Held across Friday 14 June and Saturday 15 June, the expo offered local retailers the chance to connect with thousands of Chinese buyers, merchandisers, consumers, brand representatives and industry leaders. Larger companies such as Unichem and Life Pharmacy owner Green Cross Health and Fonterra were represented, as well as Antipodes, Vogels, and more niche brands like Living Nature and MitoQ.
Alibaba also held a training and education conference for those wishing to understand how to access the Chinese market through Alibaba on Friday.
Alibaba Group operates nine major global brands, most of which are present in New Zealand. It says its major businesses in New Zealand include premium ecommerce platforms Tmall and Tmall Global, which host more than 700 New Zealand brands, plus payments platform Alipay and online travel service Alitrip.
New Zealand companies are represented throughout the Alibaba Group economy, says managing director for Alibaba Australia and New Zealand Maggie Zhou: “Kiwi products have a great reputation among Chinese consumers for their high quality, so New Zealand retailers are very valuable to Alibaba Group.”
Zhou says understanding Alibaba is particularly relevant for Kiwi retailers which target the 400,000 Chinese tourists who visit New Zealand each year. Alibaba is fully across those tourists’ spending, she says, explaining that Chinese consumers can book accommodation and get suggestions for New Zealand travel through Alitrip, keep in touch with friends and family through various Alibaba social platforms, and pay for goods in-store with Alipay.
James Hudson, Alibaba Group director of corporate affairs and marketing for Australia and New Zealand, says Alibaba is focused on promoting Alipay to Kiwi retailers.
“For us, it’s about enabling [retailers] to accept the payments.”
He says Alipay is not like existing payments platforms in New Zealand, explaining that it incorporates a marketing and discovery element which may help retailers drive tourists into stores to make purchases.
Hudson says for retailers selling to Chinese tourists, it’s about ’02020’ – online to offline to online. Discovery of the retailer can be made online through Alipay’s discovery function, giving the consumer the confidence to find the store physically and purchase offline. They may then go home to China and find the retailer’s store online through Tmall, making further online purchases.
“It’s about creating this closed-loop ecosystem with the customer where they can re-engage.”
Hudson says the Alibaba Ecommerce Expo is a “showcase of the future of retail”, but the technology on show won’t necessarily be appropriate for exact replication across New Zealand: “New Zealand retailers will come up with their own ways of doing things.”
Asked about Chinese tourists’ retail expectations in New Zealand, he says they’re driven by “clean, green quality”. It’s products rather than retail ingenuity that these shoppers are seeking, Hudson says, citing honey, healthcare and dairy as the biggest categories. Fashion and natural cosmetics are also growing fast.
“Chinese visitors are not looking for retail concepts but high-quality products,” Hudson says.
The expo signals further interest from Alibaba Group in building a presence in New Zealand. It comes after the May announcement of a dedicated New Zealand team based in Auckland, led by Zhou with country manager Pier Smulders. The new team will focus on connecting Kiwi brands, retailers and producers to Chinese consumers and inbound visitors.