Chinese Internet giants: interviews with AliExpress

The first part of the article with a photo report from the Alibaba Group headquarters was read at least fifty thousand times and spread across the Internet at an incredible speed. The time has come for the second part, in which we will talk about the history of the company and its current state with the development director of the Russian direction AliExpress AliExpress Denis Makkaveev.



Before we go directly to AliExpress itself, could you tell us about the history of the Alibaba Group itself? The question is banal, however, there is little information on this in Russian. How it all began?

Alibaba was created in 1999 when a former English teacher from Hangzhou, Jack Ma and 17 other founders, launched the site. www.alibaba.com , with the goal of helping small and medium-sized businesses grow online. It all started as a trading platform for small Chinese manufacturers. Since then, Alibaba.com has evolved into a global online marketplace for companies around the world.

From the very beginning, the group developed not only B2B-direction (sites www.alibaba.com and www.1688.com ), but also consumer electronic commerce (Taobao C2C-store, Tmall and AliExpress B2C-sites), Alipay Internet payment system, Aliyun cloud technology, mobile operating systems and more. Simply put, the company and its partners form a whole "family of Internet businesses" that make sales and purchases easier.



How many people currently work in Alibaba.com and AliExpress?

It’s hard to say for sure, since Alibaba.com and AliExpress are subsidiaries of the Alibaba Group and use the resources of the entire company. Speaking generally about the Alibaba Group and its "daughters", now we have about 24 thousand employees in more than 70 offices around the world: in China, India, the UK and the USA.

And when exactly was AliExpress launched and how does it differ from your other sites?

AliExpress was officially launched in April 2010 as an additional tool for small businesses. While Alibaba.com is more focused on large transactions, including the manufacture of prototypes and custom-made products, AliExpress was conceived as a wholesale platform for the needs of small buyers who need fast delivery of a small batch of goods.

You can still consider Alibaba.com as an information platform where customers get acquainted with manufacturers and their products, and other business processes and correspondence can take place anywhere, including offline.

On AliExpress, we noticed how the demand for placed goods from end customers is growing. Therefore, the focus of the site has recently shifted towards small orders (up to one piece), although we also do not forget about the needs of buyers from medium-sized enterprises.

How is your security? After all, such platforms are often the area of ​​activity of fraudsters, not to mention just unscrupulous sellers, or even buyers.

We provide a large list of services to ensure the reliability of transactions. Firstly, this is a whole set of safe and convenient payment methods. Secondly, “freezing” the payment to the seller until the customer confirms that he is satisfied with the purchase. Thirdly, a large selection of delivery methods with the ability to track it. Not to mention the sellers rating system, which is formed on the basis of customer reviews, and the policy of full or partial refund, if something is wrong with the goods.

I recently spoke with clients who were very interested in the e-commerce market in China, they asked me about the problem of counterfeiting. How are you doing with this? Do you struggle with fakes and cues?

Of course, we have a service that tracks counterfeiting and prevents its distribution. But with so many products like ours, it's hard to track everything. It is still important to separate fakes and replicas. Replicas are goods that seem to be similar to branded things, made with high quality and at affordable prices, but this is not counterfeit. It is no secret that some of our customers are interested in just such products.

OK, let’s say I am “Russian Ivan,” I went to your site to buy a phone from “Chinese Li.” After some time I received a package, and in it there is a miserable semblance of what I ordered. How to be

Firstly, do not forget that the seller has not yet received the money, so the seller himself is most interested in the buyer receiving the goods faster, so that he likes the purchase and at least matches the description in the store.

Secondly, if it was not possible to find a common language with the supplier, our arbitration service intervenes in the situation, which compares the photos of the goods in the store and what came to the buyer. If the truth is on the buyer's side (example: I bought a leather bag, but got a rag), then money is not paid to the seller. Then some time is given to resolve the situation. The seller can either send the normal product (leather bag) free of charge, or agree to return the goods at his expense. The options are different.



And in what language is communication with the support service and the seller?

Now communication is in English, partly with the help of an online translator. But the point is not even in the language of communication, sometimes it’s enough just to send photos of the received goods in order for us to understand that something is wrong. After all, our support service processes tens of thousands of cases a day, and vast experience has been gained in resolving conflicts. And if you send a broken phone, then just send a photo where it is plugged into a working outlet and does not work from the network. The rest is a matter of technology.

Moreover, now the suppliers themselves, who work for Russia, already have their own Russian support service. After all, it’s easier and faster for the seller to sort out the conflict and negotiate with the buyer independently than through our service.

Our readers really like numbers, could you please share real data that would clearly show what AliExpress is now? The number of users, products and categories, and so on.

According to statistics at the end of March 2013, 54 million products are sold on AliExpress in 26 major categories, from clothing and accessories to electronics, jewelry and auto parts. The site serves more than 7.7 million registered users from 200 countries and regions.

Are there any data on Russia?

I can say that in the first quarter of 2013 Russia became the main market for the number of transactions (43%) and volume (26%). She confidently goes ahead of the United States and Brazil, which occupy second and third places. Russia is now our main goal, and we see a steady increase in sales in this country.

As for users from Russia, on an annualized basis (year-on-year) the growth was 465% and now we have more than 700 thousand registrations, which is 9% of the entire user base on AliExpress.

What goods do Russians buy? What is the average check?

The average check in Russia is $ 20; in America, the average check is much higher. In general, our compatriots are interested in clothes, accessories and bags, shoes, inexpensive electronics.

How do you attract users on AliExpress in general and in Russia in particular? What promotion methods do you use?

In recent years, the growth of traffic and user base on AliExpress has been mostly natural, without active promotion actions on our part. Perhaps partly due to a connection with Alibaba.com, which is already in fact the leading global B2B platform, and users themselves will learn about AliExpress when they need consumer products at competitive prices.

The same can be said about Russia, where AliExpress did not actively advance, and the number of users is constantly growing. This once again confirms the need for AliExpress services in Russia. By the way, according to Alexa.com, we are already in 31st place in the ranking of all Russian sites in terms of traffic, which is good for such a short period and in the absence of active promotion.

Nevertheless, now we are trying to increase brand awareness among our target audience by localizing the site, improving the quality of information provided on the site and participating in social media. So in Russia we have the official Vkontakte page where we publish news about sales, new platform features, and also communicate with users. We get a lot of feedback through VK, and they are very valuable for the development of our project.

In general, the development of an international Internet product is not an easy task, and localization is an important but not the only step. How do you develop your international versions? What is being done besides translation?

In 2010, AliExpress was launched only in English, and even then people from two hundred countries began to use it. In 2013, we launched landing pages in other languages, including Russian, Spanish, Portuguese, German and Arabic, so that people who do not speak English can use the site.

Speaking of markets that show great interest in AliExpress, such as Russia, we are also working to meet the specific needs of local users. For example, the search for goods in Russian, daily recommendations and sales of goods that are most suitable for the Russian market. We have also partnered with QIWI and WebMoney to make online shopping on AliExpress even easier. Further more!

But, in addition to linguistic and other features, in Russia there is still a logistics problem. And if everything is fine with logistics in China, and open sources say that 60% of all China's packages are in one way or another connected with Alibaba, then in the Russian Federation there is the “Russian Post”, which we have scolded. It is enough to recall the recent “post collapse” when some crazy amount of parcels was detained (by the way, mainly from China). How do you work with them while ensuring reliable delivery to Russia?

In fact, more recently in China there were problems with logistics. “China Post” was not fast, and the “Big Five” of Chinese logisticians simply did not exist. Thanks to the growth of e-commerce in China, the active development of logistics began.

The exact same situation is now in Russia. If Russian logisticians pay attention to the volumes and growth of electronic commerce, then I believe that we can solve not only the problem of logistics in the country, but also the problem of employment. I must say that progress in this direction already exists.

As for the Russian Post, we are actively cooperating with them. For example, now the parcels go not only through Moscow (as it was before), but also through Novosibirsk and St. Petersburg.

Moreover, some of our suppliers already have warehouses in Russia and ship goods from there, making delivery even faster and more reliable.

Can you share further plans of AliExpress in Russia? In connection with the foregoing, is it planned to open an office in Russia?

Traditionally, the company does not disclose details of plans for the future, but I can say for sure that Russia is one of the most important markets for AliExpress, and we will continue to make efforts to improve the service in our country.

We do not plan to open an office in Russia yet, since we are an Internet company, and the location of employees does not play a big role - so at the moment there are no such plans, although you can never make a plan. Some suppliers who place their goods on AliExpress may be located in Russia and send goods to other countries of the world. We will be glad not only to buyers, but also sellers from Russia.

And finally, the question about IPO. I know that different people read us, including top managers from Russian Internet companies and people who closely monitor the stock market. When will the group go public? Rumor has it that almost next month.

Officially, of course, no one will say anything. There is a lot of speculation on this subject. Now the company takes what we do and say very seriously, because every step we take has an effect on the industry as a whole.

Charts from Oscar Hartmann







Feedback from AliExpress
Since I got a lot of letters and personal messages related to problems on AliExpress, I have to make a clarification: guys, I have nothing to do with AliExpress / Alibaba. Please contact support on the site itself or in their official vk-group . Thank you for your understanding and for your advantages;)