Alibaba has decided to internationalise its 1688.com site originally developed to facilitate business-to-business trade inside China. From May 18, 2015 it began linking to global brands, so Chinese merchants can source these directly and Alibaba gets a slice of the action.
The ecommerce giant is clearly serious about its intention to become the largest sourcing platform for imports. Phase One of the outreach added products from South Korea, Portugal and Italy, showing that language is no barrier to international trade where Alibaba leads the way.
1688 Harmonises with Government Intentions
The 1688.com initiative surfs on a wave created by Chinese government plans to ease policies and make it faster and cheaper to import overseas goods. It knows it has to do something. Economists are predicting the China middle class will double to 600 million in the next decade and that will be a powerful political voice.
Liu Li-Gang, chief economist for Greater China at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. in Hong Kong, was clearly thinking of increasing demand for European and U.S. goods when he commented “China has just started opening up more free trade zones … it would help Alibaba ride the next wave of growth.”
The Alibaba 1688 Track Record
The 1688.com platform dates from 1999, and has helped many smaller Chinese merchants fill their stockrooms from within the country. Alibaba’s multi-pronged thrust towards global ecommerce dominance also includes Alibaba.com, which links western buyers to sellers in China, India and Pakistan.
Its next move is likely to involve providing optional product inspection, logistics support and customs clearance services later this year on 1688.com.