Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba and Unilever have partnered to enable the international FMCG group to reach more Chinese consumers.
The tie-up will go beyond product sales to encompass innovation and collaboration across a wide range of applications and logistics.
Aimed to a large extent at widening Unilever’s access to China’s rural consumers, the joint strategy will involve collaboration on distribution channels, big data analytics, cross-border ecommerce, supply chain management and digital advertising.
Unilever first opened a virtual store on Alibaba’s Tmall online marketplace in 2011 and the companies said this latest agreement marked a “major milestone” in their relationship.
“We are very pleased to amplify our partnership with an industry leader such as Unilever,” said Daniel Zhang, CEO of Alibaba. “[We] will jointly innovate in Big Data analytics application, cross-border ecommerce, and supply chain management.”
Marijn Van Tiggelen, Unilever’s North Asia president, described Alibaba as “the leading internet company in China, with the most innovative thinking”.
“It’s not only an online store, but also a solution platform for online payment, e-finance and e-commerce logistics,” he added. “In co-operation with Alibaba, Unilever can provide more convenient services to consumers in China.”
Unilever generates more than half its sales from emerging markets, yet its performance in China has suffered in recent months as the world’s second-largest economy has slowed.
With the announcement of the partnership with Alibaba, Unilever aims to expand its distribution channels to rural areas while also developing cross-border ecommerce co-operation on Tmall Global.
The two companies also will work together to optimise Unilever’s digital advertising strategy through Alimama, Alibaba’s online marketing platform, and reach more consumers through online-offline retail integration.
Furthermore, on top of improving supply chain management, they will combat the counterfeiting of Unilever goods through Alibaba’s Blue Star program, which uses a unique QR code that allows consumers to verify a brand’s authenticity and origin.
According to Campaign Asia, the new partnership will be celebrated with a special promotion on Tmall this week that will feature flash sales with 50% discounts on popular Unilever brands.