Alibaba conquering brands

Decision makers. With more than 1,800 French brands listed on Alibaba’s platforms, including Hermès and L’Oréal, how have they imposed themselves on the Chinese market?

Michelle Lau. Brands choose the Alibaba Group to benefit from our digital sales tools, especially since international travel has been restricted. Our digital marketplace provides e-commerce solutions to structures of all sizes, from large groups to SMEs. In 2020, our partner brands sold over 9 billion merchandise in total gross value on Tmall [le site de revente en ligne B2C d’Alibaba, Ndlr].

Without forgetting other long-standing partners, including Etam, L’Occitane, or even Lancôme, we also support new brands. This is the case of Courbet, an innovative, ecological and ethical jewellery. It offers jewelry fashioned in recycled gold with synthetic diamonds. From Place Vendôme, their development takes place on Tmall. Today, this channel accounts for 100% of their sales in the Chinese market.

Europe, and France in particular, represent an important market. Our role with partners is to raise awareness of market potential, China-specific highlights, such as seasonal sales peaks. Thus, we provide different solutions, not only at market launch, but also continuously to strengthen the development and the presence of the brand.

In France as in Europe, consumers appreciate more and more the “shoppertainment”, this mode of real-time broadcasting during which a spokesperson presents a product. To what extent the “live streaming” enrich the online user experience?

This trend originated in China in 2016. The “live streaming” is a live communication tool that the Alibaba Group has helped to democratize. During these broadcasts, a KOL [“key opinion leader”, en français “un leader d’opinion”, Ndlr]or a KOC [“key opinion consumer”, Ndlr], presents and manipulates a selection of products. Pre-sale customer engagement is established through a brand ambassador and content. According to a study carried out by the consulting firm Forrester in 2021, a specialist in innovative business transformation levers, out of 1,400 consumers in France and Europe, 70% of them say they are very interested in this mode of setting up a situation with products and brands.

To what extent is the prestige of French luxury revealed in e-commerce, particularly in the online experience of consumers?

More focused on physical stores, the world of luxury has always been reluctant towards the digital world. In 2017, we launched the Tmall Luxury Pavilion, China’s first digital marketplace dedicated to the luxury industry. In all, more than 200 brands are present there. At the rate of 50 per year since the start of the pandemic, a new brand joins the platform practically every week. Backed by a degree of innovation unique to Alibaba, the Tmall Luxury Pavilion offers the most comprehensive experience across all brand touchpoints for Chinese luxury consumers.

“Since the start of the pandemic, a new brand has entered the Tmall Luxury Pavilion practically every week”

In this 3D showroom, brands can create their own virtual universe, through not only “live streaming”, but also augmented reality tools, which allow you to visualize shoes, or even jewelry before any purchase. Thanks to features dedicated to delivery, consumer service, up to a “livechat”, which replicates a real-time exchange with a salesperson, customers can feel, from their living room, like in a store. Gen-Z is the future of luxury customers. Innovative tools, such as the news feed relating to new collections, Cloud pop-ups and 3D models, are, for brands, so many assets in order to establish a crucial relationship.

The group has digital platforms such as and AliExpress. Can you share the axes of successful online marketing?

Alibaba’s mission remains to facilitate the connection of sellers and buyers, as well as the business development of merchants. The group strategy is divided into three levers. Through digital tools, we support e-commerce in China for French brands. The Tmall and Tmall Global online platforms facilitate BtoC exchanges specific to the Chinese market. Finally, our channels help brands go global.

In China, is our BtoB marketplace. AliExpress provides access to international products, experiences from “shoppertainement”, but also dedicated events. On the occasion of the Double 11 shopping festival [le 11 novembre constitue un jour de fête pour les célibataires en Chine, tradition qu’Alibaba a contribué à perpétuer, Ndlr]we organized a music festival, broadcast to 1.4 million viewers across Europe.

As a digital group, Alibaba supports companies towards e-commerce. What features and platforms best lend themselves to this evolution?

If the activity of the Alibaba group as a marketplace is well known, the support in digital transformation that we offer is less so. With both retailers and brands, we provide the levers for digital transformation. Auchan, for example, partnered with us in 2020 and launched a series of “live streams” on AliExpress, our site dedicated to the sale of consumer goods to individuals.

Thanks to the technical tools and infrastructures offered, the partner brands are boosting their export capacity to China. In addition, Chinese consumers are fond of niche and international brands. Last year, La Bouche Rouge, an ethical cosmetics brand launched on Tmall Global. At a “live stream” in connection with our Double 11 event, no less than a thousand tubes of lipstick were sold in a few minutes.

“We are committed to reducing our carbon footprint by 50% by 2030”

In a few words, can you share with us the ambitions of Alibaba in 2022 and beyond?

At the end of 2021, we signed an ESG commitment promise. As such, we are committed to reducing our carbon footprint by 50% by 2030, with the aim of reducing our CO2 emissions by 1.5 giga tonnes across our ecosystem by 2035. We are already embarking on these initiatives. Also on the occasion of the Double 11 shopping festival, we used algorithms to optimize our packaging and shipping logistics, with less plastic-intensive packaging, tape and labels, as well as shorter delivery routes. .

In addition, we have erected recycling centers, where buyers can return their packaging once the packages have been received. Such actions will be multiplied by 2030, as will the promotion of “green” brands, in order to change consumer expectations. And with them, market habits.

Interview by Alexandra Bui

Michelle Lau, co-director of Alibaba Group in France

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