Everything about Alibaba is massive. The size of its market, the total number of sales, its growth prospects and even the retailer's role as technology provider. As the Chinese retailer prepares for an initial public offering, it's worth taking a deeper look at how Alibaba could use that cash to influence advanced retail technology in the United States.
It's hard to rival Alibaba in sheer size. The online retailer sold $248 billion in goods and services last year, processed 11.3 billion orders and moved roughly 5 billion packages across a sophisticated and efficient delivery network.
Among its listed strengths, Alibaba management identifies a scaleable logistics platform for sellers in its marketplace; owned data and insights from billions of transactions and marketplace sellers; and proprietary technology designed to handle large volume transactions.
After its IPO, Alibaba will be flush with billions in extra cash, all earmarked for expansion. One stated intent is to enhance data and cloud computing technologies, and the retailer has been keenly interested in acquisitions that add tech talent to its roster.
The company has been on a spending spree in the United States, investing in technology companies as varied as ride-share service Lyft to search engine Quixey and online shopping site ShopRunner. Like Walmart Labs, the investments and acquisitions buy coveted top talent, not just companies. And most have a mobile component.
Alibaba's online sales in 2013 were more than Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) and eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) combined. Just what Alibaba will do with the billions in extra capital expected to be raised in its IPO is uncertain, but more mobile investment will surely follow.
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