Benjamin Joffe
Benjamin Joffe

Alibaba´s e-commerce platform Taobao excels in integrating social functions, says internet expert Benjamin Joffe in CIO. Although it specifically focuses on Chinese buyers, not those in the west, Western companies can learn from it.


Alibaba is crafting social-networking platforms specifically to complement two of its core operations. The beta version of a Web site with Facebook-style applications and a Twitter-style feed is being grafted onto, Alibaba’s auction and retail Web site, a spokeswoman said. A more professional platform that the spokeswoman likened to LinkedIn is being added to, the group’s business-to-business e-commerce operation.

The entertainment-based platform for Taobao in particular combines standard social-networking functions with original features that promote online purchases. It goes a step beyond efforts to mix e-commerce and social networking by Western companies like and Facebook, said Benjamin Joffe, CEO of digital strategy and research company +8* (Plus Eight Star).

Western companies could potentially benefit by adding social functions like those on the Taobao platform, but the site is also uniquely suited for China’s young Internet user base, he said…

Taobao’s efforts may have more success (than Amazon or Facebook), partly because users will enter its social-networking platform knowing that it is based on an e-commerce site, said Joffe, the analyst.

“They don’t need to explain too much to their users,” said Joffe. “It will feel very natural because commerce is what Taobao is all about in the first place. They are just adding social features to do it better.”

The young majority in China’s base of Internet users has caused online games, entertainment and instant-messaging applications to grow faster then e-commerce in the country, Joffe said. Taobao is now drawing on those proven products to drive its own expansion. It was the first large e-commerce site to offer instant messaging, and social networking is a natural next step for its expansion, said Joffe.

More in CIO.

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