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Online retail giant Alibaba comes to Melbourne

Ribbon cutting to celebrate the opening
Ribbon cutting to celebrate the opening. 

Supplied: The Victorian Government

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In a major coup for Victoria, the world’s largest e-retailer Alibaba has opened its Australian and New Zealand headquarters in Melbourne.

The online giant’s choice of the Victorian capital for its regional base promises a huge boost for the state’s small businesses hoping to access China’s $AUD1 trillion a year online retail market.

Alibaba joins a growing list of leading international digital technology companies that have chosen to locate their regional operations in Melbourne, including Zendesk, Slack, Square, GoPro and Cognizant.

“This will help grow Victorian businesses and jobs.”

Portal to China

Alibaba’s websites have hundreds of millions of active Chinese users and handle more business than eBay and Amazon combined.

Sales by merchants using Alibaba’s websites total over $AUD650 billion a year. The company’s Singles Day promotion, held on November 11 last year, generated over $AUD23 billion worth of transactions in just 24 hours.

Alibaba operates several online sales portals. Australian shoppers may be most familiar with Aliexpress, an English-language eBay rival. However, within China, it is Alibaba’s Tmall Global that predominates. Tmall is the country’s most visited retail website and offers overseas companies cheap and easy access to the massive Chinese market.

Jack Ma, Executive Chairman, Alibaba Group
Jack Ma, Executive Chairman, Alibaba Group.

Supplied: The Victorian Government

Growing opportunities

In March 2016, the State Government of Victoria established the first-of-a-kind partnership with Australia Post and Tmall to provide Victorian businesses easier access to the Chinese market through the Tmall platform.

Australia is now one of the five most active countries on Tmall and Australian health and nutrition products are especially popular.

Victorian success story

Victorian companies already capitalising on Tmall include Melbourne’s Goat Soap Australia, which sells its unique range of skincare products into China via Chemist Warehouse’s Tmall site. The company clocked up an astonishing $AUD1 million worth of sales via Tmall on last year’s Single’s Day alone.

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YOUTUBE: Victorian eCommerce success story: Goat Soap Australia & Alibaba

Victorian eCommerce success story: Goat Soap Australia & Alibaba YouTube: Invest Victoria

Melbourne pharmacist Danielle Di Pilla started the company five years ago and has seen sales rocket since she joined Alibaba.

“It’s been a really good initiative for Trade Victoria to get Alibaba to come to Melbourne, it’s really opened a lot of opportunities for companies like ours,’’ said Di Pilla.

The Goat Skincare was the biggest-selling Australian product range on Single’s Day for the second year in a row.

“Singles Day has grown and grown, and now it is now the biggest sales event in the world,’’ said Di Pilla.

Clean and green

Di Pilla says Victoria is the perfect base from which to serve the Chinese consumer.

“Melbourne’s a great place to do business, particularly because we’re so close to the Asia Pacific, so the locality is great for us,’’ says Di Pilla.

She sources the ethically produced goats’ milk used in her range from pristine Gippsland farms.

The Goat Skincare has grown from a small home operation to a business that now employs over 150 people.

"The biggest problem we’ve had is keeping up with demand for our products,’’ says Di Pilla.

“It’s a good problem to have.’’

This material was produced by the Victorian Government.