MILAN, Aug 5 (Class Editori) – Alibaba no longer wants to open the vast Chinese market to companies or to allow the purchase of products made in China: after four years after in Italy, the e-commerce giant aims at becoming a tool which enable Made in Italy to be sold all over the world. "We want to become the gateway to 190 countries in the world in which we are present for the 200 thousand export companies, a permanent fair open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day", explains Rodrigo Cipriani Foresio, general manager of Alibaba Group for Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece talking to MF-Milano Finanza.
"If in the early years in Europe the goal was to select European brands, giving them the opportunity to connect to over 650 million Alibaba users through flagship stores on the Tmall and Tmall Global platforms - which host hundreds of Italians companies and brands including the recent openings of Monnalisa and Smeg, and the historic soap brand L'Amande – the new strategy is now also looking at strengthening business-to-business services through Alibaba.com, the wholesale marketplace of the Hangzhou-based group. "To give an idea of the potential, every day the global buyers make 300 thousand searches for products on our B2B platform. On the other hand, the B2B market in the world is about four or five times larger than the consumer one," explains the manager. Together with the United States, Italy is the country chosen to experiment the development of this business.
On July 23ed the Platform opened to US companies, allowing them to sell their products to the millions of buyers of Alibaba.com in the United States and globally. A program that aims at reaching a large number of users among the 30 million SMEs US companies, bringing to its marketplace the largest number of wholesalers and producers, for which the e-commerce giant has realized an interface to have and manage the online store, CRM and digital marketing tools, payment services and a center of assistance and support for SMEs customers. "In Italy we are setting up a dedicated team," added Cipriani Foresio, "We already have 500 companies on Alibaba.com, with the collaboration of Unicredit. Italy has been selected, along with the USA, precisely because of the results achieved so far We are organizing roadshows on the regions, targeting to have at least 10 thousand companies on the platform over three or four years". Among the companies already present there are the Italian canning industry Davia and the Cotton Club clothing. "Those are small businesses," said Cipriani Foresio. The main merchandise sectors are the distinctive ones of Made in Italy, that are food, wine, clothing and cosmetics. The top manager highlighted that since it is about business-to-business, "on Alibaba.com there is also the mechanics, in particular, machinery for plant construction", which as of today – as reported by ICE data - is the first item of export Italian, with a 17.7% of the total.
At the same time, the group founded twenty years ago by Jack Ma continues the European and Italian expansion of AliExpress, the retail platform to buy products of Chinese and international sellers all over the world and that has in Russia, in Brazil and Spain the main markets. At the beginning of the year, the group announced its intention to make Italy one of the first countries of reference within five or ten years. The marketpalce has recently opened up to Italian food. "Today there are about fifty companies on AliExpress, especially in the clothing sector. Our idea is to move from a local trade towards a global one".
However, the environment in which Alibaba works sees Italian companies still lagging behind when it comes to e-commerce. Digital B2C exports are growing, in 2018 they reached 10.3 billion euros (+12%), but the percentage is still only 7% of total exports of consumer goods. Wholesale exports are better. Last year, exports reached 132 billion euros, for a share of 28.5% on total exports. The automotive sector has been the main driver (26% the share of digital exports), with textiles and clothing for a 14% of the total, and mechanics for 11%. However, the digital channel is essential, particularly towards China, a destination to which the Italian market share is still limited, just 0.9%. Italy is for the People's Republic only the fourth commercial partner among the countries of the European Union - after Germany, the United Kingdom and France – and ranks 24th worldwide. "There is therefore ample room for improvement", reported ICE.
Goodwill is not enough. "We need to be ready. In the People's Republic there are 200 cities with at least 1 million inhabitants and e-commerce is a way to reach them, especially for fashion, which accounts for about 45% of the global digital trade", stressed Cipriani Foresio. During 2020, the year of Italy-China Tourism, there will be opportunities to improve knowledge. It is no coincidence that Alipay is spreading in Italy is focusing precisely on the tourist offer. The virtual payment system launched in 2004 is available in more than 20 thousand points of sale. The new challenge is to exploit it in transport, also to facilitate Chinese travelers. The partnership with Tinaba dates back to last November, to be able to pay a taxi, and recently it signed an agreement with Italo.
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