tech, tech trends, alibaba, amazon, alibaba’s global sales platform woos chinese merchants kicked out of amazon

AliExpress, the global marketplace operated by e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding, is expanding its presence in the trading hub of Shenzhen, where a rapidly growing community of cross-border merchants suffered a recent crackdown by Amazon that saw thousands of online stores closed.

The Shenzhen Business Expansion Centre, unveiled on Friday, houses AliExpress’ first local support team in southern China. It will be responsible for recruiting and providing training to sellers in the city, said Wang Demin, head of merchant recruitment and development at AliExpress.

“Since the pandemic, many merchants have seen opportunities in the cross-border sector and wished to get on board quickly. However, they may not have the experience and need to have some hands-on guidance,” Wang said.

AliExpress said it aims to open eight business expansion centres across China by the end of next March, with a focus on supply chain hubs such as the Pearl River Delta, a cluster of southern cities that include Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Foshan, among others.

Alibaba is the owner of the South China Morning Post.

AliExpress’ recruitment drive comes as Shenzhen’s “made in China, sold on Amazon” community scrambles to find alternative platforms to sell to foreign customers after the US shopping site shut down a host of stores in a clampdown against fake customer reviews and other terms violations.

Amazon’s campaign has hit some of the biggest Chinese brands on its platform, including consumer electronics retailers Aukey and Mpow, as well as 340 stores owned by Shenzhen Youkeshu Technology Co, which said in July that more than 130 million yuan (US$20.08 million) of its funds have been frozen by Amazon.

Since then, seven major cross-border merchants, including Aukey and Youkeshu, have set up shop on AliExpress, where they are being served by dedicated teams, said Wang.

The number of merchants on AliExpress nearly doubled over the past year, according to Wang, although he did not provide an exact number. AliExpress does not sell to mainland customers, but most merchants on the platform are based in the country.

Li Zishuai, chief executive of Shenzhen Aimitu Technology, said his company chose to set up a store on AliExpress this year to sell electronic gadgets and home appliances to take advantage of Alibaba’s Cainiao delivery network, which covers more than 200 countries.

“The reality doesn’t always fit your expectations in the beginning. [For example,] you might have expected to sell well in Russia but it turns out that you do best in Spain. AliExpress gave us a chance to test different markets in the beginning at lower costs and with fewer risks,” Li said.

Li also said that the consumer insights offered by AliExpress’ data has helped his company adjust their products to meet the needs of different markets, such as adding a light to one of their vacuum cleaners for Spanish consumers. “The data is very important for us to understand our customers in different market. Sometimes a small change can make a huge difference,” Li said.

China’s cross-border e-commerce sector has enjoyed explosive growth since 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic fast-tracked the adoption of online shopping in overseas markets, such as the US and Europe, where consumers who had favoured the bricks-and-mortar retail experience were forced to make more of their purchases on the internet.

Despite AliExpress’ ambition, however, the platform currently has a much smaller operation than Amazon. In January, AliExpress recorded 528 million visitors on its website, compared with 2 billion on Amazon.

While AliExpress wants to help Chinese merchants who are facing uncertainties in the US, the Chinese platform will also ensure that sellers adhere to its terms of use, Wang said.

“Whether you’re doing business on AliExpress or on our competitors, compliance is the bottom line and an important trend for the industry,” Wang said.

Amazon previously said that it closed about 3,000 online merchant accounts belonging to some 600 Chinese brands in its recent crackdown, although a company executive denied earlier this month that the campaign was intended to target China or any other country.

The Seattle, Washington-based firm has been punishing merchants found to be engaging in questionable practices, such as offering gift cards to customers willing to leave positive reviews of their purchases – a common practice in China that goes against Amazon’s policies.

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