Alibaba’s Tmall expands in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia to non-Chinese speaking consumers

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 June, 2017, 8:06pm
UPDATED : Monday, 12 June, 2017, 11:01pm

Alibaba Group, the world’s largest e-commerce operator, is beefing up its presence in online shopping by further expanding in Hong Kong and tapping more English and non-Chinese speaking consumers in Southeast Asia.

The group has officially launched its Tmall online supermarket in Hong Kong this week, and teamed up since March with Southeast Asian e-commerce operator Lazada – which it acquired last year – to sell selected Taobao products under the “Taobao Collection” direct to shoppers in Singapore.

The English-language Lazada site also operates local sites in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, where some of them are in local languages.

The Malaysian platform will be launched on June 13, where shoppers will be able to take advantage of lower prices from Chinese sellers, said Elaine Hu, director of Tmall World on Monday.

Alibaba international retail commerce sales set to expand on back of Southeast Asian market

In Hong Kong, Tmall sells daily necessities from food to household products imported from the mainland to local Hong Kong consumers. With its warehouse in Shenzhen – the group’s largest in South China region – consumers will be able to receive the products within the next day after placing the order on the Hong Kong supermarket, Hu said.

She said mainland foodstuff and snacks not easily available in Hong Kong were the most popular products.

Household supplies, especially paper products were also selling well as consumers look for cost-saving products from the mainland, Hu said, based on data obtained from the trial run of the platform in the city since late April.

“The average value of orders on Tmall HK’s supermarket is surprisingly high so far. It is the highest compared to any other regions in China and shows the strong spending power of local Hong Kong consumers,” Hu said, without giving specific figures.

The variety of goods available to Hong Kong consumers pales in comparison to those on the mainland platform as fresh products and heavy goods are generally not included. Products imported to Hong Kong are also subject to rules of local regulations.

Unlike on the mainland where the group faces fierce competition from rivals including the Tencent-backed, Hu said Alibaba was a dominant e-commerce player in the Hong Kong market.

In 2012, the group said it had 1.4 million registered users in Hong Kong. Hu said the figure was higher now but she didn’t give any figures.

According a survey released by Mastercard in April this year, topping the most popular category list for Hong Kong online consumers is clothing and accessories, with 41.7 per cent out of more than 8,000 consumers surveyed. Supermarket products came second, with 37.5 per cent. Other popular categories: airlines – 36.7 per cent; travel – 36.2 per cent; and hotels – 36.0 per cent.

The strengthening of retail business in Hong Kong and other overseas markets is seen to serve as a part of Alibaba long-term plan that aims to provide services to as many as 2 billion consumers worldwide by the year of 2036, Alibaba founder Jack Ma Yun told the investors in Hangzhou last week.

Cainiao, SF Express in standoff over data, causing confusion among Chinese online shoppers

In response to the recent dispute between Alibaba and logistics firm SF Express, Hu said SF remained a partner of Tmall and for overseas transactions, downplaying the impact.

Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.