SHANGHAI — China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba will turn its attention to the country’s largest cities in 2016.

Alibaba Group chief executive officer Daniel Zhang laid out the direction for the year ahead in a speech to employees at the company’s Hangzhou headquarters on Wednesday.

“We are going to consolidate and expand our current market, particularly by enhancing reputation, optimizing user experience and increasing our market share in first-tier cities,” Zhang said.

The move is not a huge surprise to Alibaba-watchers, who predicted a renewed focus on Beijing when the company revealed it would open a second China headquarters in the capital back in September.

That move, which Alibaba says will better allow it to serve 400 million northern China customers, is also seen as a direct challenge to rival JD.com, which is based in Beijing and has always performed particularly well in its hometown.

In 2015, Alibaba’s focus was on China’s rural marketplace, as well as its push into the international e-commerce realm through initiatives such as its Tmall Global platform.

Zhang was quick to clarify that in addition to targeting first-tier Chinese cities, the company in 2016 would continue to promote its rural China and global strategies.

“Global import, rural e-commerce and top-tier cities are the three key battlefields for Alibaba in 2016,” he said.

Zhang added that Alibaba would also continue to drive innovation in omnichannel retailing and build on its on-demand services offerings.

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