Success Story: Alibaba and eBay

May 26, 2016 | Rob LaPointe

It’s a story of east versus west, of two global superpowers competing for the ultimate domination. This isn’t the story of the U.S. versus China – not exactly anyway; it’s of two tech giants: Alibaba and eBay. That’s right folks, today we’re going to talk about these two companies: what they did right, what they did wrong, and what they plan to do in the future.

Have you read enough of our other pieces on eCommerce to know you want to get involved? No problem – get in touch with us now and we can get your online shopping site like eBay or Alibaba up and running in 2 weeks.

Alibaba and Jack Ma

“Today is hard, tomorrow will be worse, but the day after tomorrow will be sunshine.” Jack Ma

For those of us who study the “Great People” theory of history, individuals like Jack Ma make us quiver with joy. He is the Steve Jobs of China – a person of such great vision that he created a multi-billion dollar business from the ground up.

Jack Ma is a legend in the tech world. Currently, Forbes values his net worth at $23.2 billion. It makes him the 2nd richest man in China, the 33rd worldwide, and the 7th richest man in tech.

Alibaba is his dream. And what a dream; this eCommerce giant is the largest in the world. In fact, the comparison drawn above is a bit of a false dichotomy: Alibaba is literally larger than eBay and Amazon combined. So how does one develop a website like Alibaba?

Rewriting the Rulebook

In 2014, Alibaba’s stocked debuted, making the company a whopping $25 billion. This smashed the record for the biggest IPO in history by almost $3 billion.

Alibaba’s success lies in its ability to diversify into all manner of eCommerce services.

While focusing largely on Consumer to Consumer (C2C) worked exceedingly well for eBay, (as B2C has worked pretty well for Amazon!), Alibaba came into the game a little later.

This meant the eCommerce company had to approach the online shopping market for a different angle; or, as Jack Ma himself puts it:

“You should learn from your competitor. But never copy. Copy and you die.”

These powerful words have guided Alibaba to a key market position, where they influence all areas of eCommerce: from B2B to B2C, to C2C, Alibaba is everywhere.

How to Build an eCommerce Website

There are many ways to approach online shopping web development and design. Some people recommend Magento, while others passionately argue for WooCommerce, or PrestaShop, or Shopify…and so on.

As an online store development company, we’ve used all of these frameworks and more. We’ve built just as many from the ground up. So what’s the truth? Which framework is the best? Should I build my eCommerce website using PHP? .NET?

In all honesty, each has its benefits and downsides (read more about eCommerce here). Any good development and design team can make an excellent eCommerce website.

What makes a successful online shopping site isn’t the framework or programming language chosen. Those do have an impact and you should do your research; but eBay, Amazon, and Alibaba didn’t make billions by building a website with Prestashop

It’s Time to Face the Music

Brick-and-mortar stores is unlikely to be the preferred shopping method ever again. We are becoming a mobile-first world. The retail business is no different.

We are on the cusp of a revolution in retail. It doesn’t matter if you are selling to consumers or to businesses, or to both. What matters is that you are clever enough to stay ahead of the game and that what you are providing is exceptional.

But what you’re providing to the modern shopper isn’t just the products you’re selling. Farms to Forks isn’t successful just because it’s selling fresh organic produce online; it’s also successful because it was designed with intent.

From the get-go, we designed this online shopping website to sell a look and feel. This isn’t meant to be dishonest; in fact, that is to be avoided at the utmost!

Designing with intent means creating a product that is meant to attract your target users. More than that, it’s meant to keep your users engaged and loyal. It is a way to convey you and your company to shoppers, leading to better conversion rates and lower drop off rates.

Developing an eCommerce website or app is all about selling your company and its image – just as a with Brick-and-Mortar retailers. Anyone who’s ever walked into a Macy’s can tell that the company is trying to convey a message just with store design!

But at the end of the day, running a successful business is all about anticipating what’s about to be the next big thing – and also realizing you can’t anticipate everything. Which leads us nicely to our next company CEO profile.

Pierre Omidyar and the Story of the First Big eCommerce Company

“When you don’t know what to expect, prepare for the unexpected.” Pierre Omidyar

This is a sentiment that has been expressed among military tacticians for millennia. From Publius Cornelius Scipio to Erwin Rommel, generals across the ages have suffered when they have not heeded this warning.

And, as any CEO can tell you, running a business has alarming similarities to running a war. Pierre’s quote is also representative of his life:

“I never had it in mind that I would start a company one day and it would really be successful. I have just been motivated by working on interesting technology.”-Pierre Omidyar.

It turns out the multibillionaire was just trying to impress his girlfriend! I don’t know about you guys, but I am certainly quite happy that my wife was less discerning!

Five months after it was launched, Omidyar’s little project had over 2 million users and was worth $3 billion. That’s roughly a growth of $20 million a day!

eBay’s focus on C2C services was brilliant. It went beyond the traditional sales model of a retailer providing consumers with products from a business. It was the beginnings of a new model, one we’re still wrapping our minds around today.

It was the realization that the internet makes it so that a guy who used to work at KFC can be one of the richest men in the world. It allows a guy trying to wow his lady ended up accidentally making nearly $10 billion.

The internet allows anyone to realize their dream; if the first item sold on eBay was a broken laser pointer, then an online store can succeed selling anything. The only hurdles to you joining the ranks of retail success stories are your dedication and imagination. Well, that and a great development partner who can build you a stellar website!

Your Online Store Builder

Ready to get started on your own eCommerce website or app? We are Silicon Valley’s eCommerce web developers. From flowers to organic groceries, we’ve built websites and apps that sell it all! Just check out our profile page to see the eCommerce sites we’ve worked on.

When you’re done, give us a call at 408.805.0495 or send us an email for a free consultation and quote. Don’t worry, we offer an iron-clad NDA to protect your idea 100%.

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