Could popular online pinboard Pinterest have what it takes to develop a viable new model for ecommerce?
China's Alibaba apparently thinks so.
The Chinese ecommerce powerhouse recently launched a social shopping platform called Fa Xian, which bears a lot of resemblance to Pinterest. According to Reuters, four weeks in, the site, which is in beta, is attracting up 60,000 unique visitors a day.
Unlike Pinterest, however, which doesn't sell anything and backed off from apply affiliate codes to product links only to see spammers allegedly rush in, Fa Xian is effectively a marketing channel for Alibaba. Currently, all of the products pinned on Fa Xian are available for purchase through two Alibaba-operated sites, Taobao Mall and Taobao Marketplace.
Not surprisingly, in an effort to capture more sales, the Alibaba group that runs Fa Xian, eTao, is looking to add additional outlets. "We have about 10 partners right now. At the end of the year, I hope to see if we can achieve 100 partners, because this year China's social shopping industry is very hot," Chen Lijuna, eTao's director, told Reuters.
Needless to say, the rise of Fa Xian isn't surprising. As we have seen time and time again, popular online services that originate in one major market, like the United States, are quickly noticed by companies and entrepreneurs in other places. They, in turn, look to apply those models locally. This 'cloning' irritates some, but it's hard to argue that it isn't often very successful.
That, for obvious reasons, can be a smart move. As one venture capitalist in China noted, "Over the long run, social commerce in China has the potential to be bigger than the United States." That means that Fa Xian, and the similar sites that will surely follow it, may eventually achieve more commercial success than the site that started it all, Pinterest.