Tmall set to topple Amazon

29 November 2012

BEIJING: Tmall, the Chinese online retail platform owned by Alibaba Group, is likely to overtake Amazon and become the biggest ecommerce site by revenue in 2015, a new study has argued.

Euromonitor International, the insights group, said Alibaba's business-to-consumer sales, almost entirely attributable to Tmall, should hit $120bn in 2017. Amazon's total will stand at just over $100bn.

This anticipates rapid growth for Alibaba, which is set to deliver revenues of roughly $40bn in 2012, while Amazon tops the $60bn benchmark. The crossover between them is due to occur in three years' time.

"With the Chinese market still booming and the possibility of Alibaba taking Tmall to international markets, things look good for China's leading internet retailer," said Lamine Lahouasnia, a senior analyst, retailing, at Euromonitor.

"In fact ... if Tmall maintains its current market share in China - and Amazon maintains its current market share globally - the prospect of a new leader in the internet retailing channel is not only realistic but highly likely by 2015."

As a forerunner of such a trend, Tmall yielded $2.1bn in sales during Singles Day in November, the greatest daily amount on record worldwide for an individual retail website.

By contrast, sales on Cyber Monday in the US, an occasion that Singles Day in China looks to replicate, were expected to reach $1.5bn in 2012, according to comScore, the research firm.

Similarly, while 129m American shoppers were projected to make online purchases on Cyber Monday, some 213m people visited Tmall over the course of Singles Day.

Euromonitor reported that Tmall delivers half of all internet retail value in China, where the sector as a whole is predicted to log a compound annual growth rate of 29% from 2012 to 2017.

Tmall is also selling vouchers for its Alipay electronic payments system in 7-Eleven, the convenience store chain, in Hong Kong, so customers without mainland bank accounts can use its service.

Potentially, this idea could prove especially profitable in China itself, where 43% of shoppers do not have official bank accounts.

Expanding internationally may be more complicated. China yields 12% of global online retail sales, versus the US on 35%, Japan on 10% and the UK on 9%, and cracking such markets might be a challenge.

"Tmall had a significant advantage in the Chinese market due to the user base from its Taobao ... platform and Alipay merchant transaction system. In Asia Pacific and the wider world, the company will not have these advantages," said Lahouasnia.

Data sourced from Euromonitor; additional content by Warc staff