Alibaba Group announced a strategic partnership with Bailian Group, one of China’s largest retail conglomerates, in a move to merge online and offline shopping services. The two companies will share consumer data in order to “integrate offline stores, merchandise, logistics and payment tools to deliver a better overall shopping experience.” At a press conference in Shanghai, representatives announced plans to “explore new forms of retail opportunities across each other’s ecosystem.”
Alibaba and Bailian will co-design brick-and-mortar stores that merge offline and online shopping and services. Data sharing will also allow the companies to combine membership bases to both target and attend to customers through geo-location, facial recognition and big-data driven sales and customer management systems.
Alibaba’s Tmall and Taobao e-commerce platforms are already integrated with brick-and-mortar stores, through acquisitions, such as last month’s buyout of Chinese shopping mall operator, Intime Retail.
With 500 million monthly active mobile users on its platform, Alibaba is pushing big-data capabilities to drive buyers to its “omnichannel” shopping experience. With the Bailian partnership, Alibaba adds 4,700 stores across 200 Chinese cities to its already vast market.
“Our partnership with Bailian is an important milestone in the evolution of Chinese retail, where the distinction between physical and virtual commerce is becoming obsolete,” Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang said in a statement.
In addition, there are plans to make Alipay – the online payments app owned by Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial – available at all Bailian stores, while Bailian’s Safepass and Bailian OK Card payments services will be integrated with Alipay.
Bailian is expected to benefit from Alibaba’s extensive logistics capabilities. The deal will also see the two Chinese companies conducting joint research and development of new retail-related technologies in artificial intelligence, big data and the internet of things.
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