Alibaba is reaching for the wallets of Chinese Australians

May 15, 2018

E-commerce giant Alibaba has just expanded global shipping options to target Chinese people living outside the country including Australia.


It was in 1818 that Mak Sai Ying, became the first Chinese man to arrive in Sydney. Now 200 years later, you can order a 14 metre long dragon boat online from Taobao and have it delivered in Sydney.


Over 1.2 million people of Chinese descent live in Australia and for most, their lifestyle is still lived out in a Chinese way and as a result it can sometimes be difficult for them to buy culturally-appropriate goods. One interesting example is the humble dishwasher. Whereas the majority of Australians eat meat off flat plates, electronic dishwashers found at retailers like Harvey Norman, GoodGuys are not designed for the quantity of bowls that Chinese people use when eating their meals.


The solution? Alibaba’s Tmall has a choice of dishwashers tailored to Chinese eating habits, and now the site is offering a free shipping option to Australia!

 The overseas Chinese community represents an increasingly lucrative consumer segment. Since 2015, Alibaba has been expanding their global shipping options and now allow Chinese consumers based in Australia to buy directly from Tmall. By offering to ship to countries outside of China, such e-commerce sites are giving Chinese brands an opportunity to expand internationally.


24 April 2018, Tmall launched a free shipping option direct to Australia and on that day I ordered Xiaomi’s Mi Band 2 from the site. Similar in functionality to FitBit, the cost of the Mi Band 2 was 139 RMB ($28.37 AUD). The parcel was delivered yesterday (May 14).

It is not just tech gadgets that are covered by the site, but even bigger products such as beds, couches and even treadmills can be shipped to Australia at a low cost.


Even when including in shipping costs, these Chinese products are often still cheaper than those found in local Australian stores. As Zhang Yong, CEO of Alibaba said in Sydney last month, “We are here not for business. We are creating a new ecosystem.” He stressed that


“We need more service providers, producers and partners in Australia, and we can improve exports and imports for both Australia and China, to further facilitate consumers and businesses.”


So what is stopping non-Chinese people from taking advantage of Alibaba’s changes? The biggest thing is that the site’s language is in Chinese. Users also need to register for Alibaba’s online payment system in AliPay (think of Ebay’s Paypal) although that can also be done without too much difficulty outside of China.

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