When news of Alibaba's IPO became public, speculation began that they would look to end Amazon's e-commerce domination in the United States. Now that 11 Main, Alibaba's first U.S. e-commerce site, has fully launched, The Wire investigated to see exactly how the two compare.
Simply put: 11 Main is a boutique. Amazon is a department store. 11 Main has a much, much smaller selection, broken into curated 'stores,' where small, individual digital shopkeeps can sell their wares. This is very much in line with 11 Main's desire to reflect the Main Street, Middle America feeling. Shoppers on 11 Main can search by product descriptions, but the site is set up for users to browse shops and individual collections. It is a highly curated digital experience. While this is an interesting user experience, it is distinctly different than Amazon. That approach also affects pricing.
At Amazon, multiple sellers — including Amazon itself — can offer the same products for sale. This is especially common with used books, in which a number of retailers can sell the same book for as low as a penny. With 11 Main, each shop owner sells only those items. A competing shop owner cannot list the same item, though there is little chance for overlap, as many of the stores sell handmade, antique, or quirky products. The Wire did a side-by-side comparison to see how 11 Main's prices stack up against Amazon, across a wide range of products from rubber duckies to diamonds.