Chinese Internet company Tencent Holdings has moved a step closer to grabbing a greater share of the country’s massive and ever-growing online retail market.
The gaming and social media giant now officially lets users of its popular messaging app WeChat establish in-app stores to sell goods to their friends and followers as it fights with e-commerce giant Alibaba Group for the attention of the country’s 618 million Internet users.
Shoppers can now buy directly from the Weixin Xiaodian, or little WeChat stores, that are established by verified public accounts linked to the app’s own payment system. Companies from local pharmaceutical chains to organic tea shops are among the first seeking to lure the app’s roughly 355 million active users, who could place orders with just a few taps on their smartphones.
It is unclear how many WeChat stores have launched thus far, but Chinese media reports say Tencent’s new move could help the company challenge the dominance of Alibaba’s Taobao marketplace, where online shoppers last year spent more than 1 trillion yuan ($160 billion). Tencent has also teamed up with Alibaba’s rival JD.com, China’s second-largest e-commerce player, by paying $215 million for a 15% stake in the company back in March and giving two of its own e-commerce holdings to JD.com.
Launch of the WeChat stores also comes when Alibaba is stepping up efforts to strengthen its leading position in the online retail universe. The group said in March it would invest $692 million in Intime Retail Group as it integrates online and offline shopping. It will also pay about $249 million for a minority stake in Singapore Post, the city-state’s main postal service, as the company seeks to expand overseas.
Read more at Forbes.