Alibaba, Unilever Deal Seeks To Reach Chinese Consumers

Alibaba Group said on Sunday that it has signed an agreement with packaged goods company Unilever NV to make a sustained outreach to garner more consumers in China.

As the companies announced on Sunday (July 19), the European Unilever, which makes everything from Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to Dove soap to Hellmann’s mayonnaise, had opened a store through the Alibaba online Tmall platform four years ago. The companies said on Sunday that Unilever will broaden its reach in China to include consumers who live in rural areas. The collaboration will use data gleaned from Alibaba’s online marketing operation, Alimama. There will also be efforts tied to the Alibaba cloud presence to help boost the consumer goods digital advertising push.

There were no details about financial implications of the partnership.

The linkup with Alibaba comes as Unilever saw its sales in China fall by 20 percent in the last quarter of 2014, Reuters reported. That sales slump was the result of retailers trimming back inventories as the Chinese economy, the second largest in the world, has seen a slowdown in growth rates.

Growth in China would be important to Unilever, which, as the newswire noted, gets half of its sales from emerging markets, and despite the slide in the latest quarter, Unilever said it had started to see “signs of improvement” in its major markets that span China and India, with the addition of the United States.

“We are very pleased to amplify our partnership with an industry leader such as Unilever,” said Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang the statement announcing the partnership. “We look forward to building on our success in sales over the years and taking the collaboration to the next level. Moving forward, Alibaba Group and Unilever will jointly innovate in Big Data analytics application, cross-border eCommerce, and supply chain management. In this rapidly changing business landscape, we are committed to continually provide greater value to merchants and better experiences to shoppers.”

This would be the latest cross-border transaction for Alibaba, which has been striking deals beyond its borders as of late. As has been widely reported, the company made a strategic investment in flash sales site, and also boosted an existing stake in Singapore Post Limited in a move to broaden its logistics network.

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