The Alibaba Group reported strong ecommerce growth for the quarter ending March 31. Revenue for the quarter was $5.6 billion, an increase of 60% year-over-year, the highest growth rate since the company went public. Overall revenue growth was 56%.
“Alibaba Group had another outstanding quarter and fiscal year, demonstrating our ability to successfully engage and monetize the half a billion consumers across our platforms,” said CEO Daniel Zhang. “Our core commerce segment continued its significant growth and strong cash flow at large scale, enabling our aggressive investment in cloud computing, digital media and entertainment to drive the digital transformation of the economy and high-quality consumption across China.”
“Our robust results demonstrate the strength of our core businesses, as well as the positive momentum of our emerging businesses, including cloud computing, where we continue to see strong growth and market leadership,” said Maggie Wu, Chief Financial Officer for the Alibaba Group.
Annual active buyers on its China retail marketplaces reached 454 million, an increase of 11 million from the 12-month period ending December 2016.
Mobile revenue from the China commerce retail business was $13.2 billion, up 80% from 2016. Alibaba reported that the monetization of its mobile commerce platforms outpaced the performance of desktop.
Alibaba’s TaoBao app is seeing robust growth in active users and engagement. Since December it has added 14 million mobile users on its Chinese retail marketplaces, for a total of 507 million units.
“This strong mobile user growth reflects our efforts to establish the Taobao app as a destination platform not only for shopping, but also for sharing product knowledge and lifestyle content, which drives effective user engagement and retention,” said Zhang.
During the quarter, Alibaba launched new features and content to enhance the user experience on the app. This includes a “digital mirror” which allows consumers to virtually apply different shades of makeup.
Following the successful launch of its “webisodes” series in 2016, Taobao aired “Night Warriors,” a new series of webisodes promoting household products aimed at positioning itself as a lifestyle destination for consumers, particularly younger ones.
Alibaba has also used artificial intelligence to handle the volume of inquiries from consumers through chatbots. As of March, AI technology was handling millions of customer inquiries daily.
During the quarter, Alibaba made its AI technology available to merchants on its marketplaces through a service called “store concierge.” It uses natural language processing to help merchants handle consumer inquiries such as returns and refunds, especially during peak promotional seasons. It also supports personalized recommendations and promotions and discount information.
Internationally, Alibaba is laying ground for long-term growth. Its international consumer platform AliExpress and Lazada achieved 83 million annual active buyers combined in fiscal 2017. AliExpress currently operates 16 local language sites, including Russian, Spanish and French.