Alibaba’s sale of its US shopping site 11 Main on Tuesday may have looked like it was waving the white flag in surrender to Amazon and eBay, but CEO Daniel Zhang reaffirmed the Chinese commerce giant’s pursuit of cross-border commerce in his first onstage appearance in the United States.
“Yes, we are strong in ecommerce, but we never positioned ourselves as an ecommerce company only,” Zhang said Tuesday at the Nielsen Consumer 360 conference in Washington, DC. “We position ourselves as a data company, too.”
Alibaba’s total gross merchandise value – or the sales volume transacted through its platform – hit US$97 billion in the last quarter alone, 50% of which was mobile. For the first time this year, its global retail business will exceed Walmart’s, Zhang said.
Alibaba’s platform generates close to 40 million transactions each day. With China’s middle class expected to double within the next few years, Alibaba expects this to spur demand for higher-quality products among a newer generation of Chinese citizens.
Thus, a key focus is helping Alibaba’s US partners and brands expand their businesses in mainland China. Another key investment for Alibaba is digital content, evidenced by its $382 million investment this March in Chinese entertainment production company Beijing Enlight Media, a subsequent $200 million investment in Snapchat, as well as its aforementioned marketing services push.
“We are building up our marketing platform driven by data … to give partners the ability to acquire new customers not only in our network, but across many publishers,” Zhang said. “Data should flow on all channels.”
Alibaba’s shopper data includes attributes like a person’s home address, favorite brands and products and whether or not there are children in the household.
Although the company built an extensive affiliate network to serve online advertisers, and will continue to invest in mobile data management, Zhang noted the offline opportunity for Alibaba is equally promising.
“A lot of our shoppers can fulfill an order online but receive in-store,” he said, noting partnerships with Chinese merchants. “In the future, online and offline [channels] will be highly integrated. We want to use the data we have to help other businesses upgrade their service.”