There have been rumors over the years that Amazon.com was looking to open some sort of brick and mortar presence as a complement to e-commerce operations. Aside from some tinkering by its Quidsi business, the rumors have yet to pan out. While Amazon may never open stores, Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant, has made the decision to invest in Intime Retail Group, which owns department stores and supermarkets, to make a concerted push into omni-channel retailing.
In a deal valued at $692 million, Alibaba will add merchandise from Intime's stores to its Tmall.com site. Orders placed on Tmall will become available for pickup at Intime's locations.
"We see significant opportunities to extend our e-commerce platform to physical retail, developing a more engaging, omni-channel and digitally-connected shopping experience," Daniel Zhang, Alibaba's chief operating officer, said in a statement.
Alibaba has been aggressive on the deal making front ahead of a planned initial public offering of company stock in the U.S. A VentureBeat article points out that while Alibaba is most often compared to Amazon, it also has similarities to Google and PayPal. The company generated around $240 billion in sales last year compared to Amazon's $100 billion.
How likely are other e-commerce operators to follow Alibaba's omni-channel lead over the next several years?