Community Ecommerce is the New Alibaba
- March 27th, 2015
- in Ecommerce
Disclosure: The following isn’t for people who want to pick winning stocks, but rather for people who want to pick winning online strategies for China.
Takeaways first, in deference to the time-poor marketing exec:
1. Mogujie’s Pinterest-style approach underlines closing gap in UX preferences
2. Mogujie’s focused social media underlines the waning relevance of Weibo
3.Mogujie’s community-based approach heralds a new, focused Chinese ecommerce model
I. A Pinteresting Comparison…
The knee-jerk reaction on learning that Mogujie is a Pinterest clone geared to selling clothes, “Oh no, another Chinese copycat, commercializing western innovation.” Once the foot drops, consider the implication – the image-first, social-light Pinterest approach works for China, with over 35m users to Pinterest’s 70m +.
This should be mind-blowing to westerners steeped in the mythos of the Chinese online consumer as the ‘other’. Somehow these culturally inscrutable, Starbuck’s gulping, wine guzzling, Apple worshipping people seem quite taken with pinning pictures of pretty junk they want to buy, just like us!
Over 90% of regular Pinterest users are women. Ditto Mogujie. Over 70% of Pinterest use is for shopping inspiration. Mogujie, on the other hand, is dedicated to the concept of pinning for shopping inspiration. Therein lies the difference; the copycat is unabashedly commercially motivated. In the West this is called “selling out”. In China we call it “much needed honesty”.
II. The Rise of Segmented Social Media
Sina Weibo was China’s revelation of the power of the Internet, the power to get past all the B.S. and connect at a level of immediacy and intimacy previously unimaginable.
Naturally, government and corporate fiat rained on the parade. The Alibaba C2C merger ended Weibo’s reign as China’s go-to social media platform, speeding the exodus to WeChat. Which is not to say that Weibo is useless to a western organization, but certainly over-hyped in terms of its effectiveness, mainly by agencies addicted to the ease of putting up accounts and getting tens of thousands of “followers”. Don’t forget that more than 90% of Weibo posts are from less than 5% of users, as of last April.
Now Tencent, realizing the difficulty of turning its intimate social haven into an ecommerce platform, is going for the Facebook in-stream advertising approach, with predictably unhappy users as a result.
Thus the subtle yet significant judo of Mogujie. Instead of betraying users by commercializing a platform that gained popularity for being marketing-free, Mogujie is saying, “When you want commercially-oriented social engagement, here we are.” Not just catch-all commercial messaging, mind you, but fashion-focused. Mogujie would not be doing nearly as well were it based on multi-category shopping, for the same reason that burger/Chinese/soul food/donut shop in California is a curiosity, not a chain.
Having said that, Mogujie is very much a Taobao-esque first iteration of the kind of integrated functionality that many sites such as Babytree are already offering. There is ample room for competitors who select a fashion niche and/or make the sharing much more compelling than the admittedly Alibaba-inspired functionality of Mogujie.
III. Community Ecommerce is the New Alibaba
Well, not really –writing catchy sub-headings is as hard as writing catchy titles, especially for digital marketing. Better to say that community ecommerce will be an increasingly popular alternative to Alibaba’s B2C & C2C preeminence.
People, whatever their cultural background, need a Why for buy-in. Low price and fast delivery times aren’t a strong enough Why anymore. Authenticity is called for, not just in the product, but also in the platform promoting it. Nothing is more authentic than focus, and social user content attesting to that focus. Ecommerce sites that can accomplish this niche focus will soar where Alibaba cannot even fly. More on that here.