Alibaba recruits army of ‘influencers’ for global ecommerce drive – Nikkei Asian Review

HONG KONG — Valentina Avalon has spent an hour on a video call, talking about her clothes.

“It was very difficult to find clothes with this color,” she says as she stands next to a closet at her home in Kharkiv, Ukraine, holding a pair of lavender trousers. “This color is fashionable and very beautiful. As you can see, I like it very much.”

This is no idle chat between friends. Avalon is hard at work on a sales drive for a clothes merchant on AliExpress, the international retail arm of Chinese conglomerate Alibaba Group Holding. During the 90-minute streaming event, thousands of Russian-speaking shoppers flocked to her channel, chatting with her and viewing a host of products — the first of 25 such livestreamings within a few days as AliExpress kicked off its mid-year sales gala.

“I will probably be too busy to sleep,” Avalon told the Nikkei Asian Review.

The 37-year-old is part of Alibaba’s intention to recruit a vast multinational army of sales “influencers” — 1 million strong by 2023 — to further its global ambitions. The group has captivated Chinese consumers with a blend of online retail and social engagement — but now has to learn how to transfer that recipe and replicate its multibillion-dollar domestic success in a string of overseas markets that pose different challenges.

“It is a natural extension of [Alibaba’s] domestic strategy,” said Jeffrey Towson, a former professor of investment specializing in China tech at Peking University. For the Chinese online marketplace, which lacks natural strength
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