When Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. sold off its U.S. retail site 11 Main in June it was widely seen as a sign that the dominant e-commerce company in China was struggling to find its footing in the United States. But, without attracting much notice from commentators, another Alibaba consumer-facing site is gaining a following among U.S. online shoppers.
That site is the English-language version of AliExpress, a global service Alibaba created in 2010 that now offers web shoppers around the world products from 200,000 mostly Chinese manufacturers. Traffic to AliExpress.com from U.S. desktop users has increased 69% from 7.47 million unique visitors in September 2014 to 12.61 million unique visitors in September 2015. During the same time, traffic to U.S.-based discount retail site Overstock.com has declined 33% to 10.57 million unique visitors, according to Compete data. However, a spokesman for Overstock.com, No. 31 in the Internet Retailer 2015 Top 500, disputes that Compete data, saying “we haven’t seen any drop in traffic in the last year.” While he would not disclose current traffic figures, the 2015 Internet Top 500 estimates Overstock.com attracted an average of 13 million unique visitors per month in 2014.
As a result of the gains AliExpress has made in the past year, after Russia, the U.S. is now the No. 2 market for AliExpress worldwide, Yan Jun, director of global operations and expansion strategy for AliExpress, tells Internet Retailer. AliExpress is translated into 15 languages and is No. 28 among global websites in traffic, according to Alexa, a web-measurement unit of Amazon.com Inc., No. 1 in the Top 500.
AliExpress offers 100 million products, Yan says. “In such categories as wigs, apparel and electronics accessories, AliExpress can provide products at great prices online and make the supply chain more efficient.” Yan says.
Alibaba initially developed AliExpress as a business-to-business site to complement its Alibaba.com B2B site that puts mostly Chinese manufacturers in contact with business buyers, but does not facilitate transactions. AliExpress does support transactions, but Alibaba quickly saw its potential as a way to sell inexpensive goods to shoppers around the world. “After just several months of operation, we realized we needed to shift to serving global consumers who seek affordable products,” Yan says.
AliExpress has been one of the fastest-growing businesses inside of Alibaba Group, growing its gross merchandise value at an average of 300% every year, according to the company.
He says AliExpress provides a number of services free to merchants selling on its platform. They include machine translation to help sellers provide product descriptions in local languages and analytics that show them the most popular products and sales trends.
There are not yet any U.S. sellers on AliExpress, but that could change, Yan says.
“It is our goal in the future. AliExpress could help small merchants in the U.S. to sell into a global market,” he says. And, he adds, “There are no listing fees and we only charge 5% as commission.”