Interview: Alibaba, a key player in the Chinese market


To mark the occasion of the 11.11 Global Shopping Festival 2018, we interviewed Laura Pho Duc, Marketing Manager, Alibaba France, on the success of the Chinese giant and its subsidiaries, as well as the latest decrypted trends in the market, which should reach $1.8 trillion in 2022.

1/ What can Alibaba offer to retailers?

Alibaba offers a complete collection of technology, logistics and marketing services to facilitate trade around the world. Our B2B and B2C e-commerce platforms such as Tmall, the Luxury Pavilion (dedicated to luxury brands), Tmall Global, and Taobao are part of our core business, but we also have activities in the Cloud, in logistics with Cainiao, in payment services with Alipay, and we even have video platforms (Youku) and online travel booking (Fliggy) in China. To give you an idea, 29 of Alibaba’s businesses were involved in the 2018 11.11.

In Europe, one of our main missions is to help French brands of all sizes to sell in China. We can bring them our in-depth knowledge of this market and the expectations and needs of Chinese consumers, as we have more than 600 million active consumers on our platforms. We can also offer them the support of our local Tmall Partners, to help them with their needs in logistics and operations, translation, marketing and management of their shops on Tmall, amongst other marketplaces.

Our next main aim is to make it easier for Chinese tourists to travel to Europe, by offering them services to plan their trips via Fliggy, and to pay with their mobile phone via Alipay in a growing number of shops.

We’re also developing our Cloud business in Europe, through which we are committed to helping businesses of all sizes with their digital transformation.

2 / What new trends are emerging in the Chinese consumer’s checkout process?

The New Retail trend, a concept developed by Alibaba to provide consumers with fluid, unique, and memorable shopping experiences on and offline, uses the latest technological innovations and is changing the way we shop. It also provides more opportunities for retailers and distributors to rethink their business model in terms of their point of sale as a logistics centre, to deliver their products faster.

For example, it’s important to offer a seamless and simplified shopping journey, where shoppers can do everything from their smartphone: scan a product and find accurate information on its origins (this is especially important in the food sector), pay for it with their smartphone (or even their face, thanks to new facial recognition technology), and then have it delivered to their home in less than 30 minutes.

In the cosmetics and fashion sectors, it is even possible to integrate virtual and augmented reality technologies into physical pop-up stores, to allow consumers to try products in virtual booths or connected mirrors.

The trend is therefore leaning towards the digitalisation of physical outlets, which are increasingly used as showcases for innovation – a place where consumers can test products and then order them online, where they can enjoy a seamless experience where they have a unique relationship with the brand, regardless of the channel they’re using to shop.

3/ This year, the Global Shopping Festival celebrated its 10th birthday – tell us a bit about the history of the event, and what’s new in 2018.

The Global Shopping Festival was first launched in 2009, and since then it has continued to grow. The first year brought together 27 brands, and this year 180,000 Chinese and international brands took part. In the first year, the GMV was 7.8 million dollars – this year we reached a record of 30.8 billion dollars in 24 hours! Beyond sales performance, the concept itself has evolved from a day of online promotions to an event incorporating more and more New Retail initiatives since 2017, with the build up to the gala beginning one month before November 11th.

The shopping experience is made fun and interactive thanks to new technologies, notably virtual and augmented reality. This year, 200,000 physical “smart stores” participated in 11.11, as well as “Lin Shou Tong” grocery stores and small markets, and “Taobao Villages” in rural areas.

The Global Shopping Festival is also beginning to have an increasingly strong international presence: shoppers around the world have benefited from 11.11 promotions, thanks to our AliExpress and Lazada platforms in Southeast Asia.

4/ What’s one mistake retailers should avoid making before launching in China?

The Chinese market is a very competitive environment, and it is precisely for this reason that it is important for brands to study the market well before moving to China, to ask themselves how they will interact with consumers in an engaging and innovative way, and to find partners, such as Alibaba and its subsidiaries, who can advise them according to their specific needs. It would be a mistake to believe that there would be no need to define a true brand strategy in China, because of the huge market potential and the enormous power of Chinese consumption. Listening to consumers is always the best advice for getting into any market.

Maud Leuenberger

Editorial Project Leader @lengow

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