Alibaba CEO Zhang Pushes Global Growth Strategy

Chinese ecommerce company Alibaba’s new CEO, Daniel Zhang, is a star, credited with the success of and the November 11 Singles Day—an online buying bonanza that has overtaken Black Friday as the most lucrative online shopping day of the year.

Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang

Just days after his appointment, Zhang unveiled globalization plans to pursue growth outside of China, aimed in part at offseting a slowdown in Alibaba’s domestic market.

“We will organize a global team and adopt global thinking to manage the business, and achieve the goal of ‘global buy and global sell,’” Zhang told employees.

Brazil, Russia, India and the US are believed to be target markets. Alibaba has made a string of small investments in the US to help it understand the market, but says its focus for now is on cross-border activities.

Gil Luria, managing director, equity research, computer services and financial technology, at Wedbush Securities, calls Zhang an ideal executive to grow the company’s cross-border commerce. “This means a focus on AliExpress to sell Chinese goods to Western shoppers, and Tmall Global, which helps Western brands reach Chinese consumers.”

Zhang speaks perfect English and has vowed to reshape the demographics of Alibaba’s predominantly Chinese workforce: “We have to take the time to understand them (customers abroad), to understand their habits, cultural differences and way of thinking. This is how we become truly an international company,” he said.

Luria expects the shift to mobile to continue under Zhang until the sector constitutes 60% to 80% of turnover, and for Zhang to emphasize businesses that complement e-commerce, such as Cloud computing and media.

Zhang began his career at Arthur Anderson and later worked at PricewaterhouseCoopers. He joined Alibaba as CFO of Alibaba’s Taobao Marketplace in 2007, later becoming COO and general manager, which should serve him well in tackling inefficiencies. “Based on the last conference call, it seems that Alibaba will be more focused on keeping the margins at the core business stable, which may have to do with Mr Zhang’s focus on efficiency,” concludes Luria.