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Analysis-Alibaba’s e-commerce empire under threat from Douyin, Pinduoduo -Breaking


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: An worker works at a Tmall logistic centre in Suzhou, Jiangsu province, China, October 28, 2015. REUTERS/Aly Track


By Sophie Yu and Josh Horwitz

BEIJING (Reuters) – For greater than a decade, Alibaba (NYSE:) Group has been China’s undisputed e-commerce king however of late its crown has proven indicators of slipping, unsettled by an inflow of aggressive rivals into the sector.

This week, Alibaba introduced it was reorganising its e-commerce companies into two items, one for China and one for abroad.

In China, its two essential marketplaces – Tmall for established manufacturers and Taobao which welcomes every kind of retailers – course of over $1 trillion in orders yearly.

However Alibaba is seeing sharply slower progress in buyer administration income (CMR), the cash derived from charging retailers for providers which often accounts for one-third to one-half of its general income. It rose simply 3% within the July-September quarter, down from 20% progress a yr earlier.

Alibaba final month additionally reduce its annual income forecast whereas gross sales or gross merchandise worth (GMV) for Singles Day, its banner procuring occasion, this yr climbed solely 8.5% – the smallest rise up to now.

These disappointing numbers are due partially to regulatory modifications and pandemic-induced slower financial progress that has made buyers reluctant to splurge.

However additionally they spotlight the onslaught of competitors and the truth that some rivals have stolen a march over Alibaba within the fastest-growing areas of China’s e-commerce.

Retailers and analysts cite ByteDance’s Douyin – the Chinese language sister app to TikTok and a relative newcomer – because the power to beat in live-streaming e-commerce, whereas Nasdaq-listed Pinduoduo (NASDAQ:) Inc has taken the lead in rural and finances e-commerce.

“Different platforms are rising quicker than Alibaba, which implies they’re consuming Alibaba’s lunch,” stated Lu Zhenwang, CEO of Shanghai-based Wanqing Consultancy.

Alibaba stated in a press release to Reuters it has all the time confronted intense competitors. It added it provides retailers a robust live-streaming instrument in Taobao Dwell and that its Taobao Offers platform for low cost procuring and Taocaicai platform for neighborhood group shopping for have been gaining share in lower-tier markets.


Douyin is concentrating on a leap in GMV to over 1 trillion yuan ($155 billion) this yr, in response to an organization supply with direct information of the matter. The supply was not authorised to talk to media and declined to be recognized.

That is greater than 6 instances the 150 billion yuan it was on observe to earn final yr – a determine given by sources in November 2020.

Douyin declined to touch upon its e-commerce enterprise.

The app, which boasts 600 million-plus each day lively customers, started permitting retailers to open shops on its platform in 2018. This yr the corporate has made it simpler for manufacturers to open flagship shops.

Yatsen, the dad or mum of Chinese language cosmetics big Excellent Diary, plans to speculate extra in its Douyin presence. By comparability, its gross sales on Tmall, which accounts for about 40% of its income, are contracting.

“Douyin, proper now, is changing into an important issue for model progress,” CEO Huang Jinfeng advised an analysts’ name final month.

Retailers are drawn to the period of time customers spend on Douyin – 1,871 minutes on common in October in comparison with 350 minutes on Taobao, in response to consulting agency Questmobile.

Furthermore, whereas Alibaba’s viewer site visitors tends to converge on China’s largest live-streaming celebrities – Li Jiaqi, generally known as the Lipstick Brother, and Viya, a former singer – they’re simply two individuals. In distinction, Douyin can draw on a big pool of stay streamers.

Zen Yan, a 42-year-old auditor residing in Beijing, is an avid Douyin shopper.

“It is simple to spend one hour or extra browsing on Douyin on daily basis after work and there are plenty of influencers promoting every kind of issues,” she stated.


On the different finish of the e-commerce spectrum is Pinduoduo. It is in style amongst China’s rural residents due to rock-bottom pricing and a bunch shopping for mannequin that encourages customers to share their purchases on messaging platforms to get cheaper costs.

Its GMV surged 66% to 1.67 trillion yuan in 2020. Whereas extra modest 20% GMV progress is anticipated within the fourth quarter, in response to Goldman Sachs (NYSE:), that will nonetheless be a lot stronger than Alibaba’s latest showings.

Pinduoduo declined to remark.

Rural e-commerce is extra of a individuals enterprise than common e-commerce and Alibaba is years behind Pinduoduo in forming relationships with key native retailers and producers, analysts say.

“For shoppers who’re already used to Pinduoduo to purchase bargains, it is arduous for them to change to a brand new platform. The identical goes for factories or native grocery distributors who’re used to Pinduoduo,” stated Daphne Tuijn at Shanghai-based analytics firm Chaoly.

Alibaba can also’t have interaction in viral advertising as successfully as Pinduoduo, hampered by its lack of direct entry to a messaging platform like Tencent Holdings (OTC:)’ WeChat, she added.


Alibaba is revamping its e-commerce enterprise – the newly unveiled reorganisation follows the launch of Taobao Offers final yr and a rebranding of two neighborhood marketplaces into Taocaicai in September.

Even so, its challenges are plentiful and analysts doubt Alibaba can flip again the clock to when it was exhibiting the quickest progress in Chinese language e-commerce.

Douyin and Pinduoduo are solely two of a minimum of 10 established rivals. JD (NASDAQ:).com stays its closest rival whereas Meituan and Baidu Inc (NASDAQ:), giants in search and meals supply respectively, are increasing their e-commerce choices. On the identical time, smaller startups are concentrating on area of interest segments like sneakers and make-up.

And whereas its impression has been arduous to quantify, Alibaba has additionally been harm by a regulatory crackdown that compelled it to desert a coverage of requiring retailers to completely arrange store on its platforms.

“I do not consider Alibaba can reverse the scenario…it could possibly solely undertake a defensive technique,” stated Wanqing Consultancy’s Lu.

($1 = 6.3749 )