Online giant Alibaba has joined forces with Bailian – a large Chinese retailer with 4,700 outlets – to boost integration between traditional retailing and ecommerce.

Sharing each other’s ecosystems, the businesses will launch a string of new tech initiatives.

They will collaborate on the design of new stores that support cross-channel operations and ordering systems.

The retail giants will also leverage data to boost merchandise, logistics and payment tools in the interest of improving efficiency and the customer experience.

Combining resources, the firms hope to make headway in development areas such as artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, geolocation and facial recognition.

Bailian’s payment tools Safepass and Bailian OK Card will be integrated with Alipay, while Alipay will be made available at all Bailian stores.

Alibaba chief executive Daniel Zhang said: “The distinction between physical and virtual commerce is becoming obsolete.”

The move follows Amazon’s rumoured search for a bricks-and-mortar grocery store in London.