Evaluation: Alibaba’s e-commerce empire beneath threat from Douyin, Pinduoduo

BEIJING, Dec 9 (Reuters) – For additional than a 10 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 inflow of aggressive competitors into the sector.

This week, Alibaba announced it was reorganising its e-commerce enterprises into two units, just one for China and one particular for abroad.

In China, its two primary marketplaces – Tmall for recognized brand names and Taobao which welcomes all kinds of merchants – approach about $1 trillion in orders annually.

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But Alibaba is looking at sharply slower development in consumer management income (CMR), the dollars derived from charging retailers for solutions which generally accounts for 1-third to a single-fifty percent of its overall income. It rose just 3% in the July-September quarter, down from 20% growth a calendar year previously.

Alibaba past month also lower its yearly profits forecast whilst sales or gross goods price (GMV) for Singles Day, its banner buying party, this yr climbed only 8.5% – the smallest increase to day.

People disappointing numbers are because of in element to regulatory modifications and pandemic-induced slower economic expansion that has manufactured purchasers hesitant to splurge.

But they also spotlight the onslaught of competitiveness and the actuality that some rivals have stolen a march above Alibaba in the fastest-increasing places 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-listed Pinduoduo Inc (PDD.O) has taken the guide in rural and price range e-commerce.

“Other platforms are expanding a lot quicker than Alibaba, which implies they are feeding on Alibaba’s lunch,” mentioned Lu Zhenwang, CEO of Shanghai-based Wanqing Consultancy.

Alibaba said in a assertion to Reuters it has generally confronted intense level of competition. It extra it provides retailers a powerful stay-streaming tool in Taobao Live and that its Taobao Discounts system for price cut purchasing and Taocaicai system for local community group shopping for had been getting share in reduce-tier markets.


Douyin is targeting a jump in GMV to above 1 trillion yuan ($155 billion) this calendar year, in accordance to a firm supply with immediate knowledge of the make any difference. The supply was not authorised to talk to media and declined to be recognized.

That is a lot more than 6 times the 150 billion yuan it was on observe to gain previous 12 months – a determine offered by sources in November 2020.

Douyin declined to remark on its e-commerce company.

The app, which boasts 600 million-furthermore each day energetic people, began allowing retailers to open up stores on its platform in 2018. This 12 months the organization has manufactured it simpler for models to open flagship merchants.

Yatsen (YSG.N), the father or mother of Chinese cosmetics giant Fantastic Diary, options to spend far more in its Douyin presence. By comparison, its sales on Tmall, which accounts for about 40% of its profits, are contracting.

“Douyin, appropriate now, is getting to be a incredibly vital component for model growth,” CEO Huang Jinfeng advised an analysts’ simply call last thirty day period.

Merchants are attracted to the amount of time users spend on Douyin – 1,871 minutes on normal in Oct when compared to 350 minutes on Taobao, in accordance to consulting organization Questmobile.

Also, though Alibaba’s viewer site visitors tends to converge on China’s greatest dwell-streaming stars – Li Jiaqi, acknowledged as the Lipstick Brother, and Viya, a former singer – they are just two people today. In contrast, Douyin can draw on a massive pool of live streamers.

Zen Yan, a 42-12 months-aged auditor residing in Beijing, is an avid Douyin shopper.

“It truly is straightforward to invest a person hour or much more browsing on Douyin each day soon after do the job and there are a great deal of influencers marketing all sorts of things,” she said.

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At the other finish of the e-commerce spectrum is Pinduoduo. It is preferred amongst China’s rural people many thanks to rock-bottom pricing and a team purchasing model that encourages users to share their buys on messaging platforms to get cheaper rates.

Its GMV surged 66% to 1.67 trillion yuan in 2020. Although more modest 20% GMV progress is predicted in the fourth quarter, in accordance to Goldman Sachs, that would nonetheless be substantially stronger than Alibaba’s the latest showings.

Pinduoduo declined to remark.

Rural e-commerce is far more of a people today company than normal e-commerce and Alibaba is years powering Pinduoduo in forming associations with essential neighborhood retailers and suppliers, analysts say.

“For consumers who are already made use of to Pinduoduo to acquire bargains, it is difficult for them to swap to a new platform. The identical goes for factories or area grocery sellers who are made use of to Pinduoduo,” reported Daphne Tuijn at Shanghai-based mostly analytics enterprise Chaoly.

Alibaba also are not able to interact in viral marketing and advertising as successfully as Pinduoduo, hampered by its deficiency of immediate access to a messaging platform like Tencent Holdings’ (0700.HK) WeChat, she included.


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

Even so, its problems are abundant and analysts question Alibaba can flip back again the clock to when it was demonstrating the fastest advancement in Chinese e-commerce.

Douyin and Pinduoduo are only two of at the very least 10 established competitors. JD.com stays its closest rival while Meituan (3690.HK) and Baidu Inc (9988.HK), giants in search and food delivery respectively, are expanding their e-commerce choices. At the identical time, smaller startups are concentrating on market segments like shoes and makeup.

And though its effect has been challenging to quantify, Alibaba has also been harm by a regulatory crackdown that pressured it to abandon a plan of necessitating intrigued merchants to completely established up shop on its platforms.

“I don’t feel Alibaba can reverse the predicament…it can only undertake a defensive method,” reported Wanqing Consultancy’s Lu.

($1 = 6.3749 Chinese yuan)

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

Our Specifications: The Thomson Reuters Belief Rules.

Simonne Stigall

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