Alibaba has announced huge expansion plans with the launch of an English-language portal on Tmall Global, China’s largest cross-border online shopping platform.

The aim is to double to 40,000 over the next three years the number of top foreign brands being offered to local consumers, Alibaba said in a statement. More foreign-language sites – in Spanish, Japanese and Korean – are planned.

“Tmall Global’s mission is to connect high-quality international brands across the globe with Chinese consumers,” Yi Qian, the platform’s deputy general manager told the South China Morning Post.

“The [new English-language] website will widen our reach to merchants, especially to those medium- and small-sized businesses around the world.”

The announcement comes a month after Alibaba forecast its annual revenue will be over $72.7bn this financial year – this is despite the continuing trade tensions between the US and China.

The Post, which is owned by Alibaba, reported that the e-commerce giant also has plans to expand into China’s lower-tier cities and rural areas, which currently make up just 20% of its orders.

Cross-border e-commerce has seen big growth in China since 2014, according to figures from the country’s Ministry of Commerce – sales of foreign goods by online retailers rose almost 40% year-on-year to 78.6 billion yuan in 2018.

The English-language portal on Tmall Global offers a step-by-step guide to overseas sellers who want to offer products through the channel and provides tools such as Tmall Overseas Fulfilment, advertised as a low-cost means for businesses to set up in China before selling to the domestic market there.

Merchants are able to complete a questionnaire and give basic information. Those sellers accepted by Tmall are contacted within 72 hours, and are also offered advice on how to maximise the effectiveness of their operations.

Launched in 2014, Tmall Global’s international brands offer more than 4,000 categories of goods from 77 countries and regions.

Alibaba’s determination to expand its online retail business comes at a challenging time for the country’s economy: not only is there the trade war with the US, but there are high levels of debt and financing bottlenecks for private companies, the Post noted.

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