Chinese internet giants are fighting it out in the field of customer relationship management (CRM) technology, with Baidu and Alibaba announcing new moves at the same time.

Alibaba will work with Salesforce in a strategic partnership to help the American SaaS firm enter Greater China, effectively silencing the voices of many domestic CRM vendors that aimed to become the “Chinese version of Salesforce”.

Salesforce will be the enterprise CRM product sold exclusively by Alibaba in China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. Apart from its heavyweight ally’s sales channels, Salesforce’s golden egg is the access to Alibaba’s cloud infrastructure network to process and store its data locally.

New requirements since 2017 mandating localisation of Chinese user data have been increasing the operational costs of foreign companies in China and impacting marketing ROI.

More than ten years ago, Salesforce was already aspiring to enlist local partners in a bid to build up its presence on the mainland “slowly but surely”, said Jim Steele, the company's president of worldwide sales back in November 2008.

Meanwhile, Baidu’s offering to shake up the CRM space takes the form of Aifanfan (in Chinese language, the term is a homonym for ‘doubling business’), an open source platform consolidating ten small and medium CRM software providers, such as HC International, Hecom and Mantis. Besides that, the platform incorporates CRM developer toolkits, an app store, and demand forecasting services based on Baidu data.

The two entrances add competition to a bevy of other power players like the Tencent-backed Xiaoshouyi CRM business and Microsoft’s Dynamics 365, officially available in China only since 6 May in response to past latency issues with its non-localised product.

The opportunities for more sophisticated consumer modelling and more effective marketing are sizeable in China, as more than 70% of purchases can be captured by CRM tools while deterministic data elements such as device ID and publisher ID can be directly activated by publishers, according to BCG research.

Sourced from Alizila, South China Morning Post; additional content by WARC staff