Unilever also has an offline component to its ecommerce and marketing strategy on Alibaba.
“One of the key highlights of the Alibaba/Unilever partnership are the unique QR codes printed on Unilever products, which extend it as a touch point with consumers,” said Gene Cao, a senior analyst at Forrester. “[More data] for marketing and advertising will be generated around these QR codes.”
Because Chinese brick-and-mortars have to deal with counterfeit merchandise, Alibaba created a product verification program this year called Blue Stars, which allows consumers to scan a QR code on partner merchandise and verify its authenticity online using Alibaba’s massive product database. Brands like L’Oréal and now Unilever have signed on.
“Online payment services like Alipay [Alibaba’s payment processor] and QR codes are often the most convenient way for rural customers to buy and verify goods,” noted Jin Di, a Chinese ecommerce and business strategy analyst for Forrester. She said this data will make Alibaba’s service “stickier,” and ultimately strengthen Alimama’s data capabilities.
A number of CPG manufacturers are trialing new retail integrations to reach urban and rural Chinese consumers, said Cao. P&G played up social marketing and partnered with the Chinese equivalent of Buddy Media, Social Touch, to create brand awareness. Nestle built a centralized command center to analyze customer behavior on social, ecommerce marketplaces and other publishers.
He added: “[You see CPGs] using cross-channel digital analytics to aid their local marketing, sales and R&D efforts.”