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Alibaba Group added 104 million monthly active users to its Chinese online retail marketplaces during the year to March 31.

That stellar growth, driven by successful user-acquisition programs such as referrals through the Alipay app, took the total to 721 million. At the end of last year, the figure was 654 million, while quarter-on-quarter growth was 22 million.

A standout feature of the growth is that Alibaba is cutting through into lower-tier, less developed cities which accounted for 70 percent of user growth last quarter.

The figures were included in the company’s annual results, which, as reported earlier, included revenue growth of 51 percent during the year to March 31 to US$56.2 billion and net income up 31 percent to $13.1 billion.

Chinese marketplaces recorded total gross merchandise volume (GMV) of $853 billion last year, up 19 percent on last year, which keeps the company on track to achieve its US$1 trillion total GMV target by the end of 2020.

The company said its Taobao platform continues to grow fast. This year, a new interface was launched aimed at improving the user experience through content innovation and intelligent personalized recommendations.

“It delivers a customized shopping experience by segmenting users based on behavior data and providing them with more recommendations to enhance product and content discovery,” the company said in a statement. “The new interface also includes Taobao’s innovative content, such as curated posts, short-form videos, and live-broadcast events. These initiatives drove strong growth in user engagement, purchase conversion, and annual active consumers.”

Meanwhile, Alibaba’s mainstay Tmall is gaining wallet share and growing faster than the sector average, the company said.

The growth of physical goods GMV, excluding unpaid orders, accelerated to 33 percent year-on-year in the quarter to March 31, compared to 29 percent in the previous quarter.

“This robust growth was driven primarily by a strong performance of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), apparel, electronics, and home furnishing categories during the March quarter.”

Its premium Luxury Pavilion channel boosted its brand lineup to more than 100 luxury brands, all of which have also opened Tmall flagship stores

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