Ruonan Zheng
Jun 1, 2020

Alibaba attempts to replicate Taobao model overseas

The platform encourages people to share within the AliExpress app, hoping to create a shopping environment similar to Taobao.

(Shutterstock)
(Shutterstock)

On Thursday (May 28) Alibaba debuted a most ambitious plan: The company wants to mobilize 100,000 global influencers—growing this number to over 1 million within three years—to create original content to increase users and engagement on its B2C marketplace platform, AliExpress Connect. According to the company, it’s a first step to replicate Taobao’s model in the West. 

Here’s how it works. Whether you’re a consumer or influencer, as long as you utilize your network to sell, you can register on AliExpress. It’s essential to choose a brand to promote, and based on your exposure and sales performance, your commission will be adjusted accordingly.  

The promotion channels would be Western-facing social media platforms, and ways of promoting varies—it can be as simple as to copy the product info to WhatsApp groups, or to post on personal Instagram feed, or even display at offline locations. 

The platform was created to help Chinese vendors connect with influencers in the West, while also enjoying additional organic exposure and traffic. As for now, the focus will be on Europe, where consumers from Russia, France, Spain, and Poland make up the majority of AliExpress users.  

Alibaba is pushing forward this initiative at a critical time, positioning the marketplace as a way to create new job opportunities and income streams during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. But can it really attract 1 million influencers within three years outside of China? 

The platform encourages people to share within the AliExpress app, hoping to create a shopping environment similar to Taobao, where consumers browse content instead of simply making a one-time purchase. Replicating this model outside of China is likely to be challenging, as consumers in the West share a different shopping behavior than consumers on the mainland. Their e-commerce shopping behavior is more: purchase something and leave. To date, e-commerce sites in the West are transitional and not a form of entertainment as they are in Greater China. Will Alibaba be able to change this with AliExpress? There’s a million reasons why they might be able to. 

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