Last week, Alibaba’s Taobao marketplace launched a strategic tool named Micro Store, or Xiaopu in Chinese, after two weeks of trials among more than 2 million Taobao merchants. The tool marked a new chapter for the e-commerce giant, expanding further into into the burgeoning mobile commerce (m-commerce) sector.

The Xiaopu service offers a series of user-friendly features, enabling vendors to set up and operate online businesses from mobile devices. For example, merchants can easily post new products by scanning barcodes, or post new items by taking photos of products where no barcode was available. To complete product dispatch procedures, merchants can simply scan barcodes on shipping bills to enter package tracking numbers, without the need to manually input them.

Xiaopu-1Screenshots of Xiaopu

To bring more traffic to vendors, Xiaopu gives each merchant their unique storefront access code and a QR code for promoting their businesses across different social media platforms, such as Weitao, Taobao Marketplace’s mobile social media platform, and Weibo, China’s largest micro-blogging website. Consumers can have quick access to a merchant’s Taobao storefront on their mobile devices simply by entering a unique storefront access code or scanning a QR code-based business card using Mobile Taobao.

Apart from that, merchants can also attract traffic from Taobao-related platforms and external platforms by blogging about their businesses or products through Weitao, Taobao Marketplace’s mobile social media platform. More features in this aspect are underway, according to the company.

In addition, Xiaopu service will offer location-based services so that buyers can search for merchants nearby and merchants can provide more personalized services to buyers in the same region. To further lower the entry barrier to e-commerce, Xiapu is also equipped with a loan application function to provide eligible users with financing support.

Compared to traditional e-commerce platforms, mobile-focused marketplaces is a “decentralized” business model which can lower the entrance threshold and traffic acquisition costs for merchants.

Alibaba, which was born before the mobile era, gained supremacy in China’s e-commerce space mainly through PC internet users. With the rise of mobile e-commerce, a group of mobile-focused marketplaces, like Tencent’s Weidian, Paipai Weidian, Koudai Gouwu, has emerged to disrupt the top dog in this vertical.

Alibaba has been shifting focus to wireless services with the launch of Baichuan Program and addition of new features on Taobao Mobile. The launch of Xiaopu is expected to boost Alibaba’s mobile business.