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A supermarket in Alibaba's hometown of Hangzhou. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

As the debate over whether Amazon is monopolizing retail presses on, we pointed to a lurking data question for the e-commerce behemoth: Will regulators question the mountain of behavioral data Amazon has about its hundreds of millions of customers' shopping habits?

But on the other side of the world, China's homegrown e-commerce king is getting ahead of that question. Alibaba actually offers its data to the companies that sell on its platform, so they can tweak their products to better entice Chinese shoppers.

Driving the news: Alibaba is sharpening its data-sharing feature, which it offers to big-name brands — like Unilever, L’Oréal, Mars and Samsung — that sell on its Tmall app, by partnering with data-crunching companies.

  • The Chinese giant announced last week that it will work with massive market research firms like Nielsen, Kantar and Euromonitor International to give companies deeper analysis of how to please Chinese consumers.
  • One success story that's already come from the data-sharing is the 麻辣 (mala) Snickers bar. Alibaba told Mars, Snickers' parent company, that Chinese snackers were consistently buying food with a classic Szechuan spicy flavor called 麻辣 (mala). Snickers used that to develop a spicy chocolate bar for China that's been wildly popular.

The backstory: The key difference between Amazon and Alibaba is that Jeff Bezos' company is itself a retailer, whereas Jack Ma's firm is only a platform. So, Amazon is debuting private-label products to compete with the brands that sell on its own site, while Alibaba has no dog in the fight for customers.

Go deeper

49 mins ago - World

Pope Francis denounces European governments' migrant response

Pope Francis adresses refugees at the Reception and Identification Centre (RIC) in Mytilene on the island of Lesbos on Sunday. Photo: Louisa Gouliamaki/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Pope Francis criticized European countries' response to migrants and asylum seekers during his visit to a refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos Sunday.

Why it matters: The pope said "migration is a humanitarian crisis that concerns everyone," but little had changed in the global response to displaced peoples since his first visit to Lesbos five years ago, per a transcript of his remarks. "Human lives, real people, are at stake. ... let us stop this shipwreck of civilization!"

Chris Cuomo accuser: On-air "hypocrisy" spurred report

Journalist Chris Cuomo. Photo: Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images

A woman who accused fired CNN journalist Chris Cuomo of sexual misconduct said Sunday she decided to come forward after learning of his comments about women who made similar accusations about his brother. He denies her allegations.

Why it matters: Her attorney Debra Katz said in a statement that she heard "the hypocrisy" of his on-air words about his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and was "disgusted by his efforts to try to discredit these women," so "retained counsel to report his serious sexual misconduct against her to CNN."

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director says number of U.S. Omicron cases "likely to rise" — Two years of COVID-19 — Prior coronavirus infections may not protect well against Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Data demonstrates most-vaccinated counties less vulnerable to worst of COVID — Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate.
  4. World: Vaccine mandates lose steam in the U.S. while Europe doubles downWHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.