Investigation: Alibaba’s e-commerce empire underneath menace from Douyin, Pinduoduo

BEIJING, Dec 9 (Reuters) – For additional than a decade, Alibaba Team (9988.HK) has been China’s undisputed e-commerce king but of late its crown has revealed indications of slipping, unsettled by an inflow of aggressive competition into the sector.

This 7 days, Alibaba declared it was reorganising its e-commerce companies into two units, a single for China and just one for abroad.

In China, its two principal marketplaces – Tmall for established manufacturers and Taobao which welcomes all types of retailers – method above $1 trillion in orders on a yearly basis.

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But Alibaba is viewing sharply slower expansion in purchaser administration profits (CMR), the dollars derived from charging merchants for expert services which generally accounts for one particular-3rd to one particular-half of its in general earnings. It rose just 3% in the July-September quarter, down from 20% progress a 12 months before.

Alibaba very last month also cut its yearly income forecast whilst gross sales or gross products benefit (GMV) for Singles Day, its banner buying celebration, this year climbed only 8.5% – the smallest rise to date.

These disappointing quantities are due in element to regulatory changes and pandemic-induced slower economic expansion that has produced buyers reluctant to splurge.

But they also emphasize the onslaught of competition and the truth that some rivals have stolen a march in excess of Alibaba in the swiftest-rising parts of China’s e-commerce.

Merchants and analysts cite ByteDance’s Douyin – the Chinese sister app to TikTok and a relative newcomer – as the pressure to beat in stay-streaming e-commerce, even though Nasdaq-shown Pinduoduo Inc (PDD.O) has taken the lead in rural and finances e-commerce.

“Other platforms are increasing a lot quicker than Alibaba, which suggests they are ingesting Alibaba’s lunch,” reported Lu Zhenwang, CEO of Shanghai-centered Wanqing Consultancy.

Alibaba claimed in a assertion to Reuters it has normally faced intense competition. It included it offers retailers a powerful live-streaming software in Taobao Reside and that its Taobao Discounts platform for low cost browsing and Taocaicai system for neighborhood team shopping for were being gaining share in decreased-tier markets.


Douyin is concentrating on a soar in GMV to above 1 trillion yuan ($155 billion) this year, in accordance to a corporation supply with immediate awareness of the matter. The resource was not authorised to converse to media and declined to be identified.

Which is extra than 6 situations the 150 billion yuan it was on observe to receive final 12 months – a determine provided by sources in November 2020.

Douyin declined to remark on its e-commerce enterprise.

The application, which features 600 million-moreover day by day energetic customers, started making it possible for merchants to open up suppliers on its system in 2018. This 12 months the corporation has manufactured it simpler for brand names to open up flagship merchants.

Yatsen (YSG.N), the mum or dad of Chinese cosmetics huge Excellent Diary, designs to make investments a lot more in its Douyin presence. By comparison, its sales on Tmall, which accounts for about 40% of its earnings, are contracting.

“Douyin, suitable now, is turning out to be a very critical factor for model development,” CEO Huang Jinfeng informed an analysts’ contact very last thirty day period.

Merchants are captivated to the total of time people expend on Douyin – 1,871 minutes on common in Oct in contrast to 350 minutes on Taobao, according to consulting firm Questmobile.

Also, whilst Alibaba’s viewer site visitors tends to converge on China’s major dwell-streaming stars – Li Jiaqi, acknowledged as the Lipstick Brother, and Viya, a previous singer – they are just two folks. In contrast, Douyin can draw on a significant pool of stay streamers.

Zen Yan, a 42-calendar year-outdated auditor living in Beijing, is an avid Douyin shopper.

“It truly is straightforward to spend one particular hour or additional browsing on Douyin every working day following work and there are a large amount of influencers promoting all sorts of items,” she explained.

Low-cost AND Potent

At the other end of the e-commerce spectrum is Pinduoduo. It is well-liked amongst China’s rural citizens thanks to rock-bottom pricing and a team acquiring design that encourages people to share their purchases on messaging platforms to get less expensive prices.

Its GMV surged 66% to 1.67 trillion yuan in 2020. While extra modest 20% GMV expansion is expected in the fourth quarter, in accordance to Goldman Sachs, that would continue to be substantially much better than Alibaba’s latest showings.

Pinduoduo declined to comment.

Rural e-commerce is a lot more of a individuals small business than frequent e-commerce and Alibaba is years driving Pinduoduo in forming relationships with vital community merchants and brands, analysts say.

“For shoppers who are by now employed to Pinduoduo to acquire bargains, it truly is tricky for them to swap to a new system. The very same goes for factories or neighborhood grocery suppliers who are applied to Pinduoduo,” claimed Daphne Tuijn at Shanghai-based mostly analytics organization Chaoly.

Alibaba also can not engage in viral internet marketing as successfully as Pinduoduo, hampered by its absence of immediate entry to a messaging system like Tencent Holdings’ (0700.HK) WeChat, she extra.

RIVALS AND Restrictions

Alibaba is revamping its e-commerce organization – the recently unveiled reorganisation follows the start of Taobao Promotions last yr and a rebranding of two group marketplaces into Taocaicai in September.

Even so, its problems are plentiful and analysts question Alibaba can change back again the clock to when it was exhibiting the fastest progress in Chinese e-commerce.

Douyin and Pinduoduo are only two of at the very least 10 founded competitors. stays its closest rival when Meituan (3690.HK) and Baidu Inc (9988.HK), giants in look for and foodstuff shipping and delivery respectively, are growing their e-commerce offerings. At the similar time, smaller startups are concentrating on specialized niche segments like footwear and makeup.

And when its effects has been difficult to quantify, Alibaba has also been harm by a regulatory crackdown that compelled it to abandon a coverage of necessitating interested merchants to solely set up store on its platforms.

“I don’t believe Alibaba can reverse the predicament…it can only undertake a defensive method,” mentioned Wanqing Consultancy’s Lu.

($1 = 6.3749 Chinese yuan)

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Reporting by Josh Horwitz, Sophie Yu and Yingzhi Yang Modifying by Brenda Goh and Edwina Gibbs

Our Expectations: The Thomson Reuters Belief Ideas.