BEIJING, Aug. 27 (Xinhua) -- Good news for the millions of Chinese housewives hooked on online shopping: the more they spend online, the greater discount they will get on a home purchase under a new scheme.
China Vanke Co. and Alibaba's eBay-like Taobao.com jointly launched a program this week that offers home price cuts based on a shopper's spending on the website last year.
The discounts could be as high as two million yuan (about 325,000 U.S. dollars) while those who spent under 50,000 yuan will get 50,000-yuan discount when buying a Vanke home before September 30.
Included in the program are apartments and villas in Vanke's 23 real estate projects in 12 first- and second-tier cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hangzhou.
The tie-up between Vanke and Taobao is novel as it is done in accordance with "Internet thinking," a new buzz term used by Chinese Internet marketers to mean promotions offered across various platforms to better identify with web-savvy would-be customers.
But the cooperation is hardly more than the latest tactic of Chinese home developers to drive sales and unload stockpiles in the languid real estate market.
China's property sector showed new signs of cooling in July, with more cities reporting month-on-month price drops for both new and existing homes. The sales volume dropped accordingly as a wait-and-see sentiment prevailed.
In a bid to ko kickstart the market, real estate firms have been offering discounts, gifts like cellphones or even car washes by bikini-clad models.
At the same time, more than 30 cities have eased or lifted property purchases restrictions introduced in 2010 to cool the then overheated market. < Vanke said in an interim financial report that its home sales in the first half of 2014 bucked the sluggish trend and grew 14.6 percent year on year to 8.2 million square meters.
But the developer's operating revenue and profit dipped by 1.04 percent and 3.5 percent respectively from January to June.
Vanke said in the report that it "will actively market its real estate projects."
"It is difficult to target potential buyers. We need to find them across all channels," said Vanke President Yu Liang.
Although the deal is based on Taobao shopping last year, the marketing is also expected to lure more Internet users to the site and encourage purchases on the largest business-to-customer platform in China.
The website's parent company, Alibaba, is about to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange, in an IPO that is expected to be one of the largest in U.S. history.
Taobao is one of Alibaba's major revenue sources and sells a huge range of products. It has been reported that more than 100 Taobao users have already been granted discounts on homes under the new scheme.
Still, it remains to be seen whether the cooperation between Vanke and Taobao will substantially boost home sales and bolster online shopping.
"Vanke's tactics may be a tradeoff of price for sales. But more likely, it's just a gimmick," said Deng Haozhi, an economist familiar with the real estate industry.
His remarks were echoed on microblogging service Sina Weibo. Some speculated that Vanke would simply have inflated the initial home prices on which it is offering discounts. Besides, one's spending on Taobao is usually a small amount of money compared with the price of a home.
Nevertheless, the program at least excited some female Taobao shoppers. One microblog posting read "Honey, quit criticizing me for buying too much. I am saving for a home!"