People can buy just about anything on China's e-commerce site Alibaba, from bonsai trees to frozen fish to bags of cement. Now, Alibaba is bringing this marketplace to the US, sort of.
The company announced Wednesday that it's launching a new website in the US called 11 Main. However, users won't be able to buy bags of cement on this site; it's geared more toward specialty shops and boutiques for fashion, sporting goods, baby gear, crafts, and tech gadgets.
Essentially, 11 Main is putting itself in direct competition with US e-commerce giants Amazon and eBay.
However, there are a few ways 11 Main says it's different than other e-commerce sites. It touts itself as a "shopping destination that brings together a hand-selected collection of specialty shops" that are "not available at mass merchants." Rather than just any business being able to sell on the site, they must first be vetted by 11 Main.
"At 11 Main, we're passionate about the shops we invite and helping them grow," 11 Main president and general manager Mike Effle said in a statement. "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."
Alibaba, which is the largest online e-commerce company in the world, is on the verge of its initial public offering in the US. While the company used a placeholder amount of a $1 billion IPO in its filing, reports peg the amount to be as much as $15 billion to $20 billion -- which would mark it as having the largest IPO in US history.
The Chinese company sold more than $240 billion worth of products last year, while Amazon and eBay, combined, sold less than $200 billion worth. Additionally, Alibaba's profit margin is above 40 percent. In contrast, Amazon and eBay combined is more like 15 percent.
Currently, 11 Main is in beta and invite-only. It's unclear if and when it'll open to the general public.