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Alibaba reveals big data tactics

News, 09 May 2016
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HANGZHOU: Alibaba, the world's largest e-commerce retailer, has revealed how it uses its massive stores of consumer data to fuel China's offline retail sector in a two-part Warc Exclusive series.

As China's retail sector shows few signs of slowing, the company – which on Friday announced Q4 sales up 39% year on year – sees itself as an important link between online and offline retail in the country.

Danfeng Li, the company's Director of Big Data and Technology, explained at MRMW 2016 in Kuala Lumpur how the e-commerce giant captures first-party data from customer smartphones in the stores of participating offline retailers and links this with third-party data from Alibaba's own properties to build a holistic picture of the path to purchase.

For more read part one of Warc's exclusive report: How Alibaba Uses Big Data to Understand China's Shoppers.

Alibaba can use wifi sniffers, beacons, infrared, and cameras, among other methods, to determine traffic flows in participating stores, areas of longer engagement or even ‘bounce rate' – how many customers enter a store then leave quickly.

According to Li, Alibaba's various properties hold about 80% of China's PC, internet and app data, which it can integrate with first-party data to create singularly powerful data models.

These models can then be used to help stores make decisions on store layout, staffing, building effective advertising and everything in between.

For more read part two of Warc's exclusive Alibaba report, which includes case studies of Alibaba's online-to-offline data models in action: How Alibaba uses consumer data models to drive offline conversions.

Li also revealed that in China, mobile devices act as a bridge from online to offline marketing and allow measurement across the whole path to purchase.

And it's an area that is becoming increasingly important. According to Reuters, the number of mobile-first monthly active users on Alibaba soared 42% to 410m in the fourth quarter of last year, while the company's mobile GMV now accounts for 73% of total GMV

Although Alibaba is able to track unique smartphone identifiers from the likes of wifi sniffers, it is unable to reach customers directly unless permission is given, due to privacy laws.

Data sourced from Warc

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