong support from the Idol Group. Idol Group’s one-stop centers provides these females, especially those in rural areas, with the chance to generate extra income during their leisure times, and it will lead to their further ambition to pursue more economic independence and utilize their stronger power.

    Contribution to SDG Implementation

    SDG 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure Inclusive and sustainable development on the new infrastructure plays a key role in introducing and promoting new technologies, accelerateing economic growth and fostering innovation. The Idol Group has built a new decentralized community e-commerce infrastructure by linking brand-owners with consumers and promoters, which provides brand-owners with new marketing channels and offering consumers a new purchase platform based on the effective mechanism. The COVID-19 pandemic is causing disruptions in global value chains and the supply of products, and it revealed the urgent need for resilient infrastructure. Innovation and technological progress are key to finding lasting solutions to both economic and social challenges. Idol Group’s technological development of decentralized community e-commerce infrastructure has improved the efficiency of connecting supply and demand on the global value chain with higher efficiency and lower cost. SDG 5: Gender Equality Gender equality is not only the fundamental human right, but the necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates existing inequalities for women across every sphere. Women are harder hit by the economic impacts of COVID-19 as they are more vulnerable and have reduced access to employment. The Idol Group provides flexible employment positions for laid-off/unemployed/low-income female, and also helps housewives to get a stable and substantial level of income as their husbands while remaining indoors and taking care of children, thus lifting their economic and social status and promoting gender balance in the family. The promtion of Idol Group’s practice also contributes to boost females’ confidence and aspiration in establishing their own promising career and taping their limitless potential through the utilization of digital technology and sustainable innovation.

    Implementation methodologies

    In order to achieve the overarching goal of promoting new infrastructure, empowering women and reducing poverty, he Idol Group implemented a detailed work plan based on three pillars: decentralized e-commerce platform, systematic capacity building and cooperation with brand-owners. Regarding the development of the decentralized e-commerce platform, Idol Group is devoted to keeping the pace with the industry by introducing more relevant stakeholders and establishing the healthy ecosystem for the new business model. The core of this business model is enabling the multiple role of consumers and promoters, in which they serve different roles of community operators, online store operators and customer service providers, as well as loyal consumers. The future implementation plan to improve the decentralized e-commerce platform will be carried out through the continuous innovation and evolution of the technology and business models. In terms of the systematic capacity building, the implementation plan is established based on providing training to a specific group of female according to certain timeline and locations, which can be illustrated as follows: providing training to females in first and second tier cities from January to June, 2019; females in third and fourth tier cities from July to October, 2019; females in some cities to engage in full-time work from November 2019 to February 2020; unemployed females affected by the pandemic from March to August, 2020; females from some rural areas and female college students from September to December 2020; females in Southeast Asian countries and in countries along the Belt and Road from January to June 2021. To this end, the Idol Group has established a specialized team to be responsible for the progress of the project and promote the project to be implemented on schedule. They are required to promptly carry out skill training for the relevant personnel of the project, fully coordinate the various resources of the project, summarize and evaluate the phased results of the project, as well as setting up training courses, recruiting relevant personnel, conducting online and offline training, and developing various systems. Regarding the cooperation with brand-owners, Idol Group is aiming to serve thousands of high-quality brands. To maximize the effect of cooperation with brand-owners, Idol Group holds Idol Market Business-matchmaking events to discover and connect more high-quality brand-owners and involve them in the sharing ecosystem. Idol Group is also well aware of the need for innovation and exploration, therefore, by cooperating with the Research Institute of E-commerce of Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, Idol Group carefully studies the decentralized community e-commerce model, marketing focus of brand-owners and promotion behavior of consumers, which will be contributed to the successful implementation of the project.

    Results

    Idol Group’s practice has brought both economic and social benefits. In terms of the economic impact, Idol Group has benefited both consumer/promoters and brand-owners. So far Idol Group has empowered more than 2 million consumer/promoters and served more than 1,000 brands, among them nearly 100 thousand are active every day, and more than 95% are women. At present, 54% of consumer/promoters regard it as her own small business. This innovative business models not only offers them jobs, but also provide them with the average monthly income of 3,000-10,000 RMB. Compared with the traditional e-commerce model, the new infrastructure platform of decentralized community e-commerce meets brand-owners demands to serve the consumers with lower cost and higher efficiency, as well as the consumers’ demands to purchase goods at a better price with lower time cost. In this process, these brands have come in contact with more than 100 million consumers, concluded more than 10 million transactions and sold more than 300 million products. Moreover, the Idol Group paid more than 3 billion RMB of promotion commissions to consumer/promoters on behalf of the brand-owners, which brought social benefits by improving the status of these female in their family, helping them to lift their social status and expanding their social connections, thus contributing to overall women empowerment and poverty reduction. Therefore, Idol Group managed to promote women empowerment in the digital era by utilizing the new infrastructure of decentralized community e-commerce platform. By cultivating female’s ability of community marketing, Idol Group offers women in the cities with part-time jobs, so that women from different tiers of cities will have average part-time income of 2000-5000 RMB or full-time income of 8000-20000 RMB. During the outbreak of COVID-19, the Idol Group utilized its experience to provide women in trouble with the opportunity to gain extra income. Accordingly, the Idol Group also provided women in the rural area with part-time and full-time community marketing jobs to help them earn more money, so that they can stay at home to take care of their families, thereby reducing the number of left-behind children in rural areas. Another highlight of Idol Group’s practice is that it largely scales up the benefit of sharing economy from top-tier citizens to under-educated females in the impoverished areas, and this shared prosperity practice has embodied the sustainablility and replicability of this business model, which is likely to be further scaled up in other countries and benefit more people in different areas of the world.

    Factors and Constraints

    Enabling factors: The Idol Group invested nearly 500 million RMB in building a decentralized community e-commerce infrastructure, providing new e-commerce infrastructure for the new online economy, serving suppliers, shopkeepers, and consumers and creating value to the society in the following aspects: software and technical services (SaaS), supply chain services (Supply Chain), skills training (Skill) and after-sales service (Service). Constrains: The Idol Group faces the following three problems in developing decentralized community e-commerce business: First, consumers still need a certain amount of time to switch from platform-based e-commerce shopping to accepting and adapting to new consumption methods. To this end, the possible solution Idol Group has taken is to establish sales points for display in some cities, sell products with high brand awareness, and adopt a seven-day free return and exchange guarantee mechanism. The second problem is that the marketing and service capabilities of consumers and promoters need to be improved. The measures Idol Group has taken is to strengthen various training and set up focal points. The third problem is that people's awareness of flexible employment needs to be strengthened. The measure Idol Group has taken is to cooperate with international organizations, government departments and industry associations to enhance the social influence of flexible employment.

    Sustainability and replicability

    Equipped with three pillars of new infrastructure, women empowerment and poverty reduction, Idol group expanded the scope of the shared prosperity practice from Shanghai to 32 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions in China, from first-tier cities to fifth-tier cities and rural areas, which contributes to the inclusive and sustainable development of the project. Since these three pillars are the common development goal of many different countries and areas, and the new internet infrastructure of e-commerce has made the business model effective to scale up, there is high possibility that this successful practice could be promoted and adapted in more diverse markets. Moreover, female in various countries and regions have common characteristics as follows: love to consume and love to share; possess better digital labor capabilities in the new digital economy; manage the family's expenditure on food, clothing, housing and transportation once married and settled down. Meanwhile, the consumers of this era emphasizes more on the time value and have more demand for relying on the qualified recommendations from experts/shopping consultants or their acquaintance to make choices and decisions. Therefore, the role of consumer/promoter will attach growing importance, which indicates that the decentralized community e-commerce model could be replicated or scaled-up by other places across the globe.

    COVID-19 Impact

    The global outbreak of COVID-19 has severely impacted the economic landscape and will permanently reshape our world as it continues to unfold. While the fallout from the crisis has largely hurt the global employment environment, women are taking a harder hit than men and burdened more laid-offs and unemployment. In order to support women in the difficult times, and based on Idol Group’s long-term partnership with UNIDO ITPO Shanghai and their knowledge of SDGs, the Idol Group launched the “Warm My Heart In the Name of Love—Entrepreneurs of New E-commerce Support Program” during the outbreak of COVID-19 to help females boost their income through utilizing the platform. The entrepreneurship support program has provided consumer/promoters with a large amount of financial subsidies and preferential policies to help female in difficulties to open stores online and quickly obtain income through the decentralized platform. Besides that, the Idol Group also sent a team of professional lecturers to provide these females with training and guidance to quickly familiarize with the various operations of the platform. Within only 2 months, 220,000 new consumer/promoters have registered the platform and start their journey. Equipped with the support from Idol Group, many females have used their own strength to ease the difficulties brought by the COVID-19, and promoted the women empowerment and career development in the digital era with the foundation of new infrastructure of E-Commerce. Inspired by this successful practice and UNIDO ITPO Shanghai’s initiative of “AI Development Needs More Women’s Power” jointly launched on 2020 World Artificial Intelligence Conference Summit Online · AI Female Elite Forum, Idol Group established the "Enterprise-level Women's Federation" to further promote women empowerment and support more women across China, especially to help them out during the pandemic. So far, the Idol Group has enabled millions of women in both urban and rural areas to generate considerable income and get over the difficulties of the pandemic. More importantly, these females are empowered to regain their confidence in developing their own career paths and releasing their limitless potentials through the utilization of digital technology in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

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    Organization/entity
    Idol Group Co., Ltd
    SDGs
    Geographical coverage

    China including Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Chongqing, Guangdong, Jiangsu and Zhejiang and another 25 provinces

    Timeline
    01 January 2019 (start date)
    30 June 2022 (date of completion)
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    Countries
    China
    China
    Partnership
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