Alibaba IPO: What It Means for Marketers

If you are in the media or finance industry, you have probably heard the name “Alibaba” a few times by now due to its upcoming IPO, but you might not grasp just how vast its empire stretches or all of the lines of business that it is involved in currently.

For marketers not familiar with Chinese e-commerce, you will see a lot of similarities to eBay and Amazon’s holdings, but what is amazing to see is how Alibaba has already starting making the shift to traditionally offline products such as mutual funds and real world payment options. They already claim to be ahead of Google in big data linking, which is poised to truly transform the marketing landscape.

Let’s get you acquainted with the major offerings that drove $6.5 billion in revenue and $2.8 billion during the past nine months:


Once upon a time, eBay had up to 85 percent of the online auctions listed in China. Then Taobao came into its own. Taobao is a consumer-to-consumer e-commerce platform for small businesses and individuals, much like eBay. The way that Taobao differs from eBay is through addressing the Chinese market’s unique considerations. Within the platform, sellers do not have to post to sell (which was a major factor in taking over eBay’s market share), buyers and consumers can chat directly through the integrated chat program, and buyers and sellers can negotiate to do real life transactions outside of the platform.


Spinning out of Taobao officially in 2011, Tmall is a virtual shopping mall that allows brands to build their own verified storefronts and currently has well more than 50,000 stores. With more than 54 percent of Chinese digital shoppers using Tmall, it is integral to a brand’s e-commerce strategy in China. Some of the largest brands in the world, such as Burberry, adidas, and Nike, are already on the platform. Check out Elisa Harca’s article “Factors to Consider When Opening a TMall Shop” for more information on getting your brand started.


Every online marketplace needs products to help their sellers advertise and for this, Alibaba has Alimama. The solutions include a real-time bidding (RTB) platform, a mobile ad network, and its own version of Google AdSense.


Alipay is the payment platform that binds together Alibaba’s properties. The platform has more than 300 million users and just less than half of China’s online payments, with a very strong mobile payment option. It also is growing as a payment solution for North American and European resellers catering to consumers from China.

Alipay has grown beyond just online and is now a commonly accepted form of real world payment. It has recently announced the release of 1 million virtual credit cards in conjunction with CITIC Bank, with credit limits being set based upon the recipient’s online shopping history. They will be accepted anywhere that CITIC credit cards or Alipay Wallet are accepted, offline or online.


Technically living underneath the Alipay umbrella, Yu’ebao is a fund management platform with more than $81 billion currently being managed. It is a truly disruptive product, offering an annualized return on March 19 of 5 percent as opposed to banks offering .36 percent and users can easily transfer the funds through the Alipay app.


Another recent launch underneath the Alipay arm, Yulebao is a funding platform allowing crowdsourced investing in entertainment industry projects such as movies and video games.

Alibaba Cloud Computing (Aliyun)

Aliyun is the cloud computing arm of Alibaba and is the largest player in the space in China. Alibaba has recently announced intentions of making a push out of China, directly targeting major players such as Amazon’s AWS and Microsoft’s Azure with very aggressive pricing.


Juhuasuan is Alibaba’s version of Groupon and is the largest player in the Chinese group buying space with more than 30 percent market share. Juhuasuan Overseas is a spin-off targeting Taiwan and Hong Kong that merges Taobao’s C2C marketplace with Juhuasuan’s daily deals. is the largest online B2B trading platform in the world and operates as in China. For an idea of how much business flows through this arm of the business, processed $679 million dollars in a single day last September. Underneath this arm, there is also, which allows small buyers the ability to buy at wholesale prices.


Etao is considered to be China’s most comprehensive price comparison engine and is partnered up with China’s number two search engine, Qihoo’s 360. is a travel vertical platform like Expedia or Travelocity and gets up to 10 million daily unique visitors.


A 2013 acquisition, Xiami is a social music streaming service similar to Spotify and Pandora. The service monetizes through advertising and is a strategic move to grow beyond being the place for commerce by also being a lifestyle platform.

There are a few other investments that the company has made such as its 18 percent stake in Sina Weibo and a 72 percent stake in AutoNavi Holdings, which is a Chinese online map company. The diversity of Alibaba’s holdings can seem to be very daunting, but that is the direction that China’s Internet giants have chosen and further diversification might be necessary if Alibaba is to hold off Tencent. It is definitely going to be a lot of fun to watch what happens after the IPO.

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