Before Taobao Taobao Tongxue, a market for selling online courses or other educational services launched last year, a lot of Taobao stores had been set up for selling educational materials or offline classes.

Visitors to those stores were 81 million in 2013, as Taobao disclosed yesterday, while the number was only 15 million in 2011. 6.9 million, 9% of the total visitors, bought products or services from those stores in 2013; the number in 2011 was 830,000.

A total of 1.053 billion yuan ($172mn) were paid through Alipay for educational goods in 2013. Of that 43.1% were for online courses, 23.5% for offline classes and 33.3% for other materials.

However, on average, paying users spent much more on offline classes — 698 yuan (roughly $110) on offline classes while 278 yuan (roughly $45) on the online ones, which means online courses are priced much lower than the offline ones. They spent an average of 70 yuan ($11) on other materials.

The top five categories of classes sold are language learning (37.6%), marketing management (14.3%), after-school classes for primary and secondary students (13.2%), art & sports (11.3%), and professional and vocational exams (10.4%).

Taobao also disclosed metrics on Taobao Tongxue for the first quarter of 2014. It has had one million users. 18000 have bought courses that spent an average of 160 yuan ($26) in the quarter. Most paying users are from first-tier cities.

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

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