SHANGHAI — Alibaba revealed several new initiatives Wednesday, doubling down on the “hao tao” phenomenon among China’s e-commerce consumers.
Roughly translated as “ocean search,” the term refers to the growing trend for consumers’ desire to buy authentic imported goods online.
One initiative involves partnering with 11 countries — including the U.S., Britain, Australia, France and Spain — to set up official country pavilions on Alibaba’s Tmall Global platform.
These country specific stores will make it easier for Chinese consumers to access sought-after regional products, as well as travel and cultural information about each country.
The move follows the trial run of Korea’s country pavilion on Tmall Global, which launched in May and has become a one-stop shop for authentic Korean cosmetics and apparel. A Japanese version was unveiled at the start of this month.
As with the Korean and Japanese versions, existing Tmall Global retailers can choose whether to join their country’s pavilion, or retain their independence on the platform.
“Alibaba Group has been incubating this country pavilion project for some time now. Today, these 11 pavilions are the first fruit of this ongoing project to make global trade easier,” said Jeff Zhang, president of China retail marketplaces for Alibaba.
According to a Tmall Global survey conducted last year, the types of merchandise entry-level consumers are most interested in buying from foreign companies are fashion apparel; baby and maternity products; consumer electronics; cosmetics and skin care products, and food and nutritional supplements.
Offering consumers country specific verticals has become something of a trend among Chinese e-commerce platforms, with JD.com also opening a “Korean Mall”, “French Mall” and “Japan Mall” in recent months.
Also unveiled Wednesday was a co-operation between Alibaba’s group buying arm, Juhuasuan, and 26 foreign embassies in China to collaborate on the marketing and promotion of these countries’ products on Juhuasuan.
These moves come only days after Alibaba consolidated its overseas marketplaces by merging the 11 Main boutique shopping marketplace with social shopping platform OpenSky.
Having failed to win significant market share in the U.S. it seems Alibaba has refocused its energies on instead bringing foreign products to the consumer base it already dominates – China’s 300 million strong e-commerce market.
At a luncheon hosted by the Economic Club of New York two weeks ago, Alibaba founder Jack Ma spoke about his plans to harness the company’s e-commerce prowess in China to grow small U.S. brands.
“We need more American products to [sell in] China,” Ma said. “We have 100 million people coming to buy every day.”
“People ask me when we’re going to invade America,” Ma said. “We have great respect for eBay and Amazon but…for us, it’s helping small businesses in America and selling their products to China.”