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Alibaba's Tmall teams up with market research firms on product development

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.'s online portal Tmall said Oct. 11 that its research and development unit, Tmall Innovation Center, formed an alliance with 10 market research firms to strengthen the platform's product innovation strategy for its partner brands.

The research firms, which include Nielsen, Ipsos, Kantar TNS, GFK, Euromonitor International and AdMaster, will pool in their specialized analytics and research methodologies to help cut the time and costs required for brands to develop new products.

Tmall Innovation Center has so far formed new product innovation partnerships with 81 companies, including Unilever PLC, The Procter & Gamble Co. and Anheuser-Busch Inbev SA/NV, since April 2017. The unit also co-designed a smartphone with Vivo Communication Technology Co. Ltd. in August and developed new men's grooming products for the Chinese market with beauty company L'Oréal SA L'Oreal in September.

The brands were able to reduce the concept-to-market time for some products to less then six months, compared with the usual 18 to 24 months required, with help of the partnerships, Alibaba said.

Calvin Chan, CEO of Admaster that counts NIKE Inc. as one its clients, said Admaster has helped the U.S footwear and apparel company to evaluate how advertising on various platforms translates to revenue by leveraging the Tmall Innovation Center. Chan expects to deepen Admaster's collaboration with Tmall Innovation Center in gaining insights into the competitive landscape and determining the optimal number of times to expose consumers to ads, among other things.

Tmall expects some 20 million product debuts on its portal by the end of 2018, from about 12 million new product launches in China by brands in 2017 on its platform.