Alibaba has launched a mini app for its community group buy platform on rival Tencent’s instant messaging platform WeChat, Chinese media noticed on Friday. The mini program, Hema Market (our translation), was officially launched in October.

Why it matters: The Hema Market mini-program is a rare example of a direct Alibaba-Tencent ecosystem link. Chinese tech giants are usually walled gardens, and WeChat also blocks access to links to Alibaba’s Taobao online marketplace. 

  • After Alibaba Group was stung with a RMB 18.2 billion penalty for anti-competitive practices, the company’s business units are expanding traffic gateways amid competition from e-commerce companies like Pinduoduo and

Details: Chinese media Ebrun was the first to notice the existence of the Hema Market mini app on WeChat. Hema Market doesn’t yet have an independent app. The WeChat mini program comes with separate versions for customers and for community organizers.

  • The mini program offered various time-sensitive discounts and rewards to gain users, including flash sales, referral bonuses for customers and organizers, and lists of discounted products on the front page, according to the report. Certain promotions such as “red envelopes” in central China’s Henan province were location based.
  • Hema Market transactions can be completed entirely on the mini program, according to Ebrun.
  • The mini program was initially registered in October by Shanghai Xuanhe Networks Technology, the operator of Alibaba’s Freshippo (Hema Xiansheng in Chinese) fresh-grocery service, according to its registration page on WeChat.
  • A company spokeswoman said the company has no immediate response on Monday afternoon.
  • TechNode was not able to complete a transaction in the mini app, which is accessible only to customers in covered areas.

Context: Alibaba on April 2 unveiled a new department to manage its community group buy business, headed by Alibaba Group partner Dai Shan. The department, known as MMC, has since publicly released nearly 1,500 positions to be filled, a source told Ebrun.

  • Hema Market follows Alibaba-backed food delivery service and logistics subsidiary Cainiao in launching WeChat mini apps.
  • Secondhand e-commerce platform Xianyu applied for a WeChat mini program on April 7, the most recent Alibaba-owned service to do so, according to TechWeb (in Chinese).
  • The head of Alibaba’s C2M department, Wang Hai, announced on March 25 that the company’s application for a mini program for Taobao Special Offer Edition, Taobao’s Pinduoduo-like discount shopping platform, was pending review, and that the e-commerce giant hopes to collaborate with Tencent.
  • Community group buying is a platform-based grocery service which uses a network of organizers who sell products to their neighbors. By combining individual orders into bulk shipments, group-buy companies can offer customers lower prices. The red-hot but controversial model has gained traction particularly in China’s lower-tier cities.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the Hema Market mini-program was launched last Friday. In fact, it was launched in October 2020, according to WeChat registration data, and noticed by Chinese media on Friday.

Julia is an intern at TechNode. After graduating from Harvard University, she worked in the entertainment industry with Chinese writers and directors. Since then, she has researched the international impact...