Alibaba, China’s export giant and one of the Asia-Pacific region’s main rivals to Amazon has said that Australia is its third-largest market overseas.
Known for its expansion efforts as a retail giant in recent years, Alibaba has installed an Australian Head of Marketing in the form of James Hudson, as it continues its efforts to gain more market share and offer a different shopping experience for customers compared to many of its more traditional rivals.
Hudson said that Australian retail companies have a long way to go to achieve the technological capabilities and sophisticated marketing techniques employed by Alibaba. He suggested that when comparing “retail experiences, it’s clear China is a long way ahead of Australia”.
This level of impressive growth from the Chinese company should be a wake-up call of sorts for Australian retail establishments to up their game and embrace the modern technologies on offer that consumers will soon begin to expect as part of the transaction experience.
Many of Alibaba’s services in China could well come as a shock to overseas consumers, including vending machines for brand-new cars, cash-free supermarkets where shopping deliveries can arrive home before customers and virtual reality-programed makeup testing opportunities in a different version of “try-before-you-buy”.
Alibaba’s entrepreneurial founder Jack Ma has previously described his clear intent to merge offline and online entities by capitalizing on the latest technologies, such as augmented reality (AR) and the Internet of Things (IoT). This allows for streamlined and segmented processes that make a purchasing decision become much more of an experience. The company has called the method “new retail”.
Australian customers will see the debut of some of these new concepts at Alibaba’s eCommerce expos, which are taking place over the next couple of months in Sydney and Melbourne. The Chinese enterprise is also hoping to use the opportunity to find new Australian retailers to partner with for retail ventures. It is happy to liaise with both small and large organizations.
Alibaba said that it already has partnerships in place with 2,000 Australian companies, all of which appear on its Tmall website, which focuses on shopping. Some big brands are also on this list, including Bellamy’s, Blackmores and a stripped-down version of Woolworths.
Hudson confirmed to news.com.au that Alibaba is looking to move further into the Australian market with the new retail concept through the “convergence of online and offline into one seamless and exciting experience for consumers”.
He made it clear that this is not part of an intention to replace physical brick-and-mortar stores but rather to continue to blend online and offline capabilities to improve the customer experience. Hudson added that the “two experiences are complementary” and that Alibaba’s core aim is to enable customers to have a “method of choice in these markets”.
Continuing the clear trend toward cash-free payments, the Chinese market allows for the facilitation of exciting new ways to test and buy products, including cars that can be ordered for a test drive. The customer simply has to turn up to a designated vending machine, where a car will come out so that the consumer can test it.
Hudson said that examples such as this represent what “the future of retail could look like in Australia”.