December 3, 2023


Business&Finance Specialists

Investigation: Alibaba’s e-commerce empire below risk from Douyin, Pinduoduo

5 min read

BEIJING, Dec 9 (Reuters) – For more than a ten years, Alibaba Group (9988.HK) has been China’s undisputed e-commerce king but of late its crown has proven signs of slipping, unsettled by an influx of intense rivals into the sector.

This week, Alibaba declared it was reorganising its e-commerce companies into two models, one for China and a person for abroad.

In China, its two primary marketplaces – Tmall for founded makes and Taobao which welcomes all sorts of merchants – method around $1 trillion in orders every year.

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But Alibaba is seeing sharply slower advancement in consumer management earnings (CMR), the revenue derived from charging retailers for providers which generally accounts for one-3rd to one particular-fifty percent of its total income. It rose just 3% in the July-September quarter, down from 20% growth a calendar year earlier.

Alibaba very last month also minimize its yearly earnings forecast though income or gross items price (GMV) for Singles Working day, its banner browsing event, this 12 months climbed only 8.5% – the smallest increase to day.

People disappointing figures are because of in component to regulatory adjustments and pandemic-induced slower economic development that has created shoppers reluctant to splurge.

But they also emphasize the onslaught of competitiveness and the actuality that some rivals have stolen a march over Alibaba in the speediest-escalating parts of China’s e-commerce.

Retailers and analysts cite ByteDance’s Douyin – the Chinese sister application to TikTok and a relative newcomer – as the pressure to conquer in dwell-streaming e-commerce, while Nasdaq-detailed Pinduoduo Inc (PDD.O) has taken the guide in rural and finances e-commerce.

“Other platforms are increasing more quickly than Alibaba, which means they are taking in Alibaba’s lunch,” said Lu Zhenwang, CEO of Shanghai-dependent Wanqing Consultancy.

Alibaba said in a statement to Reuters it has normally faced extreme competitiveness. It extra it provides merchants a strong stay-streaming device in Taobao Live and that its Taobao Discounts system for discounted buying and Taocaicai system for group group purchasing ended up attaining share in decreased-tier marketplaces.


Douyin is concentrating on a jump in GMV to about 1 trillion yuan ($155 billion) this calendar year, in accordance to a enterprise supply with immediate awareness of the make any difference. The source was not authorised to speak to media and declined to be identified.

That’s extra than 6 occasions the 150 billion yuan it was on track to earn final 12 months – a figure provided by sources in November 2020.

Douyin declined to comment on its e-commerce enterprise.

The app, which boasts 600 million-additionally day-to-day energetic customers, started enabling merchants to open outlets on its system in 2018. This yr the business has produced it easier for brands to open flagship suppliers.

Yatsen (YSG.N), the mum or dad of Chinese cosmetics large Great Diary, programs to spend more in its Douyin presence. By comparison, its revenue on Tmall, which accounts for about 40% of its earnings, are contracting.

“Douyin, right now, is turning out to be a extremely critical aspect for brand progress,” CEO Huang Jinfeng advised an analysts’ call final thirty day period.

Merchants are attracted to the volume of time users commit on Douyin – 1,871 minutes on normal in October in comparison to 350 minutes on Taobao, in accordance to consulting agency Questmobile.

Also, when Alibaba’s viewer site visitors tends to converge on China’s largest reside-streaming famous people – Li Jiaqi, regarded as the Lipstick Brother, and Viya, a former singer – they are just two people today. In contrast, Douyin can draw on a large pool of reside streamers.

Zen Yan, a 42-yr-aged auditor living in Beijing, is an avid Douyin shopper.

“It’s easy to spend a single hour or a lot more browsing on Douyin each and every working day immediately after operate and there are a large amount of influencers marketing all varieties of points,” she said.

Low-cost AND Effective

At the other end of the e-commerce spectrum is Pinduoduo. It is really well-known amid China’s rural residents many thanks to rock-base pricing and a team getting product that encourages customers to share their buys on messaging platforms to get more affordable prices.

Its GMV surged 66% to 1.67 trillion yuan in 2020. When a lot more modest 20% GMV expansion is predicted in the fourth quarter, in accordance to Goldman Sachs, that would even now be significantly stronger than Alibaba’s the latest showings.

Pinduoduo declined to comment.

Rural e-commerce is a lot more of a people today business than common e-commerce and Alibaba is a long time at the rear of Pinduoduo in forming associations with key nearby merchants and brands, analysts say.

“For individuals who are currently applied to Pinduoduo to get bargains, it truly is hard for them to switch to a new platform. The exact goes for factories or nearby grocery suppliers who are utilised to Pinduoduo,” reported Daphne Tuijn at Shanghai-primarily based analytics organization Chaoly.

Alibaba also can’t engage in viral promoting as properly as Pinduoduo, hampered by its lack of direct accessibility to a messaging system like Tencent Holdings’ (0700.HK) WeChat, she extra.

RIVALS AND Restrictions

Alibaba is revamping its e-commerce enterprise – the recently unveiled reorganisation follows the start of Taobao Discounts previous calendar year and a rebranding of two group marketplaces into Taocaicai in September.

Even so, its challenges are abundant and analysts question Alibaba can turn back the clock to when it was showing the quickest expansion in Chinese e-commerce.

Douyin and Pinduoduo are only two of at minimum 10 established rivals. continues to be its closest rival though Meituan (3690.HK) and Baidu Inc (9988.HK), giants in search and food items supply respectively, are increasing their e-commerce choices. At the exact same time, lesser startups are focusing on niche segments like sneakers and make-up.

And whilst its effects has been tough to quantify, Alibaba has also been damage by a regulatory crackdown that forced it to abandon a policy of demanding fascinated merchants to solely established up shop on its platforms.

“I don’t feel Alibaba can reverse the scenario…it can only adopt a defensive tactic,” explained Wanqing Consultancy’s Lu.

($1 = 6.3749 Chinese yuan)

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Reporting by Josh Horwitz, Sophie Yu and Yingzhi Yang Modifying by Brenda Goh and Edwina Gibbs

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