Alibaba, US startup Lolli partner to reward shoppers with bitcoin

2 min read
Alibaba’s booth at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference on August 30, 2019 in Shanghai. (Image credit: TechNode/Shi Jiayi)

Alibaba and New York-based affiliate retail startup Lolli have partnered to give shoppers rewards paid in bitcoin when purchasing items on Alibaba’s e-commerce platforms, according to CoinDesk.

Why it matters: The upcoming holiday season could be a valuable opportunity for blockchain-based retail products to break into mainstream applications more meaningfully. 

  • While the partnership will not initially put bitcoin directly into the hands of Chinese shoppers, a cross-continent collaboration like this one is a sign of what’s to come for the international blockchain industry.
  • For Alibaba, the move may be an indication of how it plans to deal with cryptocurrency moving forward despite Alipay’s recent announcement that it will be banning any transactions on its platform related to bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in line with Chinese law.

“This partnership is a great first step to connect the two largest economies, China and the US, through bitcoin and commerce. The opportunity is available for US users only for now but we plan to expand internationally soon, letting everyone in the world easily earn and own bitcoin.”

—Lolli CEO and co-founder Alex Adelman

Details: The partnership was announced on Singles Day, China’s annual shopping holiday that has become the largest one-day shopping event in the world. 

  • According to a Lolli press release, Alibaba shoppers using Lolli’s browser extension can earn up to 5% of their purchases back in bitcoin, applicable to “thousands of items online.” 
  • The new program will only be available to US-based shoppers, with purchased products being shipped from China to the US. 
  • Lolli has not provided details about how much bitcoin shoppers have earned so far. 

Context: Alibaba reaped a Singles Day record this year with $38 billion in gross merchandise volume (GMV), amounting to a 26% year-on-year increase.  

  • The company’s partnership with Lolli isn’t the only way Alibaba is looking to replicate its Singles Day success outside China: Lazada, Alibaba’s Southeast Asia subsidiary, participated in the event.
  • The Chinese government appears to be warming to the idea that the country must be a leading blockchain innovator, as evidenced in recent comments by president Xi Jinping stressing the need to “accelerate the development of blockchain and industrial innovation.” 
  • On October 26, the Standing Committee of the 13th National People’s Congress in China passed a new law regulating cryptography that will take effect on January 1, 2020. 
  • Lolli also made a previous push into international markets by partnering with Hotels.com in June. 

China passes new cryptography law, laying ground for digital currency rollout