Retailers need to dispense with the idea that e-commerce is merely another sales channel for their products and embrace the marketing and brand-building potential that it offers, Alibaba Group CEO ‘Daniel Zhang’ said this year.
As consumers live more of their lives online via social media and smartphone apps, “branding and marketing is not only about sales, but about having consumers interact with brands, and about building relationships between brands and customers”, Zhang said during an Alibaba conference held in Hangzhou, China. The conference was attended by over 800 merchants who sell and operate on the e-commerce behemoth’s Tmall.com and Tmall Global marketplaces.
Alibaba, which runs China’s largest online-shopping marketplaces, is urging retailers to think of Tmall and sister website Taobao as signifcantly more than simply a virtual shelf space for listing and vending products.
Zhang introduced the idea of Alibaba’s “e-commerce media ecosystem” that reaches consumers through a variety of digital channels and is intended to carry marketing messages beyond the 407 million annual active users on Alibaba’s China retail marketplaces. Alibaba are proving to be very progressive and successful in their approach.
“We would like to connect our e-commerce platforms with media,” Zhang explained. Over the past few years Alibaba has been building ties with China’s most popular digital media outlets through partnerships and business investments. The company has a stake in microblogging website Sina Weibo and acquired China’s leading mobile browser, UCWeb. Alibaba also plans to buyout Youku Tudou, China’s largest video-streaming site.
These investments are aimed at helping merchants run targeted, multichannel advertising and marketing campaigns on a plethora of platforms to raise their brand awareness and drive e-commerce sales. The wider the scope for marketing and penetration the greater Alibaba’s potential for continued growth.
“We also have Taobao Headline, a shopping-news media app,” Zhang added, “and Weitao, a social media feature within Mobile Taobao which allows merchants to interact with users on smartphones via text, video and interactive campaigns.” This has the affect of humanizing and personalizing the e-commerce process, interactivity with dynamic Chinese consumers is key.
Data is vital for e-commerce platforms to reach the right audiences through targeted, intellectual campaigns where product recommendations for individual consumers are provided. Alibaba collects valuable user data from its online shopping sites and related media to tailor the shopping experience for the individual. This drive is set to continue with the aquisition of multi channel, other media related services as Alibaba grows it’s ‘media eco-system’.