Dorcas Lau has her hands on plenty of research about online-shopping habits -- for example, she knows that 22 % of white-collar female internet users in China do it every day.
But all she has to do is look around her office at Unilever to see the growing influence of e-commerce. "Every day we see our ayi [an older woman who handles light duties in Chinese offices] very busy not distributing business documents but distributing parcels delivered to our staff," said Ms. Lau, VP-digital marketing and e-commerce for North Asia.
Ms. Lau, a Hong Kong native, is a 20-year veteran of Unilever. She took on her current role last September when North Asia chief Alan Jope created the position for her. Before that , she was VP-marketing for foods in China.
Though e-commerce is a sliver of Unilever's overall revenue in China, the size and potential of the online market can't be ignored. The country has more than half a billion internet users, and industry observers say China's e-commerce market will become the largest in the world as early as next year. Consumers go online to buy everything from cars to butter. And cheap and speedy courier services can deliver items within hours of purchase.
Unilever has increased its spending on digital media in China 11-fold in the last four years, Ms. Lau said. Her role involves working with online partners -- digital agencies, search engines such as Baidu, portals such as Tencent and Sina or online retailers such as Yihaodian and 360Buy -- to drive innovation and information sharing.
"We make sure we link a lot of our digital activities to online sales, to ensure we can drive immediate conversion from the time consumers engage with our brand online," she said. "That's why I have this combined role, because we really want to drive the synergy of digital marketing and e-commerce."
That can be as simple as ensuring that shopping results are among the top links listed when searching for a Unilever brand, such as Dove, on Baidu. Digital moms entering queries such as "my son is not feeling well" or "my son is too skinny" are pointed to a Knorr recipe app. And consumers can blast dandruff with Clear shampoo in the "Dandruff Doomsday 2012" game on Tencent's ubiquitous QQ chat program.
Ms. Lau says her goal is to more than triple Unilever China's e-commerce sales this year.