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According to multiple news reports, Alibaba – China’s e-commerce giant - is set to break records with the largest Initial Public Offering (IPO) in history, as it floats its shares on the New York Stock Exchange.

At the centre of the Alibaba empire is tmall.com, which, in December 2012, we decided was the ideal platform to help us take our first step into China’s exciting yet complicated e-commerce marketplace.  

In China there are over 600m internet users – and Tmall accounts for 50% of all clothing and footwear purchases made – providing international brands with a huge opportunity to reach China’s growing middle classes. As part of our ‘Bricks & Clicks’ strategy we have adopted a tailored market-by-market approach to international e-commerce and, in a complex market like China, forming a collaborative partnership with Tmall has enabled us to benefit from its scale, infrastructure and local insight to extend our brand reach and better understand how the local customer shops online.

Our flagship online store, http://marksandspencer.tmall.com, offers a truly localised shopping experience, bringing the best of our quality products with the convenience of local payments through Alipay (Alibaba’s equivalent of Paypal) and local delivery. We also tailored the site design to reflect to Chinese customer preferences shop, with longer homepages to showcase our extensive product range and using more photography and detailed product descriptions than traditional Western websites.

The popularity of our womenswear offer has seen Marks & Spencer become the fastest growing international brand in this category on Tmall this year. Our dress shop has been a been a particular highlight with 44% of our total dress sales in China now made online.   

Each week a quarter of a million Chinese shoppers visit our Tmall site and this is continuing to grow. Greater Shanghai is our most popular region for online orders, which complements our store presence and builds on our loyal customer base – a quarter of our Tmall sales here. It also allows us to bring our quality products to new customers and grow our brand awareness in key cities like Beijing and Guangzhou.