In today’s interview, we are talking to Terry Von Bibra, GM Europe at Alibaba, and we are discussing what international brands should do before entering the Chinese market.
Can you tell us a bit more about Alibaba and what the brand offers to travelers
A little more than 6 years ago, and after gaining a reputation in the shopping industry, Alibaba, the giant Chinese e-commerce company, created an entirely new product that has revolutionized the travel industry – Fliggy.
The brand is well-known for being good at spotting exactly what their customers are looking for when it comes to booking their vacations, but also great at understanding their travel preferences and offering the most used payment methods in China.
However, Alibaba Group is also a powerful partner. The company enables commercial and social interactions among hundreds of millions of users, between consumers and merchants, and among businesses every day.
We enable businesses to transform the way they market, sell, operate and improve their efficiencies. We provide the technology infrastructure and marketing reach to help merchants, brands and other businesses to leverage the power of new technology to engage with their users and customers and operate more efficiently.
You have great expansion plans, what essential features are you looking for in an ideal business partner?
Since when Alibaba was founded in 1999, we have pursued a clear, yet ambitious mission: to make it easy to do business anywhere. This means that we don’t focus on expansion for the sake of it, but we rather go where there is a need in the market, and we provide the technology infrastructure, the marketing tools, and analytics, the payments and the logistics solutions, and consumer insights to fill the gap and add value to our customers.
Alibaba is an ecosystem of marketplaces, and we are an enabler by nature: we partner with merchants, businesses, travel companies and retailers worldwide so they can directly engage with the consumers and build their brands on their terms.
There is not just one ideal partner for us: we look for innovative, dynamic companies (from SMEs and startups, to big established brands) with a unique offering, a solid identity and a long-term commitment to be successful in China – a country that is rapidly moving from a manufacturing to an import nation, and it’s home to the most sophisticated consumers in the world. Younger than their Western peers, very opinionated, “mobile-only,” with a cosmopolitan attitude and an increasing appetite for high-quality products and services from international companies.
This makes China a land of exceptional growth opportunities, but nevertheless, it remains a challenging market to navigate – that’s why we recommend our clients to really study it to identify a niche or an opening and get to know their consumer audience so they can build a strong USP, brand, and presence. And, obviously, choose a trusted partner, like Alibaba, to start this journey together.
You are leading your market, how are you planning to repeat this success story abroad?
The way we see success does not necessarily coincide with the expansion and export of the same business models anywhere. In our case, the success of our clients is our success.
We are a platform or better said, a platform of platforms. And as Jack Ma says: Companies focus on growing their own business; but platforms concentrate on helping their partner grow. This is our focus and the starting point that inspires our operations and strategies, and that’s why we already are the trusted partner of choice of tens of thousands of companies and brands across markets and geographies.
This is what we have been doing since day one and what will continue to drive us while we reshape the future of commerce, travel, and technology.
What makes consumer’s experience something different in China? What should international companies and brands look at when looking at China?
As Western businesses increasingly approach China and look at opportunities to grow there, it is important for them to understand that it’s not just about formidable size and scale. China is a rapidly-transforming country, spearheading the future of technology, trade, and consumer experience, among others.
Technology permeates the way Chinese consumers, and tourists, gather information, enjoy content and make purchases. Take what we call “New Retail” strategy, for example – the integration of online and offline dimensions, logistics and data across a single value chain. Implementing it
means radically changing the way companies do things and put consumer needs in the center.
New Retail, which Alibaba launched in 2016, blurs the separation among channels, to immerse the consumer in a seamless experience and take it to a whole new level, making it personalized, entertaining and unique. This is not just a challenge for brands, but also an incredible opportunity to experiment new, innovative and unexpected ways to engage with their consumers across channels.
The future is a reality in China, and it’s exciting to be contributing to its construction!