Alibaba found a new way to promote its most popular marketplace, Taobao, in a way that also gave Uber some extra coverage.
Over the weekend, Alibaba invited the public to roving minibuses that featured wardrobes that can be bought on the marketplace — with Uber acting as the vehicle for those "mobile dressing rooms." This new idea came after Taobao faced backlash about product quality, South China Morning Post reported.
What's also interesting about the promotion is that the buses — free to Uber app users — serve as a spot where customers could keep clothes they like for free as part of the deal for testing them out. Uber deployed three vehicles that were around 300 square feet and traveled the streets of Guangzhou in southern Guangdong, western China’s Chengdu in Sichuan, and Hangzhou in east China’s Zhejiang.
“Taobao will see how customers respond to the mobile dressing rooms before deciding whether to roll the program out on a bigger scale,” a spokesperson told the South China Morning Post.
Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick said earlier this month that in one of Uber’s most popular cities in China, the ride-hailing company is turning out close to 1 million trips a day. That was at the same time he announced Uber’s plans to invest $1 billion in the country, saying China is a key market for the company’s global expansion. The latest reports on the subject suggest that Uber might go public as soon as 18-24 months.
Uber estimates it already has secured nearly half of the ride-hailing market of the region. Now that big bet on China is paying off as Uber has secured a major Chinese backer to help propel the company closer to its IPO date. New reports also show that Uber is preparing to go public in China soon.
On Taobao's side, the company has been doing some damage control after facing criticism that it didn't prevent the sale of counterfeit goods on its site. It also has taken flack for not cracking down on companies who don't deliver the products that match the quality consumers expect.
Ironically, Uber has also had its fair share of regulatory issues in China. Following a sting operation and the arrest of five drivers, an Uber office in Hong Kong was raided by police just weeks ago. The drivers were arrested under the charges of driving without the required permits and insurance, as well as allegedly accepting fares from undercover police officers.