Karl Wehner, Managing Director DACH, CEE, Turkey, Alibaba Group

 In Exclusive interview

The gateway to China

Alibaba helps foreign businesses overcome the hurdles to “Sino-success”


Karl Wehner explains how he helps partners across key European markets address the Chinese consumer.

Entering the Chinese market has never been more attractive for European brands as Chinese consumers enjoy sizable incomes, appreciate Western products and buy everything from organic food to luxury cars online. However, language, cultural and demographic differences tend to present an obstacle for European retailers and brands wanting to sell into China.

In order to help overcome this challenge, the Alibaba ecosystem serves as a gateway to China for European brands. The three-year-old German office works with hundreds of brands from Germany, Austria and Switzerland, but also Central and Eastern Europe like Nestlé, Bosch and Henkel. All run flagship stores on the B2C platform Tmall and Tmall Global, giving them access to the over 693 million yearly active consumers on Alibaba’s e-commerce platforms.

On Tmall, brands that already have a physical foothold in China can address Chinese consumers looking for branded products and a premium shopping experience. Tmall Global is an extension of Tmall that addresses the increasing Chinese consumer demand for international products and brands. Here, overseas brands and retailers can reach Chinese consumers without the need for physical operations in China. This makes Tmall Global in particular an option that many medium-sized European companies are already using very successfully.

The Global Shopping Festival, pioneered by Tmall in 2009 and held annually in China on November 11, marks another highlight for international brands to achieve record sales at the world’s largest shopping event in terms of Gross Merchandise Value (GMV). Can you tell us more about this?
Yes. In 2019, Alibaba generated USD38.4bn in GMV in just 24 hours. The event makes use of interactive marketing trends like livestreaming, all year long, to engage with China’s young and mobilesavvy Chinese consumers.

What’s new in the way Chinese shoppers buy?
Livestreaming is the go-to option for Chinese consumers when seeking out new products. It is an essential part of the discovery journey. While watching a livestream on Alibaba’s platforms, fans are able to buy the items they see immediately within the same app. In fact, the number of products purchased thanks to livestreaming sessions soared 430% year-over-year in 2019 to 2.36 million from 445,000. In all of these cases, Alibaba provides the technology to bring Chinese buyers and international brands together, fulfilling our mission to make it easy to do business anywhere.

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