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Case Study

Building a global ecommerce marketplace: AliExpress

Launched in 2010, AliExpress started life as a business-to-business portal for buying and selling a wide range of goods. Over the years that followed, it grew to become a multifaceted organisation offering business-to-consumer and consumer-to-consumer trade, along with cloud computing and payment services.

Originating in China as part of the Alibaba Group, it is now the most visited ecommerce site in Russia and the 10th most popular in Brazil. Such is its international reach that AliExpress.com is now available in 17 languages, including English, Spanish, Dutch, French, Italian, German, Polish, Turkish, Portuguese, Indonesian and Russian.

Unlike Amazon and other competitors, AliExpress does not sell any products. Instead, it acts as an ecommerce platform for its customers. Many of those offering goods on the site offer dropshipping services for ecommerce businesses. The company also operates an affiliate programme whereby its partners are paid a commission on sales for referring visitors to the site.

Most of the businesses selling on the AliExpress platform are based in China and Singapore, with most buyers based outside Southeast Asia. Thanks to this global reach and international popularity, the company posts impressive returns, with its owner Alibaba showing annual revenues up from USD 109.5bn in 2021 to USD 129.2bn in 2022.

To complement this financial success, AliExpress strives to meet ambitious sustainability targets. Since 2020, all new company buildings must meet the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold Standard. Meanwhile, its parent company, Alibaba, is committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2030 and has pledged to cut 1.5 gigatons of carbon emissions throughout its ecosystem by 2035.

At the same time, AliExpress has publicly stated its goal to serve two billion global customers, increase profitability for 10 million companies and create 100 million jobs by 2036.

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