Alibaba’s Taobao Maker Festival aims to expand as global event

The China’s largest e-commerce giant Alibaba Group’s Taobao has launched its third edition of Taobao Maker Festival outdoor at West Lake, Hangzhou, as it continues to spotlight the millennial entrepreneurs.

Taobao has taken its online marketplace to an offline carnival in HangZhou from 13-16 September, housing more than 200 Taobao store owners, who showcased wide variety of items from traditional handicrafts to anime figures to technology innovations.

This year’s festival comprised six themed zones of innovation, anime, intangible cultural legacy, vintage, pets and gourmet. Visitors were able to participate in interactive activities, forest-themed concerts and try out the latest technologies.

“We have an ambition to make the Taobao Maker Festival become a global event. The first year was a trial run, the second year was a scale run. For the third year, we want to send the message to the world that it is a platform not just for China. Like Alibaba, we were born in China, but we are made for the world.” Chris Tung, chief marketing officer of Alibaba Group, told Marketing in an interview.

Further embracing the “new retail” strategy where big data technology connects and optimises offline outlets and online stores to enhance customer experiences, Alibaba has collaborated with Microsoft and opened a Future Retail and Technology Museum in the festival.

The museum demonstrated the application of mixed-reality (MR) technology on shopping experience. By scanning a QR code on Taobao app at the entrance of the museum, and wearing a special MR goggles, customers will be able to engage with their digital content and interact with the 3D holograms, which they see through the goggles, in the store inside the museum.

The 3D holograms are generated according to customers’ preferences recorded in their Taobao account. Tung said that the museum aimed to share what shopping experience might look like in the future – more enhanced and more engaging experience supported by technology. 

“Today, logging onto Taobao is a daily activity for many of us and the term Taobao has come to represent online shopping. What is fueling this dynamic community is the creativity of our merchants. They introduce new products, develop innovative ways of marketing their ideas to customers, and reinvent traditional products to give them new lives.” Tung said.

Taobao is attempting to meet the demand from Chinese millennial consumers of seeking better quality and stronger personality in the products they buy. In the fourth quarter of 2017 alone, “original design” appeared 170 million times in keyword searches on Taobao.

According to the latest CBNData “2018 Chinese Youth Creativity Report”, more than two million of youngsters born after 1990 have already launched their businesses on Taobao. This generation has launched 700,000 shops on the platform last year.

While 77% of the independent designers on Taobao were aged 33 years or younger, said the report. Taobao aims to providing China’s designers, creators and craftsmen with a platform to reach a wider audience, and also the technology and consumer insights for them to reach their precise target customers.

Fan Jiang, President of Taobao Marketplace, said, “Innovation and ‘maker spirit’ are the most important qualities of Taobao. To attract like-minded merchants, we will on one hand empower merchants to innovate on our platform and on the other hand help them create business value.”

As an effort to support Chinese young designers and showcase their creations, Taobao has held the Broken Bridge Fashion show on West Lake, featuring 20 Chinese young designers to show their original works during the event. The show was live-streamed on mobile Taobao App and Youku, and supported by Alibaba’s “See now, Buy now” technology, allowing audience to purchase-on-the-spot what they saw in the show.

Tung said that the introduction of this new type of fashion show at Taobao Maker Festival is a testimony to the shift underway from ‘Made in China’ to ‘Created in China. “Young people in China are very cosmopolitan. They are forward-thinking, while maintaining their love for the richness of Chinese history. At the moment we are experiencing a great crossover between West and East, between old and new. This phenomenon has laid a strong foundation for creativity in China, and it is shifting more into the mainstream.”

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