Alibaba's $4.6 billion tie-up with bricks-and-mortar electronics chain Suning Commerce Group has put the spotlight on China's burgeoning online-to-offline (O2O) retail market, with analysts predicting more big-name alliances to come.
The O2O market – where mainland internet retailers are increasingly opting to partner with offline firms to offer traditional brick-and-mortar services in a bid to give shoppers better service - has featured three high-profile deals in 2015 alone.
Earlier this year Alibaba and its affiliate, Ant Financial, plowed nearly $1 million into a joint venture called Koubei, which connects local food merchants to consumers. The move follows the internet giant's $692 million investment in Chinese department store operator Intime Retail Group last March.
"People talk about O2O and 'last mile' delivery which JD.com has an edge over Alibaba, but now Suning's offline presence and logistics expertise around China will help Alibaba to meaningfully challenge JD.com's leadership in this category," Henry Guo, managing director and senior research analyst at Summit Research Partners, told CNBC Tuesday.
"Alibaba is trying to duplicate what JD.com has done and that's the strategy," Guo added.
RJ Hottovy, global director of consumer equity research at Morningstar, predicted more alliances among China's internet giants and their offline counterparts in the near future.
"I don't think this is the last partnership the company will have, there will be other partnerships in the pipeline. In fact, this [partnership with Suning] will be the blueprint and might also help to [attract] international companies into Tmall, which is the key question as to how Alibaba expands beyond the borders," Hottovy said.