Alibaba now positions Aliexpress as a marketplace targeting individual consumers in overseas markets, instead of wholesalers the site was originally built for. Alibaba began channeling retailers on Taobao, the customer-to-customer marketplace of Alibaba and the most popular of this kind in China, onto Aliexpress in 2012, for it was found that increasingly more customers on it were individuals.

Aliexprss charges 5% of of GMV for transactions settled through Alipay payment solution, and also makes money through a third-party marketing affiliate program. There were 110, 000 sellers and 50 million items on Aliexpress as of March 2014, according to Aliexpress. It is said Aliexpress is pretty popular in some developing markets.

Amazon China apparently has sensed the trend, too. Amazon Global Selling platform was introduced to China in 2012. In 2013 the number of Chinese retailers on Amazon Global Selling increased 196%, and total sales from UK increased 560% in the year, according to Amazon China.

The company held a conference yesterday in Guangzhou to pitch Amazon Global Selling marketplace to Chinese e-retailers. Previously a large percentage of retailers on their platform were export professionals, Amazon said, and now they wanted to get more brands on board to sell branded goods directly to overseas consumers.

Services tailored for Chinese retailers include (1) translating analytics reports into Chinese, (2) converting foreign currencies received to local currencies for retailers — HK dollar has been available while RMB currently isn’t, (3) FBA (Fulfilment by Amazon).

Amazon has at least two advantages, the company said; first, in developed countries or regions such as the U.S., Europe and Japan, many middle-class consumers only shop with Amazon whenever they want to make purchases online, and second, the traffic on Amazon is huge that products don’t need much advertising.

Before Alibaba and Amazon China tapped into this market, many Chinese retailers were selling made-in-China goods through eBay, where marketing stills and pricing are major factors that affect sales. Now with Alibaba and Amazon, they can at least benefit from their well-established e-commerce infrastructure: logistics, an extensive audience, data analytics services, among others.

Tracey Xiang

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

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