Alibaba Wants Its Merchants To Ditch PCs, Just Use Smartphones

TECHINASIA: Alibaba wants its merchants to ditch their PCs. The ecommerce titan has rolled out new tools into its Taobao mobile app (pictured above) that allow the marketplace’s 8.4 million annual active merchants to run their stores solely from their phones. (Update: Swapped in the latest stat for Taobao sellers; the original article stated 7 million.)

The shift to mobile-only is optional for now, but an Alibaba representative tells Tech in Asia that two million merchants have already opted for the smartphone-only method in the two weeks since the new tools have been available in beta. “The growing adoption of smartphones and mobile shopping in China means that online merchants should shift their focus from PC to mobile,” said Zhang Kuo, director of Alibaba Group’s mobile business division, in a statement.

That means an online seller will run their store and add new products to it just from their phone rather than using the desktop browser-based interface. To make that process easier on mobile, merchants can scan a new product’s barcode with their phone to add it to the store’s inventory using the Taobao app. “To complete product dispatch procedures, merchants can simply scan barcodes on shipping bills to enter package tracking numbers, without the need to manually input them,” added a spokesperson. Brand-new Taobao merchants can even start their store from scratch within the Taobao app without the need to fire up a laptop.

Across Taobao and sister site Tmall (a marketplace aimed at larger merchants and major brands), Alibaba has 334 million shoppers. Of the total RMB 787 billion (US$126.4 billion) in consumer spending (GMV) on the two estores in Q4 2014, 42 percent of that tally was spent by people shopping on mobile devices.

That shows China’s shoppers are way ahead of Alibaba’s merchants in the shift to mobile.