HANGZHOU/SYDNEY: In the next phase of its seemingly relentless expansion, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba plans to open an office in Australia later this year.

This is a significant development for Australian brands and retailers because Alibaba intends to work closely with local SMEs seeking to tap into the Chinese market, where Alibaba has 407m active buyers on its online platforms.

"We see a lot of potential in the Australian market as Alibaba continues its globalisation efforts," the company said in a statement to the Sydney Morning Herald.

"We aim to have dedicated country operations to work closely with Australian merchants and partners, and it is our plan to establish an office in Australia in late 2016 to better help local brands and merchants to access to the Chinese consumer market."

It is reported that several Australian retailers – including Woolworths, Blackmores and Chemist Warehouse – have signed up officially to sell products on Tmall, one of Alibaba's online marketplaces.

But with the creation of a dedicated Australian office, which will also serve as a hub for operations in New Zealand, there could be extra opportunities for Australians to buy products from its sites.

Another possible motive for Alibaba is to tap into Australia's reputation for producing high-quality health and baby products.

"These categories are among our top-selling international product categories, and are sought-after by many consumers in China," said Maggie Zhou, Alibaba's managing director for Australia and New Zealand, in comments reported by SmartCompany.

According to reports, at least two high-profile recruitments have been made for the Australian office – James Hudson, the chief executive of the NSW branch of the Australia-China Business Council, and New Zealand entrepreneur John O'Loghlen.

Data sourced from Sydney Morning Herald, SmartCompany; additional content by Warc staff