BEIJING: Alibaba, the Chinese internet giant, is expanding its regional cross-border retail activity into Australia and New Zealand, as part of its strategy aimed at connecting with two billion consumers globally.

A new office in Melbourne will open later this year to serve the needs of online merchants in the two countries, the South China Morning Post reported.

Maggie Zhou, managing director of Alibaba Australia, said the new office and expanded team "will be well-positioned to support Australian and New Zealand merchants already on our platforms, as well as new merchants looking to expand into China".

Around 1,300 Australian and New Zealand brands are currently operating on Tmall and Tmall Global selling food and beverage products, cosmetics, and a range of goods for mothers and infants to consumers in China.

An Alibaba representative noted that "there is still huge potential for growth, due primarily to Chinese consumers' growing demand for quality products coupled with the trusted reputations of both countries".

The traffic is not all one way, as Alibaba president Michael Evans told the Australian Financial Review. "We connect with about half a million consumers here [Australia]," he said. "They are actually not all Chinese speaking consumers."

And expanding e-commerce is only the first part of Alibaba's agenda. "Secondly, we are going to build our payments business [Alipay], for people who live here, and for people who visit here," Evans explained.

"Number three, we are going to build a cloud business and that is designed to service the smaller companies. And the final piece, which might turn out to be the most important piece ... is the logistics infrastructure."

Alibaba is also thought to be looking to establish a presence in North America and observers have speculated that it could simply buy loss-making Yahoo, which already has a 15% stake in Alibaba.

Data sourced from South China Morning Post, Australian Financial Review, Gizmodo, Forbes; additional content by Warc staff