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Alibaba continues to expand its presence in bricks and mortar in China, with plans to reach at least 2,000 stores across the market by 2022. 

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JD.com and Alibaba reported record breaking results for the 18-day campaign, with sales value up by +26%YoY.

The festival has evolved to be a major midyear ecommerce event

6.18 shopping festival, created by JD.com, now joined by Alibaba, has become a midyear event that can match the scale of the 11.11 global shopping festival.

The total sales transaction reached a new high this year of US$29.2bn, up by +26%YoY.  Around 200,000 brands took part and more than 110 brands each generated sales in excess of CYN100mn (US$14.5mn).

There are four key learnings from this year’s event, which are summarised below.

Less developed regions becoming the new growth engine

There has been a steadily rising demand from consumers in lower tier cities for quality products. With an increase in discretionary income, consumers in less developed areas are quickly becoming a main consumption engine and really drove this year’s 6.18 festival:

  • Volume growth was twice as high in lower tier cities than the overall growth on JD.com
  • Percentage of new users from lower tier cities was also much higher than the percentage of new users overall
  • 48% of the products newly launched on Tmall during the event were purchased by customers in less developed areas

Innovative approaches to widen reach and build engagement

This year’s event saw an array of innovative ways to reach customers and build engagement. The highlights are:

  • Social media played a key role: Two marketing campaigns had more than 100 million participants, all involving sharing on social platforms
  • Livestream to promote brands: Taobao’s livestreaming was an effective and important channel to reach shoppers. With hosts making recommendations for “must-buy” products, Taobao livestreaming helped generate more than CYN13bn sales. The number of livestreaming sessions hosted by brands increased by more than 120% vs. last year
  • Direct manufacturer-to-consumer model: Taobao’s Daily Deals, a channel which allows consumers to ordered customized products straight from the manufacturers, generated over 420 million orders

Group buying was a major push

Alibaba’s group buying platform Juhuasuan drew 300 million new customers. The platform has been repositioned recently for those looking for quality goods at competitive prices. Group buying via WeChat was also available in Hong Kong during this year’s event.

Technology used to meet customer expectations

Technology played a key role during the event to improve customer experience and exceed their expectations. JD.com’s smart customer service robot dealt with more than 32 million inquires, freeing up human services for more complicated inquires. 91% of orders from JD.com’s fulfilment centres were delivered on the same day or next day.

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High profile CFO Maggie Wu takes on new role in strategic investments.

An organisational upgrade

Wu will take over from Executive Vice Chairman Joe Tsai and oversee the firm’s strategic acquisition and investments unit, as part of a business and management reshuffle at the ecommerce giant. Joe Tsai will support Wu in her expanded role.

To guarantee innovation, invest in our future, Alibaba is undertaking an organisational upgrade,” the company said in the statement, signed by Chief Executive Officer Daniel Zhang, who will become chairman when Jack Ma retires on the 10th September 2019.

Maggie Wu has been Alibaba’s CFO since 2013 and was listed as one of Forbes’ 50 Asia Power Businesswomen in 2015.

The change comes as Alibaba invests in new business lines

The announcement marks the first significant reshuffle since the company’s co-founder Jack Ma last year announced he would step down.

Alibaba has been investing in new business lines such as cloud computing as a boom in its core ecommerce has peaked and revenue growth slows. Expanding Wu’s remit is aimed at more tightly integrating Alibaba’s investments into its overall ecosystem.

In the same statement, Alibaba also announced that its supermarket division Freshippo, also known as Hema in China and now has 160 stores, will become a standalone business, and enterprise software unit DingTalk will be merged into the firm’s cloud unit.

These changes come ahead of a planned IPO in Hong Kong later this year which could raise as much as US$20 billion in fresh capital for expansion via investment. 

 

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Joint ventures and partnerships by some of Russia’s leading ecommerce retailers is evolving the channel’s service levels. Alibaba and Yandex are forming partnerships with various companies to develop their online shopping offer and improve their services. Such a move is encouraging competing ecommerce retailers in Russia, such as Ozone, to enhance theirs too.

Alibaba signs strategic partnership…

Alibaba signed a joint venture in Q3 2018 with Mail.ru Group, MegaFon and the Russian Direct Investment Fund to create a single platform for shopping, social communications and gaming. The partnership combines the expertise of ecommerce, technology, and telecommunications companies, and the support of state funds. The joint venture will be called AliExpress Russia, with Alibaba owning the largest share, at 48%.

…to benefit from mutual expertise

Alibaba and Mail.ru will benefit from their mutual expertise, with the former offering knowledge in operating an ecommerce business and the latter leveraging its 100m internet users across its social media, messaging, email and online games platforms.

Alibaba and Mail.ru will create Russian ecommerce ecosystem…

The partners in the joint venture aim to integrate the ecommerce business with Russian social media and communication platforms. They will utilise VKontakte (VK), Russia’s equivalent of Facebook, to develop a social shopping platform with the support of its own payment tool VK Pay. Mail.ru could use its instant messaging service, TamTam, with its seven million registered users, to develop a social payment method akin to WeChat Pay in China.

…and develop group buying on social networks

Alibaba’s Tmall (AliExpress) is already encouraging group buying on its Russian website under the tagline S Dryzyemi deshevle (With friends cheaper). It encourages shoppers to buy in groups with discount offers and free delivery for orders. The joint venture will help transfer and expand the shopping concept on to the Russian social network.Source: Tmall Russia

Yandex and Sberbank also sign their own ecommerce joint venture…

Russian search engine firm, Yandex, and state-owned bank, Sberbank, set up a joint venture in Q4 2017. This led to the launch of two ecommerce services, Beru (I’ll take it) and Bringly, in Q4 2018. These are in addition to Yandex’s search engine shopping platform and price comparison site, Yandex.Market.

…to offer a domestic and cross-border shopping platform

Beru and Bringly are business-to-consumer shopping platforms, with the former fulfilling orders from within Russia only, and the latter dedicated to cross-border shopping for shoppers in Russia. Orders from Beru are processed in a fulfilment centre in Moscow and dispatched to homes or pick up points in Sberbank branches across Russia. Bringly fulfils orders from its Latvia-based warehouse to expedite shipping through customs.Source: Beru.ru

Source: Bringly.ru

Alibaba is improving cross-border delivery times…

The ecommerce company signed an agreement with Russia Post to upgrade the latter’s fulfilment service centre. This will improve cross-border purchases by processing same-day orders and reducing average delivery times from the current of 10 days.

…while Yandex builds on ranging

Yandex.Market announced it will be selling JD.com goods in Russia through its ecommerce platforms. This will strengthen Yandex’s ranging and share of cross-border trade, which is currently dominated by Alibaba’s AliExpress and Tmall.

Marketplace competition heats up with new (re-)entrants

As Russia’s ecommerce evolves, local companies like Ozon are investing in their businesses to keep up with the competition. Ozon has launched its own third-party business-to-consumer shopping platform, Ozon Seller, in Q3 2018. This is the second attempt by the pure online retailer to launch such a business concept. It announced plans to double its fulfilment infrastructure in 2019 to accommodate the additional trade. It is also differentiating its service with its consumer-to-business lending platform, Ozon Invest. Shoppers can grant loans to small and medium-sized businesses with a return on investment.Source: Ozon.ru

Subscribers can read the latest news about the Russian grocery retail market here.

Amin Alkhatib

Amin Alkhatib

Senior Retail Analyst – Central & Eastern Europe

Central and Eastern Europe is a region that illustrates great growth potential for both retailers and suppliers. The region also presents opportunity for retailers to evolve their business model to widen their shopper base and draw more traffic to their stores.

This in-depth guide to Russia explores the key trends in grocery retail and the growth strategies of the leading retailers in the country.

See the latest industry news on Central and Eastern Europe.

Presentations

18/07/2019
Alibaba continues to expand its presence in bricks-and-mortar retail. We visit Hema fast&freshade (also known as Freshippo f2), the retailer's latest convenience store concept.
16/07/2019
We outline how China's largest grocery retailers will grow over the next five years, plus showcase how they are adapting to the rapidly changing Chinese market.
12/06/2019
Ecosystem based retail has emerged as one of the new buzzwords and operating models in the sector. In this report we introduce the ecosystem model and what suppliers need to consider as a priority.
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