Pinduoduo beware: Alipay just launched a group buying function

The success of the newly-listed e-commerce platform  Pinduoduo seems to have alerted other established online shopping platforms. Alibaba’s mobile payment application Alipay has quietly launched a new group buying function together with its online shopping platform Taobao. Alibaba is hoping to catch up with the trend of social media-enabled group buys at low prices which made Pinduoduo one of its most notable rivals.

The new function named Pintuan (拼团) is located at the bottom of Alipay’s homepage, where users can access daily deals ranging from groceries to electronic devices. The function was launched in late July and it is still in beta testing.

Screenshots of Alipay’s group buying portal Pintuan

Alipay is not the first one to go after Pinduoduo’s group buying market. Netease set foot in the similar business in 2017 but the merchandise it offers targets much wealthier groups. Taobao’s main rival JD.com launched a group buying function in June. JD’s group buying slogan is “Low prices don’t mean low quality” which seems to be mocking Pinduoduo’s counterfeit problems.

After China’s State Administration for Market Regulation announced Pinduoduo will be put under investigation, the company’s counterfeit problems have gained attention overseas. Seven US law firms have launched investigations on whether Pinduoduo misled and withheld information to public investors.

The incredible rise of Pinduoduo, Tencent’s most powerful Taobao rival

TechNode found that Pinduoduo’s platform is still full of fakes. On Pinduoduo’s mother and baby product page, five imitations of the famous diaper brand Pampers are sold at around below RMB 30 per pack, while the authentic ones of the same size and volume are worth more than RMB 130 on JD or Taobao. The imitations are named Parmebos, Paonmepors, Parmepas, Puobanrs, and Pampermes. They all use similar color schemes and typeface like the real Pampers.

Screenshots of Pampers counterfeits at Pinduoduo on August 8, 2018

Alipay’s Pintuan has taken a somewhat different approach from Pinduoduo. Unlike Pinduoduo which has group buy deals all day long, Alibaba launches its deals at 9 AM, 2 PM, and 7 PM every day with a limited number of products available.

The deals usually offer more than a 50% discount and require two people to form the group. All of the products come from Taobao but are offered at lower prices. For instance, one dress was priced at RMB 18.8 for a group purchase, and RMB 49.4 if customers decided to buy it individually. Most products are eligible for a return within 15 days of purchase, similar to those on Taobao.