On March 1, Kuaishou officially announced the termination of its cooperation with China’s giant in the e-commerce space and cut off Alibaba’s Taobao product links. Last year, other newer platforms like Xiaohongshu and Douyin also made similar moves as they stepped up to create an independent e-commerce space. As these platforms have gradually shifted from reliable traffic pools to direct competitors, it’s little wonder Alibaba felt the urge to build its own social space.
In early April, the tech giant began to test a new social commerce app “Taibang” (“态棒”), with the aim to reach young generations, in particular Gen Z. Currently, it is still in the beta phase and requires an invitation code to access. Here, Jing Daily offers a first-hand experience of the platform so far.
First off, when logging into the app, users are welcomed by a trendy, Xiaohongshu-like explore page, where they can wander around items ranging from clothing, food, lifestyle, and pets products — all purchasable directly from the site. Those looking for inspiration can find outfit suggestions categorized into 11 different settings, such as “Go! Worker,” “Nightlife Party,” “Guochao New Power,” or navigate to the community page where people share their looks of the day with links for purchase.
Taibang’s slogan “Created by China with Attitude” reflects its core vision. The Alibaba-backed app gathers emerging domestic designers on its platform, enabling users to discover and shop niche labels, as well as offering the possibility to chat with the brand managers and meet friends in the community. And funnily, the conventional “like” is replaced with “great” and “huh” — a further effort to appeal to a younger user base.
Given Gen Z’s consumption force, it seems a shrewd decision for Alibaba to specifically target this cohort. Data from iResearch shows that about a quarter of e-commerce users are post-95s, the highest proportion among all age groups. Plus, about 64 percent of these users use e-commerce platforms every day and 10 percent place orders daily.
Taibang is one of the first to vertically integrate community and content with e-commerce. According to the brand manager of Borscht, a domestic niche label founded in 2015, that was recently invited to join the platform: “The app’s DTC mode helps brand managers to accurately target clients, understand the customer experience, and bring them closer to shoppers,” he stated in a Weibo article. This not only helps with product development and personalization of services but will also improve buyers’ stickiness forming a closed-loop of consumption.
Although the app operates independently from Alibaba’s Taobao, it is relatively easy for brands to upload their products on the new social commerce platform — as simple as copying and pasting the product data from the marketplace. This helps labels save a significant amount of time. Additionally, Chim noted that although Xiaohongshu’s review-driven business model presented a unique opportunity for him to reach potential shoppers, the site’s large female user base (90 percent as of 2021) was limiting for his gender-neutral boutique. Therefore, he was eager to test Taibang to discover more possibilities.
While Taibang seems on the right path, JD.com and Pinduoduo have similarly previously tested the waters in the social commerce field and failed. It will be interesting to see whether Taibang will succeed in attracting both brands and shoppers, thereby helping to consolidate Alibaba’s e-commerce empire, or inevitably face the same fate as its rivals.