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.
All-Clad Slow Cooker
Retro Home Phone
Marketing Profs found 29 percent of online shoppers would not buy luxury items from Amazon, so we wanted to see how the costs compared, as this was Amazon's weakest sales market.
Marble Top Bar
Amazon dominates book sales online. It was expected that Alibaba could take a large chunk out of this market, perhaps even unsettling the market enough that Amazon would change their negotiation strategies. Instead, 11 Main is selling books in a completely different way. They sell almost no new books. Instead, they specialize in unusual books and rare finds, like first editions of famous novels sold by credible book sellers. There weren't too many overlaps when it came to books, but here's what we found.
Food of Southern Italy Cookbook
Atop a Hill in Frostville, Children's Book
All in all, Amazon is less expensive that 11 Main. Of the sixteen products compared, Amazon was less expensive than 11 Main on nine products, priced the same on three products, and more expensive on four products. As for the categories, Amazon was better priced than 11 Main on books, home goods, and electronics, but for toys, 11 Main was a better deal.
So, 11 Main is here. It's cool, it's cute, it's quirky. But you aren't going to find any Amazon-killing deals on there.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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