Just how far is Alibaba reaching? Let us count the ways.
Here are the top 10 examples of its ecommerce ambitions and achievements so far:
Alibaba.com, Alibaba’s original endeavor, started as a business-to-business buying and selling portal, connecting Chinese manufacturers with overseas buyers. Of course, that leaves out a large part of the global market: the everyday consumer.
Enter AliExpress, Alibaba’s wholesale ecommerce site that allows manufacturers and stores in China to sell to the average consumer worldwide.
Alipay is Alibaba’s answer to China’s fast-growing demand for a convenient online payment service. WePay, WeChat’s online payment service, has been around for slightly longer, but Alipay has made its mark in this increasingly crowded and cutthroat landscape.
Together, the two companies nab 70 percent of the mobile-payment market. Not bad, considering Enfodesk estimated that China’s third-party payment market would increase by 45 percent from 2015 to 2016, reaching 20.3 trillion yuan ($ 2.96 trillion).
There’s good reason to battle it out for market share. Enfodesk’s projections now set growth at 20 percent annually, reaching 33 trillion yuan by 2018.
3. Tmall China, Tmall Global and Taobao.
Taking inspiration from one of the original North American ecommerce giants, eBay, Alibaba has it covered. The approach is slightly different because Alibaba has split the revenue streams based on end user. Tmall handles business-to-consumer traffic while Taobao handles consumer-to-consumer transactions. The concept, however, remains the same. And these ecommerce portals have given rise to opportunity for small suppliers worldwide to make big inroads into China’s markets.
With Alibaba buying up equity in other ecommerce platforms such as a live-seafood online marketplace, the company can ensure steady supply of hard-to-source goods from around the world.
By now, it should be obvious that Alibaba isn’t interested in building a one-way street. Manufacturers want to sell to markets in China, too.
Alibaba’s 1688.com is a business-to-business online marketplace that allows other countries to sell wholesale to businesses in China. For example, the Australia Post launched the Australian Pavilion on 1688.com in late 2015. The first product on sale from Australia? Wine, of course.
5. Singles’ Day.
Singles’ Day 2016 was predicted to break records. It didn’t disappoint, racking up $ 18 billion. Businesses offered steep “flash” discounts to consumers. Singles’ Day, which occurs annually on Nov. 11, is similar to Black Friday — but it features better deals and less risk of death by stampede: 82 percent of sales were made on mobile phones.
How did the one-day event build so much excitement? Pre-game hype. Alibaba’s Singles’ Day pre-party welcomed a cast of celebrities to the stage, including Kobe Bryant, One Direction, Scarlett Johansson and the Beckhams.
6. Virtual shopping.
Being on the cutting edge of trends is another key to success, and Alibaba has proved it knows what’s what. Virtual reality is on everyone’s lips these days as the technology continues its march into the public sphere. Alibaba is taking notes and writing its own story.
While some might view it as a bit gimmicky at this stage, Alibaba enabled users to shop using virtual reality during its 2016 Singles’ Day celebrations.
7. Aliyun: Alibaba’s Cloud.
It wouldn’t be online dominance without mentioning cloud services, and Alibaba’s Aliyun is rolling in like a storm. Business Insider notes that while Amazon Web Services currently towers over the rest, Aliyun — not Google or Microsoft — is the one to watch in the near future. After all, Aliyun already is the No. 1 cloud service in China.
This branch of Alibaba is projected to generate $ 5 billion in revenue by 2019. It’s still small compared to Amazon Web Services, but Goldman Sachs puts Alibaba “in firm second place in the cloud infrastructure space,” with “massive future potential.” Meanwhile, Baird Equity Research calls the company a “huge long-term opportunity.”
Messaging in China is slightly different than it is in North America. That’s why Aliwangwang, Alibaba’s instant-messaging app, has grown so quickly there. Aliwangwang connects buyers and sellers on Taobao and now is the second-largest messaging app in China.
Consumers and suppliers in North America are limited to business hours, clunky online chat boards or email. Aliwangwang provides a level of intimacy through real-time chats that heighten the shopping experience. It’s proved wildly successful.
9. Youku Tudou.
Alibaba fully acquired Youku Tudou, China’s counterpart to Youtube, in 2016. It was a signal that entertainment takeovers might be next on Alibaba’s list.
This isn’t the first time Alibaba has forayed into video. The company acquired the film company ChinaVision in 2014 and renamed it Alibaba Pictures Group. The company since has invested in films that are starting to top China’s box-office charts.
All of Alibaba’s video and productions companies now are under one roof, Alibaba Digital Media and Entertainment Group. The CEO of the newly consolidated media branch has a budget of $ 7.2 million to play with over the next three years. Television, movies and video games fall into the entertainment division’s scope.
10. Ali Health.
Health and wellness is one of the 21st century’s most prevalent hot-button topics. In China, the industry is booming. According to Nasdaq, healthcare is one of the fastest-growing sectors in China. By 2020, spending is expected to jump from $ 350 billion to nearly $ 1 trillion.
Ali Health, Alibaba’s healthcare subsidiary, is making smart forays into the heavily regulated industry. The group experienced some initial setbacks as a result of regulation changes for third-party websites selling pharmaceuticals. But Ali Health recently acquired a drugstore chain called Wuqiannian, and its license allows the online sale of over-the-counter drugs.
Full speed ahead.
Like a mirror reflecting the speed of the online world, Alibaba has done more in 17 years of operations than most companies can dream of doing in a lifetime.
And why stop there? Alibaba founder Jack Ma recently made headlines when he met with President Donald Trump and set a lofty goal of using his platforms to help create 1 million American jobs.