Alibaba has signed a partnership with Chinese retailer Bailian Group to explore new retail opportunities in the latest brick-and-mortar tie-up for the e-commerce giant.

Under the agreement, the companies will develop new technology and take advantage of each other’s user data to integrate offline stores, logistics and payments to boost efficiency. Shanghai-headquartered Bailian has 4,700 stores across China.

Alibaba last month outlined a $2.6bn plan to take domestic department store Intime private. The company also has investments in offline players including retailer Sunning and white goods maker Haier.

Alibaba and Bailian will develop technology for use in retail in areas including artificial intelligence, the internet of things and big data, the companies said in a statement. The companies will also combine membership bases using geolocation and facial recognition software, among other systems.

The partnership will allow offline shoppers to use Alipay, which is owned by Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial, in Bailian’s stores. Bailian’s Safepass and OK Card will also be integrated into Alipay.

Daniel Zhang, chief executive officer of Alibaba Group said the partnership with Bailian is a step toward removing the distinction between online and offline retail:

Businesses will increasingly embrace big data and new innovations to better identify, reach, analyse and serve their customers, and their digital transformation will be empowered by Alibaba’s ecosystem.

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