China’s social media giant Weibo has launched its first foray into China’s frenetic e-commerce sector with Xiaodian, a tool that allows users to promote products being sold on other platforms.

Xiaodian, meaning “little shop” in Mandarin, will allow Weibo to widen its sources of revenue beyond advertising by earning commission when a product is bought, The Business of Fashion (BoF) reports.

Weibo account holders can already include links to third-party e-commerce platforms, but Xiaodian will allow users to manage inventory and process all transactions within its own mini-program, according to BoF.

Weibo’s new move comes as many retailers and brands in China seek to kickstart sales through e-commerce, a sector which appears set for further huge growth.

This is underlined by the stellar rise of Pinduoduo since its launch in 2015. The e-tailer specialises in offering discounts on products when shoppers band together to buy, and it is now a serious challenger to the e-commerce giants Alibaba and, Jing Daily reports.

Pinduoduo’s “collective buying” business model attracted 585.2 million active buyers last year, according to CNBC – meanwhile had 362 million over the same period, and Alibaba 711 million. Pinduoduo was third in China in terms of e-commerce market share.

Elsewhere, WeChat has also ramped up its offering to retailers hit by the COVID-19 crisis.

Noting the dramatic reduction in footfall at bricks and mortar stores in China, and the effects of the pandemic around the world, it has launched the WeChat Retail Growth Plan, with the aim of supporting global businesses and brands to fully utilise the WeChat Mini Program, WeChat Pay, and WeChat Work features.

In February, the platform opened up WeChat Live for businesses to create real-time interactions with customers and generate sales via Mini Program livestreaming.

Meanwhile, the Nikkei Asian Review observes a general trend for e-commerce operators to bring consumers and product makers closer together so as to give consumers a say in product development, with Pinduoduo leading the way.

The platform has invested in home appliance retailer Gome Retail as part of a strategy Pinduoduo says will deepen its collaboration with manufacturers. Rivals, Alibaba-backed Taobao, and have both launched mobile apps as part of similar collaborative moves.

A Pinduoduo spokesperson told the Review that “from their browsing, purchasing and sharing behaviour, we have an in-depth understanding of our users’ needs and preferences.”

“By producing what consumers want, how they want it and when they want it, manufacturers are able to cut costs by reducing mismatches in demand, and better plan their inventory and logistics,” the spokesperson explained.

Sourced from The Business of Fashion, Jing Daily, WeChat, Nikkei Asian Review