Taobao, the eBay style customer to customer e-commerce strand of Alibaba online shopping, has created its own social app called Weitao designed to give more interaction between buyers and sellers on the platform.
Standing in direct competition with other apps such as WeChat and Weibo, Taobao are hoping that their new entry onto the social media landscape will help drive yet morebusiness for their shopping site. Weitao allows sellers to have customised pages linking directly to their shopping pages and to post comments and articles to their fans.
Taobao’s release of the mobile app also coincided with shutting down any QR code access for rival WeChat, a movewhich has suggested to onlookers that they are actively waging war on Tencent for mobile access. While still in its early stages, Weitao has potential for Western brands looking to reach a wider audience in China on a selling site such asTaobao.
Taobao is one of the most successful online shopping channels in China. According to Bloomberg Business Week: “Taobao has catered to Chinese preferences for doing business—for example, it’s enabled buyers and sellers to negotiate and bargain on prices.”(http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-02-18/the-secret-of-taobaos-success)
Taobao, with 50% of the market share, towers above Western ecommerce rivals like Amazon who only have around 11%. While a large number of businesses on the site used to besmall, independent e-commerce operators, major brands have had more and more of an impact in recent years. You can buy almost anything and the BBC recently reported on some of the strange products available from boyfriends for hire to live scorpions in a bag.
One of the problems for brands has been the prevalence of fake products and it’s something the ecommerce giant has only just recently admitted to and decided to take seriously. According to NetNames: “Alibaba Group has certainly become more visible in recent months and is engaging more with brand owners, trade associations, law enforcement agencies and governments alike. This is good news, but there is still a long way to go to address brand owners legitimate concerns.”
The upshot is that hundreds of Taobao shops are being closed down on a daily basis but this is only the tip of the iceberg as far as well-known brands are concerned. Most debate that simply closing down online shops is not the answer and that more has to be done to close down the factories that produce the counterfeit goods.
For brands that as yet have no official presence in China, the chances are high that their products are on sale on Taobao, either as counterfeits or as goods imported by Chinese entrepreneurs living in the West and using loopholes in the system to make a profit.
With over 5 billion registered users and almost 500 million unique visits a day, it’s no wonder that Taobao is the number one ecommerce site in China and with the addition of the newWeitao app it could be set to become the platform of choice particularly for those brands making their first forays into the country.