All business based online now, says Alibaba CEO

The internet is no longer a business model but rather an essential piece of infrastructure on which all businesses need to operate, says Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang.

“All businesses are based on the Internet now,” Zhang told the World Internet Conference in China on Friday, likening it to a basic utility such as water, electricity and gas.

“It can only transform the future of the business landscape when it’s combined with other industries.”

About 2000 attendees including world government and business leaders were in Wuzhen, a canal city similar to Venice in eastern China’s Zhejiang Province, for the second annual conference, hosted by the Chinese government, a forum for topics such as cyber security, innovations in technology and developments in eCommerce. Chinese President Xi Jinping opened the conference on Wednesday as its keynote speaker.

During his speech, Zhang said  the integration of the internet with other industries led to the success last month of Single’s Day, the largest one-day online shopping event in the world. The annual eCommerce bonanza, held every November 11, generated $14.3 billion in total gross merchandise volume because of the ecosystem of businesses that the company has built with its merchant, logistics and data-analysis partners. In comparison, Cyber Monday, the US equivalent of the Single’s Day, brought in just $3.1 billion this year.

“We have formed a complete chain including a merchandise pool, payment system, membership management and data analytics tools to serve customers and partners that share common goals and standards with Alibaba,” Zhang said.

Indeed, businesses will further transform as they use “big data” to better serve their customers. Alibaba has long touted itself not just as an eCommerce company but one of data as well. The information collected from the 40 million transactions a day on the company’s online marketplaces – demographic data of buyers, their spending habits – can benefit manufacturers when enhancing product design and help brands grow their businesses in China.

“Data is becoming energy and blood of the new business landscape,” Zhang said.

Other Alibaba executives were also in attendance, including executive chairman Jack Ma and Lucy Peng, the CEO of Alibaba-affiliate Ant Financial Services Group.

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