AliExpress have started to court merchants from outside China, initially inviting sellers from Italy, Russia, Spain and Turkey. Up to now, only Chinese sellers have been able to sell on AliExpress and this signals the start of Alibaba’s push to extend their global reach and compete in the West with Amazon.
Merchants on AliExpress can market their products to over 150 countries and according to the Financial Times they will be opening up the marketplace to merchants in additional counties in the near future, as part of their “local to global” program, as they again knowledge from the initial four countries.
With AliExpress being a major contributor to Alibaba’s growth, opening up international selling is also a smart strategic move. As sales growth slows domestically in China, the only way to expand is for Alibaba to extend their global reach.
For merchants this is an interesting choice, AliExpress has traditionally been the low cost international consumer selling arm of Alibaba and hence many of the products on offer are extremely low value. It could be a challenge listing full price quality merchandise alongside cheap Chinese goods although the benefit for local consumers will be much faster delivery times than is typical from China. It is of course perfectly possible for Chinese sellers to ship fast, but that comes at a cost so there will need to be a rebalancing of economy goods and economy service towards higher value products and faster service for Western merchants to succeed.
Will consumers who have used AliExpress in the past to source low cost goods be willing to start paying more for premium goods with higher costs but faster delivery? Only time will tell but, all things being equal, if the proposition overall is attractive consumers are increasingly less brand orientated and more value driven as a result of the Internet democratising retail.