UK markets close in 4 hours 32 minutes

Alibaba Hunts for a Million Influencers Keen to Make Big Money

Zheping Huang

(Bloomberg) --

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. pioneered the use of live-streaming hosts to sell everything from lipstick to smartphones in China. Now, the e-commerce giant wants to repeat that success globally with the help of a million influencers on forums from TikTok to Instagram.

AliExpress, the company’s online marketplace for shoppers outside China, is on the hunt for social media personalities to hawk wares on its online malls around the world. It’s looking to attract more than 100,000 content creators this year to its recently launched AliExpress Connect, rising to over a million in three years. The platform offers a matchmaking service, helping pair social media influencers with brands and merchants looking to market their products. Its initial focus is Europe, where Russia, France, Spain and Poland comprise the majority of users.

Alibaba hopes to replicate the success it’s enjoyed with so-called key opinion leaders driving sales on its China online marketplace Taobao. “For both Taobao and AliExpress, social content is a way to diversify offerings, but not to generate revenue,” Yuan Yuan, head of operations for AliExpress, told Bloomberg News. Influencers will help users stick with the platform instead of just making a one-time purchase. “The goal is to accumulate users, keep them there and encourage them to remain active.”

China’s largest e-commerce company currently gets just a fraction of its retail revenue from outside its home country, but it’s harbored bigger international ambitions for years. The move marks Alibaba’s latest global push and comes at a time when Covid-19 is fueling an unprecedented boom in social media. The company’s rivals, including TikTok proprietor ByteDance Ltd. and Tencent-backed Pinduoduo Inc., are playing catch-up in live streaming and other means of social commerce championed by the Taobao Live app.

Global social giants like Facebook Inc. have also added new features that support online shopping. In the U.S., more than 75 million social-network users aged 14 or older are expected to make at least one online purchase this year, up over 17% from 2019, according to research firm eMarketer.

Influencers and content creators can sign up for Connect using TikTok, Instagram, Facebook and other social accounts. They can then solicit assignments from AliExpress merchants seeking help in promoting their goods or services. This gives the influencer options, from merely reposting the seller’s social media posts to creating original videos. Commission fees can be based on the sales the influencers generate.

AliExpress is one of two Alibaba online bazaars for international buyers, the other being the Southeast-Asia-focused Lazada. AliExpress merchants are mainly small, export-oriented businesses in China, but global brands like Samsung and Oral-B have increasingly set up shop on the platform, targeting regional markets. Its top consumer markets include Russia, the U.S., Brazil and Spain.

Yuan said AliExpress aims to help at least 100 of its army of a million influencers earn an annual income of more than $1 million within three years. “Only if they can make money will they be motivated to create good content for our platform,” she said.

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

Subscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.