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

11 mins ago - Health

Coronavirus cases are falling, but don't get too comfortable

Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Map: Andrew Witherspoon, Danielle Alberti, Sara Wise/Axios

America's coronavirus outbreak is slowing down after a summer of explosive growth.

By the numbers: The U.S. is averaging roughly 52,000 new cases per day — still a lot of cases, but about 10.5% fewer than it was averaging last week.

Updated 2 hours ago - Health

World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

New Zealand confirmed Thursday there are now 13 local cases linked to the four who tested positive for COVID-19, ending 102 days with no community spread. Auckland locked down Wednesday for 72 hours and the rest of NZ is under lesser restrictions.

By the numbers: Over 749,400 people have died of the novel coronavirus globally and over 20.6 million have tested positive, per Johns Hopkins. More than 12.8 million have recovered from the virus.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 20,624,316 — Total deaths: 749,421— Total recoveries: 12,831,800Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 5,197,147 — Total deaths: 166,027 — Total recoveries: 1,714,960 — Total tests: 63,252,257Map.
  3. Politics: Pelosi says Mnuchin told her White House is "not budging" on stimulus position.
  4. Business: U.S. already feeling effects of ending unemployment benefits.
  5. Public health: U.S. records deadliest coronavirus day of the summer — America's two-sided COVID-19 response
  6. Education: New Jersey governor allows schools to reopenGallup: America's confidence in public school system jumps to highest level since 2004.