Chinese Web giant Alibaba Group has made its American debut.
Yesterday, the company launched the beta version of 11 Main, a multi-category online shopping platform targeted at American consumers. The website offers an array of product categories: fashion, home, jewelry, baby, collecting, tech, sporting goods, toys, and entertainment. Though most items sell for under $100, prices range up to $97,000. At launch, the site will offer about 500,000 individual products.
Yet 11 Main has also decided to shirk big-name brands in favor of emerging companies and small business. Featured retailers include Alys Grace, a California Bay Area-based fashion company that carries brands including Joie, Diane von Furstenberg, and Vince, and Solestruck, a Portland, Oregon-based store that offers new and vintage footwear.
According to Women’s Wear Daily, 11 Main “plays to Alibaba’s strengths in matching buyers and sellers.” Mike Effle, the platform’s president and general manager, said that the site took its inspiration from main street shopping outlets.
“[It’s] inspired by the main street shopping experience and the diversity you have on a main street,” Effle said in an interview with WWD. “It’s a hand-selected collection, so we’re picking what we believe are the best shops in fashion and style, and home and outdoors. When we talk to our target customers, they describe themselves as expert shoppers.”
Effle said that he has considered bringing larger companies into 11 Main, but is currently focusing on boutiques and independent brands. Nevertheless, he says that there are “definitely shops targeted towards that luxury consumer” on the site.
“Think of the diversity of main street — of a luxury shop sitting near a vintage shop [that’s] near a collectibles shop,” Effle said. “[That’s] the community that main street has provided for a long time in the U.S. We’re all a little different in our styles but we often have those pieces that we’ve coveted paired with things [that are] more everyday. That is what we aspire to have available.”
In spite of its diverse approach, 11 Main is currently an exclusive platform; consumers must request an invitation to the site to shop. Likewise, businesses must apply to be included among the site’s retailers. Out of the thousands of brands and shops that have applied, 11 Main has accepted only between 1,000 and 2,000 so far. But retailers selling their products on the site do not have to contend with any up-front fees, as 11 Main takes 3.5 percent of sales.
But 11 Main is just the start of Alibaba’s entry into the United States. Later this year, the company will make its first public offering on Wall Street, a move that some speculate “could mark the beginning of a new phase in the East-meets-West battle with the likes of Amazon, Facebook, Google and eBay.”
The power of the company in its home country could make it a formidable force in the American market. Last year, Alibaba turned a profit of $3.6 billion on revenues of $8 billion, and the company’s combined properties comprise 80 percent of China’s e-commerce sector.
image credit: 11main