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Alibaba Defined: a comprehensive digital experience created by VSA Partners


Today, Alibaba Group launched Alibaba Defined, a comprehensive digital experience created by VSA Partners to help audiences outside of China understand the company.

Alibaba needs no explanation in China. It’s grown to become a part of everyday life for a population of 1.3 billion. But for those outside of China—particularly investors, tech analysts and influencers—Alibaba’s purpose and business model can be a challenge to understand. These audiences have little access to the company’s ecosystem of services, limited visibility into the Chinese marketplace and consumer, and a primary familiarity with U.S.-oriented e-commerce giants like Amazon, Google and eBay. In reality, Alibaba is the largest online and mobile company in the world, and it’s fundamentally building the foundation of modern commerce in China—and potentially beyond.

What began as a collaboration between VSA and Alibaba to build the company’s first annual report site—one year after Alibaba launched the largest IPO in history—quickly turned into a broader challenge: What narrative does Alibaba need to communicate to take the mystery and uncertainty out of China’s economy, and make Alibaba’s agenda clear and compelling to new, Western audiences?

To answer this, VSA fleshed out a strategic narrative framework that defined the company’s business, economic and cultural context, followed by its central belief and role in the world. This narrative codified these elements for the first time for the company, and established the platform for the Alibaba Defined site.

Alibaba Defined includes content familiar to most annual reports, including letters from Executive Chairman Jack Ma and CEO Daniel Zhang. But it also includes content and interactivity far beyond the typical boundaries of financial reporting. Visually rich, engaging and shareable content serves as a comprehensive primer on Alibaba’s business model, products and services, priorities and future plans. A variety of design solutions and illustration styles  capture the energy and pervasiveness of the Alibaba ecosystem in a relatable and human way. The eclecticism of modern China is illustrated through multiple storytelling methods including videos, animations, infographics and illustrations by visual artist Peter Greenwood. In building the site, VSA designed a more engaging and more visible expression of the Alibaba brand—crucial to the company’s desire to bring stakeholders deeper into its story of global opportunity.

A first-of-its-kind site for a first-of-its-kind company, Alibaba Defined contains the following elements:

1.  A VSA-produced opening video that captures the full Alibaba company story for the first time.

2.  Letters from Jack Ma and Daniel Zhang, plus traditional annual report content.

3.  China Context section includes a video on modern China and a series of charts that explain how China’s e-commerce market grew to become the largest in the world in just a few short years, and how massive the future market opportunity is.

4.  The Alibaba Experience section illustrating a day in the life of a buyer and seller, highlighting how entrepreneurs can start, run and grow a business with Alibaba and how consumers streamline and enhance their lives through Alibaba’s ecosystem of products, services and experiences.

5.  The “Founded in China, Created for the World” section includes a series of videos to help users experience for themselves how Alibaba is building the infrastructure of future commerce—starting international operations by helping global companies and brands access China’s large and growing middle class.

Read more about Alibaba’s brand video and Jack Ma’s recent visits to New York and Chicago, talking about the vast opportunity for U.S. small businesses here.