Alibaba’s AliExpress, Tmall International and the international division of Taobao, reportedly will merge into one marketplace, targeting individual consumers overseas (via Sina Tech).

Alibaba as an online marketplace, actually, started from international business-to-business (B2B) trades. But it turned out that Taobao, the online customer-to-customer (C2C) marketplace, and then Tmall, the B2C version of Taobao, exploded in domestic market. Five years after it got listed in Hong Kong Stock Exchange, Alibaba’s B2B business delisted in mid-2012.

AliExpress was once of Alibaba B2B but decided to transform into a retailing platform this year, for increasingly more purchasers from outside China were individual customers instead of businesses. In 2012 AliExpress began introducing local Taobao retailers onto its platform to sell goods directly to overseas customers. Now the number of Taobao retailers on it is bigger than the traditional wholesaling sellers.

Tmall International (not official translation),, was first spotted by local media in the past July. The website shows that it’s under a company called Taobao China Holding Limited. The offerings to and requirements for businesses from outside mainland China are almost the same with those on the domestic version of Tmall. The site currently is only available in Chinese.

As Alibaba is dominating the domestic consumer-facing e-commerce market with Taobao and Tmall, overseas expansion is the next natural step. Earlier this year the group invested in US sports retailer Fanatics and later led a $206 million investment in US e-commerce company ShopRunner. Alibaba Group is planning to take the Taobao&Tmall public in Hong Kong.

Tracey Xiang is Beijing, China-based tech writer. Reach her at

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