Taobao.com, China's largest online retailer, is boosting its visibility through a new web domain and branding campaign amid growing competition in the country's e-commerce market.
Taobao, part of the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, is undertaking these efforts to promote its Taobao Mall, which features more than 30,000 international and domestic brands available to online consumers.
Before, visitors accessed Taobao Mall through Taobao.com. But on Monday, the company launched an additional web domain for the platform at www.tmall.com to bolster its accessibility to consumers.
"We try to give them a shortcut to go to this high-quality site," said Daniel Zhang, company CFO.
Coinciding with the new domain name, the company will invest 200 million yuan (US$ 29.9 million) over the next three months to advertise the site. The branding campaign will promote Taobao Mall on Chinese television and through billboards in major cities across the country.
Taobao.com was first launched back in 2003, specializing in consumer-to-consumer online retail. But in 2008, the site launched its Taobao Mall as a business-to-consumer platform, allowing major brands to sell to Internet users via the site. Now Taobao Mall is outpacing the growth of the consumer-to-consumer business of the company, Zhang said.
Taobao already controls a 75 percent share of the country's online retail market, according to Beijing-based research firm Analysys International. Total transaction volume on the site reached more than 200 billion yuan ($29.9 billion) in 2009, according to Taobao.
But other companies, both domestic and foreign, are also hoping to cash in on China's e-commerce market, which continues to grow. In the first three quarters of 2010, China's online retail market was valued at more than $51 billion, according to Analysys.
Last month, Baidu, China's largest online search engine, jointly launched a new online shopping site in the country with Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten. The companies are investing $50 million to build the site. Wal-Mart has also said it is preparing to sell online in China by offering products from its Sam's Club warehouse stores.
Taobao, however, is not focused on the competition, Zhang said.
"Actually we don't care more about the competition. And the market is quite big. Everybody understands in China e-commerce is still in the very early stages," he said. "Right now if you look at the online retail as a percentage of total retail it only accounts for less than 2 percent."
Any player in China's e-commerce market will have a good chance to grow, Zhang added. For the Taobao Mall, the company believes the number of merchants on the site could possibly double next year.
Taobao Mall can still be accessed through Taobao.com. There are no plans to spin the mall off into its own company, Zhang added.