(This story has been updated)
Apple's highly anticipated smartwatch will go on sale in China next month through Alibaba Group's Tmall.com shopping website, showing the growing importance of online shopping as a sales channel allowing Western brands to reach the country's burgeoning consumer class.
Announced Monday at an event in San Francisco, the Apple Watch will be sold in China on Apple's flagship Tmall.com store as well as through Apple's stand-alone online and offline shops on the mainland. Presales of the wearable device--which comes in different versions ranging in price from $349 to $17,000 for a luxury gold edition--will start on April 10. Distribution begins on April 24, according to Tmall officials.
The Apple Watch rollout represents another milestone for Tmall, China's largest B2C shopping website, in its effort to provide Western brands with a direct sales path to free-spending Chinese consumers. Apple last year opened a flagship store on Tmall.com, gaining access to 334 million active buyers through Tmall, China's largest B2C shopping website, and Alibaba's C2C site Taobao Marketplace.
"We’re gratified to play a role in the launch of the Apple Watch in China,” said Jeff Zhang, head of China retail marketplaces for Alibaba Group. “Globally, China is an increasingly important consumer market. The rollout of an important new product by one of the world’s best-known brands on Tmall underscores how cross-border online sales are an effective way to reach the Chinese consumer.”
Other Western brands that have used Tmall for the debut of key products in China include Microsoft, which launched its XBox One game console in China on the site last year, and more recently GoPro wearable video cameras.
Apps will be a big part of the Apple Watch. E-commerce giant Alibaba wants to make sure the device can be used for mobile shopping in China. A special version of Alipay Wallet, China’s largest mobile-payment app with more than 190 million registered active users, has been developed for Apple's new product.
Ant Financial Services Group, the Alibaba-related company that owns Alipay Wallet, said it has customized its app so that users will be able to use the watch to make e-payments at physical stores, without taking out their mobile phones. The app will allow users to display a unique QR code or barcode on the watchface that can be scanned by merchants to complete payment.
In addition, Alipay Wallet users who have investments through Yu’e Bao, Ant Financial’s online investment platform, will be able to check their account balances and currency exchange rates on the watch. The new Alipay app will be available for download when Apple's wearable launches next month.