Once the World Cup wraps, the Alibaba vs. Amazon matchup may prove to be the most fascinating competition on the global stage.
Alibaba, which is set to go public in the U.S. in one of the largest IPOs on record, today unveiled its U.S. ecommerce site, 11 Main. This is the first time the Chinese ecommerce giant has ventured into the American market.
The online marketplace is still officially in beta and customers need to request an invitation to use the site. Like eBay, the site hosts wares from a variety of vendors, but with an eye toward careful curation and an effort to replicate the small town Main Street shopping experience online.
“We’re constantly introducing new shop owners who represent the diversity of Main Street,” said Mike Effle, president and general manager of 11 Main, in a written statement. “At 11 Main, we’re passionate about the shops we invite and helping them grow.”
When 11 Main comes out of beta, it will have between 1,000 and 2,000 shops on its platform and hundreds of thousands of products, according to Abbygail Reyes, senior public relations manager for 11 Main. Sellers pay 3.5 percent commission on each purchase made through 11 Main and a 5-cent listing fee. Commissions are capped at $50, and, in a fairly direct jab to Amazon, there is no commission charged for books, music and video sold on the platform.
Alibaba’s foray into the U.S. market comes at a time when global ecommerce is absolutely booming. In the next few years, ecommerce is forecast to grow in China and India faster than anywhere else in the world.
And while this is Alibaba’s first move to build its own U.S. ecommerce site, the Chinese tech giant has been investing heavily in U.S. tech startups. Alibaba was part of ride-sharing site Lyft’s $250 million Series D round in April. Alibaba was also the lead investor on the $280 million raise from the mobile messaging site Tango. And last fall, Alibaba sunk $200 million into Michael Rubin’s 2-day shipping service Shop Runner.