HANGZHOU/HONG KONG: Among its many business interests, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba is keen to make the most of Mobile Taobao, its popular shopping app, which is proving a hit with social consumers.

The app, which links users to Alibaba's various online marketplaces – Taobao, Tmall and Juhuasuan – already has around 369m monthly active users, generates up to 20m product reviews every day, and involves 5m users sharing content with friends.

It has long been recognised that Chinese consumers have fully embraced social networks, but Mobile Taobao is seeking to engage them even more through a series of innovative additions to the app, Inside Retail Asia reported.

For example, the company is encouraging shoppers to share photos online of their latest purchases and this feature alone currently generates about 1.5m daily reviews, according to Jiang Fan, the head of Mobile Taobao.

Another addition within the app is a new social feature for special interest groups. Called "quanzi", which translates as "circles", the feature enables like-minded people to chat about their interests and favourite products – everything from fishing to wedding planning.

However, one of the most popular social functions on Mobile Taobao is a Q&A feature called "Wendajia", or "ask others", which helps shoppers who have a particular query about a product to get a rapid and dependable response.

The clever thing about the feature is that it uses big data and a sophisticated algorithm to identify members of the online community who are most likely to help, such as those who recently bought the product under discussion.

After locating 12 potential helpers, the app then sends out a message soliciting responses and, ingeniously, a quarter of all questions are answered within just one minute.

"The essence here is mutual assistance," said Zhang Jiehan, a Taobao product manager. "The new feature builds a direct and effective communication channel between people who have purchased and people who want to purchase."

According to Jiang, the Wendajia feature receives as many as 1m questions a day and 2m consumers participate in answering them.

Blogging and online reviews are another means by which Alibaba wants Mobile Taobao to reach Chinese consumers and the app's existing membership rules have been updated to enable users to earn extra points by posting reviews and engaging with the Taobao community.

There are no cash incentives, but those who take part can build up points to use as rewards, such as service upgrades at participating hotels, and other benefits.

Data sourced from Inside Retail Asia; additional content by Warc staff