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Cainiao is a logistics platform developed by Alibaba Group with two main functionalities: (1) to connect senders with delivery couriers, and (2) to standardize the logistics shipping process.

As part of (1), Cainiao collects shipping orders from senders and distributes/assigns them to different partner delivery companies. Cainiao benefits from a very high level of consumer coverage, as Cainiao has a mini-program installed in Alipay and Taobao and is also integrated with Taobao’s return service. In return for partnering with Cainiao, delivery companies are required to share their data with Alibaba. Cainiao also operates a large number of local postal hubs for senders, recipients, and delivery couriers to pick up and drop off packages. Since the majority of delivery couriers in China do not pick up or drop-off packages at the customer’s door, Cainiao postal hubs play a crucial role in connecting consumers and delivery companies in the last mile stretch of the logistics process.

As part of (2), Cainiao serves as an application programming interface (API) to standardize the digital format of shipping labels for merchants. This helps to streamline the logistics process for merchants who use different delivery companies, each with their own distinct format. Cainiao is linked with Taobao’s merchant platform to facilitate ease of access for the platform’s merchants.

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