Speaking in Hangzhou on the final day of the firm’s investor summit, Ma laid out a set of lofty goals, including for Alibaba to create 100 million jobs around the world and support 10 million businesses on its platform by 2036.
“Today, Alibaba GMV is ranking as the 22nd-[largest] economy of the world,” Ma said. “We are just behind Argentina. When we cross $1 trillion we are sort of ranking 17 or 16, but in year 2036 if we can make a 2 billion, 100 million, and 10 million, we will be ranking the [fifth-largest] economy of the world.
“What does number five mean? Number one — I don’t know [if it will be] China or the U.S. [The ranking would be] the U.S., China, Europe, Japan and us. People say this is too big. It costs nothing to imagine right? If you even do not dare to envision it or think about it,” he said.
If Alibaba couldn’t achieve that, he warned, then its competitors would.
Ma has similarly ambitious targets when it comes to online delivery, saying he wanted to get times down to 24 hours anywhere within in China and 72 hours all around the world.
“Beijing fast, Guangzhou fast, that does not count,” Ma said, referring to China’s biggest cities. “Tibet fast. Mongolia fast. Yunnan fast. Guizhou fast. That is called speed.”
The day before, the company drew cheers and gasps in the room when Alibaba revealed it was anticipating revenue growth of 45 to 49 percent for the current fiscal year, nearly 10 percentage points above analysts’ consensus estimates. The announcement sent Alibaba’s shares surging 13 percent.
The company recorded revenues of 158 billion yuan, or $23 billion, for the year ended March 31.
Knowing its customers via the use of big data was a big theme throughout Ma’s talk. “In the future, no company, no country, no business can survive without data,” he said.
Alibaba is launching a powerful databank that enables brands to more efficiently allocate their marketing budgets. The system allows brands to access 70 touch points from awareness, interest, purchase, as well as loyalty, which the company reports has dramatically improved conversion rates.
That information is crucial, analysts say, to ensure Alibaba’s growth.
“Alibaba’s success to date has been due mostly to two factors,” HSBC’s head of Internet research Chi Tsang said. “[First], as an early mover, it met untapped consumption needs and now has 507 million mobile monthly active users, [and second] its huge user base has made it a valuable partner for brands. Alibaba’s future success will be driven by its ability to use data to increase user engagement further and to deepen its relationships with brands.”
A Nomura note published Friday also highlighted how Alibaba is using content and artificial intelligence to increase user stickiness.
“Taobao has evolved from a pure e-commerce app into a social commerce app with more content and services added, including online communities, live broadcasting and short videos,” it said. “On the AI front, the recently launched personalization campaign, Qian Ren Qian Main, is able to predict customers’ needs based on big data and display the most suitable items to each individual customer, which helps enhance the sales conversion ratio.”