China's Taobao.com, a rival to eBay, plans to open up site-wide transaction data so users can learn about buying trends in the world's biggest market, a person familiar with the plans said.
Taobao will next week announce plans to open up a large swath of its transaction and demographic data, which will be aggregated from across the site and will exclude any personally identifiable data, the person said. A user could, for instance, compare how well various brands are selling in an item category such as clothes or mobile phones, or call up certain demographic data to see how factors like gender and age range affect buying habits.
Taobao, a subsidiary of e-commerce outfit Alibaba Group, lets users sell items at auction or through a virtual store. Users shop for everything from lipstick to laptops and household appliances, and companies like Japanese clothes brand Uniqlo have official shops on the site.
Taobao hasn't determined if it will charge for access to its data, but users will be able to access the raw data itself or to contract with certain research companies to analyze it, the person said.
Taobao had 170 million registered users at the end of last year and transaction value on the site in 2009 reached 200 billion yuan (US$29 billion).
Other online retail Web sites also share parts of their transaction data with users. eBay, for instance, has a portal that shows the most popular searches in various categories, along with a user subscription service for data like average selling prices and the most successful keywords for item listings.
Taobao's strategy has been moving from acquiring new users to offering more services to existing users, said Dave Carini, managing director of Maverick China Research, a technology consultancy. Sharing transaction data would fit with that trend, he said.
The move could also help fill a hole for economic data in China, where government statistics are often questioned and other data can be hard to come by.
"Lack of accurate data is something that people have long complained about regarding China," Carini said.