In 2014, Alibaba recognised that out of the millions of consumers that shop in the company’s China retail marketplaces, a small percentage had adopted online shopping as a significant part of their daily lives.
The company created a membership program called APASS (Alibaba Passport) to cater to their needs by assigning them personal account managers and organising special events like wine tastings and automobile test drives.
To qualify for the program, consumers must spend a minimum of nearly $15,000 a year online. In fact, the average annual spend among current APASS members is about $45,000.
APASS shoppers are mostly young, internet-savvy and increasingly affluent members of China’s rising middle class.
Alibaba identifies candidates based on an algorithm that takes into account not only how much e-shoppers spend, but how often they shop online, the range of products purchased, credit record, and engagement in online communities.
If you think this screening limits membership to a very exclusive few, think again: There are about 100,000 APASS members.
To Alibaba, APASS members are vanguards of an emerging consumer lifestyle in China. “They are opinion leaders who drive the consumption trend among China’s middle class,” said Zheng Dongyang, senior manager of the APASS program.
10 APASS members were recently selected for a nine-day, all-expenses-paid trip to Italy. The mini-holiday included visits to the venues of eight top Italian brands.
The trip generated 400,000 views, 200,000 likes and 120,000 comments, but it wasn’t just social sharing that was inspired. According to Tmall, total sales of the online shops of the eight featured brands jumped more than fivefold over the livestreaming period compared with sales during the nine days preceding the event.