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Italian products to adopt barcodes for the Chinese e-commerce market

by Emanuele Scarci

Italian companies who want to sell on China’s Alibaba digital platform decided to adopt the barcode system, an essential step in ensuring that products can be reliably identified when they are shipped from the manufacturers to the distributors, and finally to the Chinese consumers.

Barcode supplier GS1 and Alibaba have formed an alliance in order to convince Italian companies to adopt the GS1 standards, which combine personal details with product information in order to securely manage the flow of sales. More than 1,000 Italian brands are currently present on Alibaba's e-commerce platforms, and 150 Italian businesses have a store on Tmall or Tmall Global.

So why have they created this deal?

“It's a kind of guarantee policy,” explains Bruno Aceto, CEO of GS1 Italia and President of GS1 Europe, “for purchases of Italian products, which are offered to the 443 million Chinese consumers who shop on Alibaba's e-commerce platforms.”

These are mainly consumer goods, pharmaceuticals, and products from certain technical sectors.

Nowadays, of the 150 Italian companies who operate on Alibaba's platforms, “only the largest ones use identification codes,” adds Aceto, “Now we want to extend this usage to the smaller ones, as well. Especially the businesses that are expected to grow in China, and are ready to join the market.”

According to Rodrigo Cipriani Foresio, Alibaba's Managing Director for Southern Europe, “this deal will facilitate commercial exchanges with the Chinese market, thus increasing business opportunities. Chinese consumers are becoming more sophisticated, and are growing more and more interested in international products—particularly Italian products, which are synonymous with quality and authenticity. The spread of GS1 standards will allow them to buy our products in a safer and more straightforward manner.”

This partnership follows the global agreement that was signed last September, between the Alibaba Group, GS1, and GS1 China: the Chinese e-commerce leaders agreed to adhere to the GS1 Global Trade Item Number and Global Data Synchronization Network standards.

Jack Ma's company has invited the brands' companies to do the same, in order to create a unique, shared “ID card” for products sold through e-commerce worldwide. This will also allow them to share each product's information online.

GS1 Italy is an association that represents 35,000 consumer goods companies, offering various solutions (including barcodes) that are used in Italy and more than 150 countries throughout the world.

The Alibaba Group is the world's largest marketplace for mobile/online e-commerce, with a turnover of $485 billion in 2015.

GS1 Italy and Alibaba Italia will develop a series of communicative and marketing initiatives in order to improve Italian companies' awareness of the GS1 solutions that were adopted by the Chinese marketplace.

Can the GS1 codes also combat counterfeiting?

“They're a big help, since they allow us to understand what product you're talking about,” responds Aceto.

GS1 Italia is a non-profit organization.

“It only takes a few hundred Euro per year,” the CEO claims, “to adopt the GS1 system and join e-commerce's large scale retailers. So far, the big international players have been quicker than us—this is a chance for us to recover lost time.”