5 Lessons from Alibaba's Q3 '17 Results for US Companies

Ed Marsh | Nov 7, 2017

61% Revenue Growth, Half a Billion Users & 60,000 International Brands

aliexpress.pngOn 2 November, 2017 Alibaba Group released it's Q3 financial results. (Read in detail here.)

Some highlights include:

  • 61% revenue growth
  • 488 million users just on Chinese retail marketplaces
  • 60,000 international brands will participate in the 11/11 Global Shopping Festival
  • Alibaba is jumping aggressively into blended online/offline model with convenience stores and distribution
  • International retail ecommerce grew 115% (AliExpress was substantial driver)
  • They're concentrating on raising awareness in the US market regarding opportunities to sell into China - using Gateway conferences to tell the story in person, in local markets, to SMBs in the US & Canada
  • International wholesale business reached almost $250MM USD in the quarter (call it an even $1B annualized!)

What does this mean for US businesses?

  1. It's not enough to fret about Amazon: You should be watching and learning about Amazon whether you're in a B2B or B2C business. Set up Google alerts and keep a sharp eye out for stories to understand trends. But watching Amazon isn't enough - Alibaba Group, and particularly AliExpress ought to be on your radar too. Their reach and potential for global impact on your business and business model are both substantial sources of risk, and potential opportunity.
  2. Try shopping on AliExpress: You may object philosophically to doing so - but try at least one or two transactions periodically just to understand the platform and what's happening. You might be surprised by the breadth and affluence of shoppers already using the platform in the US. (I've suggested that company owners investigate buying a Tesla to understand changes in sales channel - same point here. Experience it to understand it!)
  3. Digital and ecommerce power global reach: Your website and social profiles make you a global company. It's easy to become an accidental exporter these days, with lower risk and lower cost than traditional export growth approaches. Once you have real data on where global opportunities exist, you can extend incrementally into markets with potential. Using ecommerce platforms, like trade shows, are great ways to supplement your organic digital footprint.
  4. You can lower the risk of market entry in China: China is not an easy export market. I've long advised companies avoid some of the high profile emerging markets (India, Brazil, Nigeria, etc.) as they're developing a global sales effort. Establishing a physical presence there is an expensive, long-term and speculative venture. However, ecommerce substantially changes the calculus - and market focused platforms (like Alibaba in China and Flipkart in India) could shift the risk/reward calculus toward giving it a go.
  5. Follow resources that can help: The platform to reach buyers is just one piece. Messaging, logistics, pricing, IPR and numerous other points bear careful PROactive consideration. Look for resources that can help. Getting to Global is an interesting public/private partnership which is developing awareness and resources of opportunities to grow global sales through ecommerce. These three G2G videos illustrate the insights they provide and feature former US Commercial Service Foreign Commercial Officer and Founder of the US Department of Commerce Ecommerce Lab in Silicon Valley, Josh Halpern.

Josh Halpern recapping Chinese market stats from Alibaba Gateway 17

Interviewing Alibaba president Michael Evans

Case study - chatting with Ric Kostick of 100% Pure

Jump in with both feet?


Dramatic shifts toward high profile international markets often lead to losses and costly distraction from domestic business.

But if half a billion consumers (and growing quickly) are doing something, don't you think it's worth knowing a bit about it?

In the meantime, want to learn about an incremental approach to growing your global sales building on the domestic digital marketing you're already doing? Download this free guide.