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Alibaba CEO names China as key for 2016 but still eyes international growth


By Charlotte McEleny, Asia Editor

January 7, 2016 | 3 min read

Alibaba Group CEO Daniel Zhang has outlined the Chinese e-commerce giant’s plans for 2016, playing down last year's globalisation plans to focus on growth on home turf.

Zhang announced three points of focus for Alibaba for this year: “global import, rural e-commerce, and top-tier cities are the three key battlefields for Alibaba in 2016,” he said.

On an international level it still has big plans, particularly in getting more global brands involved with Alibaba but as a means of enhancing choice for its core Chinese customers. It also plans to invest in building on its services to rural China, where more and more people are coming online, creating a large new customer base for e-commerce brands.

He also named Chinese cities that would become ‘top-tier’ focuses, with greater investment and resource diverted to them. As part of this it announced that Beijing would become a second headquarters for the business, alongside its original base in Hangzhou.

It is different tact from his 2015 New Years announcement, which focused on international growth and globalisation and saw the business hire former Goldman Sachs exec Michael Evans . A reason for this could be the slowdown of the Chinese economy, which has been in turmoil since the turn of the year when the stock market plunged almost 7 per cent on its first trading day.

According to Forbes, almost half of the Chinese population still aren’t online shoppers, so domestically there is still considerable growth to be had for Alibaba and a refocus on local growth would soften the blow from the economic slowdown.

In terms of global brands and Alibaba’s plans for 2016, it will court brands to extend the choice available on two of its e-commerce channels; Tmall and

“We are going to build our businesses around the two brands, in order to raise their awareness among customers and offer optimal user experience,” Zhang said.

International brands already being sold in China via Alibaba’s platforms include Burberry, Estee Lauder, and L’Occitane.

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