SHANGHAI — With its latest international expansion, China’s biggest e-commerce player takes aim at Europe.
Alibaba said it is expanding its London office, making it a “hub” for European operations. At the same time, the company said it’s opening a new office in Milan, and will look to further its presence in France and Germany in the coming months.
Locally respected business leaders Amee Chande, who has held senior roles at Wal-Mart and McKinsey, and Rodrigo Cipriani Foresio, formerly president of Italy’s Cinecitta Istituto Luce srl, will lead the London and Milan offices respectively.
Long China’s go-to provider of B2B, C2C and B2C e-commerce platforms, the changing landscape in the consumption patterns of the world’s second-largest economy is enticing Alibaba to spread its wings further afield.
The “hai tao” phenomenon, a sudden, ravenous appetite for foreign goods in China, has been driven by the growing middle class, who believe foreign products to be safer and higher quality than their domestic counterparts. Though this idea isn’t new to Chinese consumers accustomed to reading horror stories about product safety here, the new and growing middle class now have the disposable income to buy international product with more regularity.
At the same time, foreign goods have become easier than ever to buy online and import into China with relative ease, thanks to newly instituted Free Trade Zones popping up in major port cities, such as Shanghai.
This year has seen China’s two largest e-commerce players, Alibaba and JD.com, forge agreements with countries around the world to open country-specific ‘malls’ on their relative platforms, promoting international products to Chinese consumers.
“Chinese consumers are looking for quality, authentic international products and global brands. Europe is a logical first step with its diverse range of unique brands and high-quality products,” said Michael Evans, president of Alibaba Group.
“We are putting in place a strong team of experts in our Italian and U.K. offices that will help European brands, retailers and government partners understand the opportunities in China and work directly with them in local language, in-country, to get their products into the hands of Chinese consumers.”
Alibaba’s expanded European presence will allow local offices to be what the company calls a “one-stop shop” for local businesses in each country looking to enter China’s massive e-commerce market with the assistance of its biggest e-commerce company.
As well as providing a sales platform, Alibaba said it would also provide European companies in these countries assistance with outbound and inbound logistics, online payments for Chinese consumers and offline payments for Chinese tourists.