A tiff between e-commerce and courier giants Alibaba and SF Express saw the two companies take tit-for-tat swipes at each other over the issue of customer data creating a two-day standoff before China’s State Post Bureau, which regulates the logistics industry, told both companies to negotiate a settlement. The regulator told the companies a solution to the dispute was necessary because of the disruption being caused to Alibaba’s customers and merchants, prompting both companies to immediately resume business co-operation and data-sharing.
Prior to this the two companies exchanged accusations relating to customer data. SF Express said on social media platform Weibo that it had been removed as a delivery option by Alibaba and cut off from the Alibaba-affliated third party logistics platform Cainiao. SF Express accused Alibaba of blocking its access to critical customer data.
SF also said it was unhappy with sharing data with the e-commerce giant. The country’s surging e-commerce business has created a gold-mine of valuable data on the consumption habits of the growing number of online consumers, possessed by these logistics companies because of their unique position in the e-commerce supply chain.
Cainiao on the other hand claims SF Express barred its access to parcel tracking information first. SF said it refused a Cainiao request in May for additional data related to customers’ orders because the information wasn’t relevant.
The dispute came as a surprise as the close relationship between the two players has been key to both their successes from the early days and has become largest and most valuable partnership in China’s booming e-commerce market.
SF Express is the largest delivery partner for Cainiao, which acts as a platform coordinating the delivery of Alibaba’s orders among its various logistics partners, with nearly one-fifth of SF Express’ total package volume coming courtesy of Cainiao. All told, Alibaba’s logistics partners delivered more than 30 billion packages to its base of more than 450 million active customers in 2016.