Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, which went public in the U.S. last month, has launched a new, invitation-only online shopping hub called 11Main.com. The internet marketplace is offering a hand-selected collection of specialty small business retailers and boutiques that sell fashion items, jewelry, home goods and art including one-of-a-kind items, not available at mass merchants and other large e-commerce sites, the company said.
Named to represent Main Streets across America, the website is currently in its beta phase. The site directs shoppers and shop owners to request an invitation in order to participate in the experience.
“Alibaba believes in 11 Main’s vision and its commitment to helping small businesses grow,” said Michael Zeisser, chairman of U.S. Investments, Alibaba Group. “11 Main brings something incredibly unique to the U.S. market, and we’re very excited to support the 11 Main team as they begin to realize this vision.”
According to reports, 11 Main does not handle the products itself, leaving the onus on vendors to handle logistics and shipping.
The new marketplace, according to a report from Forbes.com, is a cheaper, niche-based approach for local businesses to list specialty items that can sometimes get lost among the millions of offerings on Amazon and eBay. The site also focuses on shaping and communicating its sellers’ brand identities, encouraging them to “tell a story” and “describe their journey, passion and point of view” through their shop profiles on the site.
“At 11 Main, we’re passionate about the shops we invite and helping them grow,” said Mike Effle, president and general manager of the new Alibaba venture. “We’re constantly introducing new shop owners who represent the diversity of Main Street and featuring their new, amazing products in a beautifully designed experience.”
The company is said to already have half a million products on the 11 Main site from between 1,000 and 2,000 vendors, and is already advertising on search engines like Google and Bing. According to a Yahoo report, 11 Main will not have ads or retailer fees, but plans to generate revenue by taking a 3.5% cut of each sales transaction. In return, retailers get 11 Main’s national marketing power and reach, the report stated. Bigger than Amazon and eBay combined, the report noted, Alibaba had no U.S. e-commerce presence until now.