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A Walk Through Alibaba’s 11 Main Shopping Site

Jun 20, 2014

A Walk Through Alibaba’s 11 Main Shopping Site

JURO OSAWA

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group’s new U.S. shopping site  is anything but Chinese.

The beta version of the site, called 11 Main, features a “Made in California” section showcasing six California-based merchants. One of the six is apparel makerFeatherweight Clothing, whose clothes, according to its website, are all made in the U.S and have been worn by celebrities like Pearl Jam singer Eddie Vedder. Another one is Recoverie, which sells block prints, pillow covers and blankets – all handcrafted in San Francisco according to the company.

These featured stores represent the overall image that 11 Main wants to convey. The San Mateo, Calif., company, owned by Alibaba, said it is trying to create an online version of the main street shopping experience for American consumers. The launch of the U.S. site comes as Alibaba is preparing to go public in New York in what could be one of the largest initial public offerings in history.

From its simple black-and-white logo to the site’s overall presentation, 11 Main is clearly paying a lot of attention to design. For the most part, the site looks clean and polished, making it starkly different from Alibaba’s Chinese shopping sites, Taobao and Tmall, which are colorful and chaotic.

Still, a stylish website won’t make 11 Main stand out in the sophisticated universe of  online shopping in the U.S. There are already many popular design-conscious shopping sites like Etsy and Fab.com. When it comes to the sheer volume and selection of products, Amazon and eBay EBAY -0.12% are far ahead.

11 Main, which opened its doors last week to a limited number of shoppers on an invitation-only basis, currently hosts more than 1,000 merchants, and it plans to keep adding more, according to the company.

The company said it received applications from thousands of merchants but chose only those who met its criteria based on product quality and customer service. In its online guide for sellers, 11 Main has instructions on how to take photos of products – including details on the angle, lighting and background.

There are several ways to find specific items on 11 Main. Other than the keyword search box at the top, there are tabs for nine broad product categories: fashion, home, jewelry, baby, collecting, tech, sporting goods, toys and entertainment.

Those broad categories are further divided into over 200 subcategories – from “bath and skin care” to “binoculars” and “skateboarding.”

Items sold on 11 Main come at all price points. When you sort women’s shoes by price, for example, some of the cheapest items include $6.99 flip flops and $8.99 faux suede wedges. On the other hand, the most expensive pair by Dutch designer Ilja Visser costs more than $3,000. (According to several fashion websites, Lady Gaga has worn clothes from this brand.)

Even though 11 Main is supposedly a curated marketplace, the overall mix of products seems quite random, lacking a clear focus. Still, such randomness can be part of the appeal, according to the company.

“The whole concept is the Main Street where you might find a vintage shop next to an electronics shop next to a button shop,” said 11 Main spokeswoman Abbygail Reyes. Reyes said the site is still evolving.

The company is, for example, thinking of ways to allow buyers and sellers to communicate with each other, she said.

 

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About bambooinnovator
KB Kee is the Managing Editor of the Moat Report Asia (www.moatreport.com), a research service focused exclusively on highlighting undervalued wide-moat businesses in Asia; subscribers from North America, Europe, the Oceania and Asia include professional value investors with over $20 billion in asset under management in equities, some of the world’s biggest secretive global hedge fund giants, and savvy private individual investors who are lifelong learners in the art of value investing. KB has been rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as an analyst in Asian capital markets. He was head of research and fund manager at a Singapore-based value investment firm. As a member of the investment committee, he helped the firm’s Asia-focused equity funds significantly outperform the benchmark index. He was previously the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. KB has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy, value investing, macroeconomic and industry trends, and detecting accounting frauds in Singapore, HK and China. KB was a faculty (accounting) at SMU teaching accounting courses. KB is currently the Chief Investment Officer at an ASX-listed investment holdings company since September 2015, helping to manage the listed Asian equities investments in the Hidden Champions Fund. Disclaimer: This article is for discussion purposes only and does not constitute an offer, recommendation or solicitation to buy or sell any investments, securities, futures or options. All articles in the website reflect the personal opinions of the writer.

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