AliExpress is Exploring New Business Models to Grow their Global Presence

In this blog post, I am honored to have the opportunity to interview Martin Wang, the director of Social Commerce & Innovation Partnership at AliExpress.

AliExpress is Alibaba’s cross-border e-commerce platform, which facilitates trade and brings sellers and buyers together. AliExpress does not sell directly, but provides a platform for safe transactions between sellers and buyers. AliExpress was founded in 2010, and is today one of the top cross-border B2C platforms.

AliExpress is the cross-border e-commerce retail platform of Alibaba, serving buyers from all over the world.

AliExpress is available in more than 200 countries and regions, and recently they launched their selling program to include overseas sellers, limited to some countries. AliExpress was previously only open for Chinese sellers accessing international consumers. Now, they are exploring a change to their business model by opening its marketplace to non-Chinese sellers, which means they will be better positioned to compete against Amazon. About a year ago, AliExpress introduced the platform to international sellers from Italy, Spain, Russia and Turkey.

To learn more about AliExpress business model and growth plans, I have interviewed Martin Wang, the director of Social Commerce & Innovation Partnership at AliExpress:

To start off, I would like to introduce my readers to what AliExpress is and what is your future goal and mission?

  • Launched in 2010 by Alibaba Group, AliExpress is a global online retail marketplace that enables consumers around the world to buy directly from manufacturers and distributors from China and other markets. AliExpress is an important part of Alibaba Group’s globalization strategy.
  • Alibaba’s mission is to make it easy to do business anywhere. AliExpress not just serves consumers from all over the world, but also enables small and medium-sized businesses to grow locally and globally. In early 2019, AliExpress opened up its platform for merchants in several pilot markets outside of China, including Russia, Spain, Italy and Turkey. AliExpress’ vision is to leverage its commerce and lifestyle platform to enable consumers and merchants around the world. 
  • Leveraging Alibaba Group’s  technology and expertise in commerce, AliExpress has built an infrastructure to provide the best experience for consumers and sellers, including three key components – a well-established platform, localized payment options and an efficient logistic network through local partnerships.
  • Currently, AliExpress operates in 18 local languages and serves more than 200 countries and regions, with strong market presence in Russia, the United States, Spain, France, Brazil, Poland, the UK, the Netherlands, Israel and Korea.

AliExpress is currently exploring a new business model of welcoming overseas sellers onto the platform, called the overseas seller program. This means overseas sellers can leverage AliExpress as a platform to sell their products. This service is currently limited to Spain, Italy, Russia and Turkey. Any plans in the near future to expand this service to other countries? What are AliExpress global expansion plans?

  • AliExpress’s goal is not just serves consumers from all over the world, but also enables small and medium-sized businesses to grow locally and globally. We started the overseas seller program about 1 year ago, since then, we have seen a huge number of local sellers from the mentioned countries joining the platform, which gave us more confidence on continuing this direction. However, such launching involves a quite heavy investment especially in the beginning like infrastructure, language localization, regulation etc., that’s why we are doing this step by step and will expand when time is ready .

Amazon recently announced its entrance to the Swedish market. As I live in Norway, I am interested to hear your take on AliExpress positioning in Europe.

  • Europe as a whole is a strategically important market for AliExpress, where we have established strong presence in certain countries, such as Spain, France and Poland. We will continue investing in upgrading infrastructure and user experiences and bringing more quality products and services to consumers there.

Livestreaming in China has been growing every year, and is now estimated to account for about 9 percent of total e-commerce sales in China. Brands use livestreaming, broadcasting in real-time, as a ‘tool’ to promote products and engage with their potential customers. In Europe, this trend is also gaining traction. Does AliExpress offer merchants this tool in order to reach a bigger audience? If yes, do you have an example of a merchant using livestreaming to succeed on the platform? 

  • AliExpress have been offering the livestreaming service for already more than 1 year, and the penetration keeps increasing. We have quite some merchants who have enjoyed a better result via livestreaming, for example, we do have a mobile brand, they held a livestreaming in different languages on AliExpress, and broke the sales record which is more than 400% higher than ever. 

China is the leading nation when it comes to the development of retail and e-commerce. Social Commerce is a pre-existing trend in China, the integration between social networks and commerce. This trend has been amplified during the pandemics. What are your thoughts on the development of social commerce and how are social elements integrated on AliExpress?

  • We believe social commerce is a new trend as consumers are increasingly looking for more from their shopping experience, to interact with brands in new, engaging ways. We’ve seen the tremendous growth in livestreaming sales in China, which have played an important role in driving retail transformation and e-commerce success, and have become a great source of job creation and income especially during the Covid-19 pandemics.  Taking the experiences from China and Alibaba Group, AliExpress has been working with local influencer agencies in Europe, to nurture influencer talent and create a new business approach. We also launched a brand new platform called AliExpress Connect, which is designed to create opportunity for both brands and influencers, as the world moves increasingly toward online shopping. It offers new income sources and job opportunities for influencers and content creators, helping them to scale and digitalize their business. While for brands, it opens up the opportunity to attract new customers.

Facebook and Instagram are two popular social networks in Europe. Is AliExpress closely linked with these networks? 

  • These are two of the most popular social channels where aliexpress is doing different campaigns.

In China, Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) and Key Opinion Consumers (KOCs) are essential in marketing to reach more consumers. In the West, we are more used to hear influencers. How is AliExpress looking to use influencers in the West? 

  • We do have the AE Connect platform for influencers, both Aliexpress and our sellers will post different tasks such as content creation, livestreaming, brand awareness, new user acquisition etc., and influencers will get paid based on the performance.
  • If anyone is interested in joining the program, you could email to the following: aesocial@aliexpress.com or go directly to: https://connect.aliexpress.com/ to check our tasks and terms right away.

To sum up, AliExpress, among other digital marketplaces, are gaining presence in Europe and around the world. AliExpress is not just a marketplace that connects sellers and buyers, but a lifestyle app that creates unique user experiences. 

A big thanks to Martin Wang for great insights!


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