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Aussie Brands ‘Speed Dating’ And Live Streaming To Success With Alibaba

Jon Bird
I’m a retail passionate who lives in Sydney, Australia but covers the world.

As many people who have swiped right can tell you, it’s one thing to view a profile online, quite another to spend time with someone In Real Life. So, last week over 30 major buyers and

The show floor at the Alibaba E-Commerce Expo in Sydney, Australia JON BIRD

distributors from China and Southeast (SE) Asia descended on Sydney to press the flesh and test the credentials of Australian brand owners keen to win hearts and dollars in the Asian region.

The “Business Matching” (essentially, speed dating) event was just one component of the 6th Alibaba E-Commerce Expo, held in Sydney for the first time since late 2019, pre-COVID.

As Alibaba’s Head of Marketing for Australia and New Zealand (NZ), Kit Yau, told me, the aim of the Expo is “to bring merchants, brands and stakeholders within the e-commerce ecosystem together”, and learn about the latest trends in online selling. Exhibitors – dominated by health, beauty, food and beverage categories – also received Asian market briefings and could attend an associated conference.

Australia, with its relatively small population of 27 million, may seem an odd place for e-commerce giant Alibaba to stage a major expo. But Australia is on the doorstep of Asia, and punches way above its weight on Alibaba’s various platforms.

During 11.11 (Singles’ Day) , the world’s biggest shopping festival, Aussie brands are regularly amongst the top 10 countries featured on Alibaba. In 2022, there were 2,700 Australian

The show floor at the Alibaba E-Commerce Expo in Sydney, Australia JON BIRD

brands listed on Alibaba alone, and discount drugstore chain Chemist Warehouse is the number one cross-border retailer on Alibaba’s Tmall global site. (Last year, Chemist Warehouse was crowned International E-Tailer of the Year – China. For more on Chemist Warehouse, I wrote an article in Forbes late last year.)

Yau says that Aussie and NZ brands are prized by Asian consumers for their perceived “natural, green” credentials and high quality, particularly in the health and wellness space. From a brand perspective, the opportunities are massive, not just in China, which is the world’s second largest consumer market, but also in SE Asia, which is home to 661 million people, double the population of the United States. Alibaba-owned Lazada, SE Asia’s #2 online marketplace behind Shopee, is proving to be a powerful distribution channel for Aussie brands.

Supplement and skincare company, EZZ, is riding high on Asia’s health and wellness boom. Corporate Affairs Director James Hudson told me that 80% of EZZ products are exported to China and a number of SE Asian markets, including Vietnam and Singapore. One of the big challenges for Australian brands, according to Hudson, is learning how to sell online in a way that appeals to Asian

Influencer Liu Yuanyuan and EZZ’s James Hudson live stream at the Alibaba E-Commerce ExpoJAMES HUDSON

consumers, who are amongst the most digitally sophisticated in the world. A key part of EZZ’s strategy is using influencers and live streaming.

“Australian and even US brands don’t understand live streaming commerce at all,” Hudson said. “I talk to my friends and they’ve never bought anything off a live stream.” In Asia, live streaming commerce (think QVC for the digital age) is not just a way of shopping, it’s a way of life. To demonstrate the power of live streaming, EZZ brought leading influencer Liu Yuanyuan to Australia for the Expo.

With 20 million followers, Li Yuanyuan instantly attracted 40,o00 viewers to the live stream from Australia. Hudson marvelled at Yuanyuan’s professionalism and energy. “She brings with her a whole team including hair and makeup. Yuanyuan did this live stream for 8 hours straight, and every minute she was selling, saying ‘buy this, here’s the discount’.” Live stream hosts typically work on commission, plus a fee, with travel costs (if required) on top.

Asian consumers “are being marketed to all the time…they are very savvy…and their expectations are high,” added Hudson. So shoppers demand not just a deal, but “doing it in an entertaining way, where it’s fun and interesting”. That requires “a lot of gamification”, Hudson said, which could include collecting items online in order to gain a coupon or incentive to buy. The general trend towards what I would call “Creative Commerce”, prevalent in the East, is also beginning to trend in Western markets.

Alibaba Group’s mission is “to make it easy to do business anywhere”. So, another element of the Expo was to highlight AliExpress Business, a new business model from Alibaba which

helps companies with an idea source product direct from factories, and then bring it to market with the help of AI – to enable automatic product listing and live streaming – at a lower cost. (The concept of matching factory output to consumer demand has also been embraced by Temu and Shein, both wildly successful Asian e-commerce operators.)

Western retailers and brands could learn a great deal from events like the Alibaba E-Commerce Expo. It’s a glimpse of a future with an ascendant Asian middle class, who live digitally and love to shop online, and Asian e-commerce companies welcoming – and advancing upon – the world.

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