On Christmas Day 2023, Alibaba launched the “Treasure Exchange Market” (宝购汇市), a new e-commerce app exclusively focused on the sale of competitively priced cosmetic products, at prices even lower than on its sister platforms, Taobao and Tmall, as well as Taobao’s rival app, Pinduoduo.
Aligned with Taobao’s product categories, the standalone app features four channels: Group-buying, daily exclusives, limited-time discounts, and best-sellers. It boasts an extensive range of domestic and international brands such as Florasis, Dior, and YSL — many of which are hero products on Taobao.
The prices of products range from 10 RMB ($1.41) to 1,000 RMB ($140) and over, catering to price-conscious consumers as well as bigger spenders.
The Jing Take
An internal memo by Alibaba founder Jack Ma praising Pinduoduo leaked on November 28, 2023. The tech entrepreneur spoke highly of the rival platform’s strategy and called upon Alibaba employees to rise to industry challenges. Only a day later, PDD Holdings, the parent company of Pinduoduo and cross-border e-commerce platform Temu, made global headlines by surpassing Alibaba in market value.
Pinduoduo’s heavy discounts and rapid growth have cast a shadow of doubt on once-shining Alibaba’s long-term outlook.
As a result, Alibaba has increasingly adopted some of its competitors' tactics. For instance, in late December last year, Taobao changed its returns policy to allow refunds without returns, signaling a shift towards emulating Pinduoduo’s customer-first approach.
Taobao’s once-solid foothold in the beauty market has also come under threat thanks to the rise of Douyin e-commerce, driven by its dominant livestreaming business. In May last year, Douyin’s beauty GMV for the first time surpassed Taobao and Tmall’s combined GMV.
The beauty category offers a diverse range of products and high premium potential, making it a promising area for Alibaba as it realigns its strategy. A standalone beauty app like Treasure Exchange Market could help Alibaba expand its footprint in the online beauty market.
In late November last year, Alibaba invested in rising Vietnamese beauty retailer Haski, which is currently valued at $2.2 billion and boasts a 7 percent annual growth rate.
However, competition remains stiff as other e-commerce players quickly broaden their own beauty businesses. Renowned beauty brands like Hourglass, Chantecaille, and Hairmax achieved sales of over 1 million RMB ($140,623) during last year’s Singles’ Day festival thanks to their live broadcast sessions on Xiaohongshu.
Meanwhile, during the 618 shopping festival, Kuaishou reported 100 percent year-on-year growth in international brand GMV, along with a staggering 300 percent YoY growth in the number of single products with GMV exceeding 10 million RMB ($1.4 million).
Whether Alibaba’s Treasure Exchange Market can thrive in China’s booming beauty field remains to be seen.
The 'Jing Take' reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.