Tencent, one of China’s technology conglomerates, is taking on Alibaba’s e-commerce empire – Taobao and Tmall, by building its own store SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) system, that provides a “one-stop” solution service for online merchants to grow private traffic. The page known as “Cloud Mall Mini-Program Shops” that is embedded in Tencent’s super app WeChat is at the core of the new market space, according to the Chinese technology media outlet Ebrun on 24 March.
Unlike existing WeChat mini-programs, which functions only as a brand’s online storefront, the Cloud Mall provides not only a marketplace, but also enables the store’s interoperability with Tencent’s internal ecosystem, including WeChat subscriptions, Video Channels, as well as allowing online promotion on other Tencent owned platforms, such as QQ (another Tencent instant messaging app), Tencent Video and its news content platform.
This will allow online retailers to leverage the already large user base on WeChat and that of its mini-programs. Moreover, it could also help retailers to reach the audience on Tencent’s wider online communities, increasing brands’ exposure to consumers they would otherwise not be able to connect with, especially smaller businesses who might not have a big following on WeChat and find their ability to engage and grow their audience is limited.
With store launches, online promotions and product sales all being completed within this platform, the closed-loop operation is believed to benefit the growth of private traffic on top of the convenience it provides for both shop owners and consumers while enhancing the loyalty of its users on WeChat.
So far, several brands have opted in, including the American-owned retail brand Walmart, the Chinese sports apparel brand Li Ning, and the beauty brand Proya, as shown on the Cloud Mall host page. It remains to be seen if more brands will follow suit with launching in the new e-commerce marketplace. However, with China’s e-commerce continuing to gain traction, it can be expected that there will be a greater interest in this industry from not only brands but also technology companies, challenging earlier players in this field.