Alibaba is the biggest e-commerce company in China. It owns online shopping platforms Tabao Marketplace (similar to eBay) and Tmall.com (similar to Amazon), but its latest product is a resource for American retailers looking to capitalize on the Chinese market — so, basically all of them.
Through its online payment service Alipay, which is similar to Paypal, the company has launched ePass, an infrastructure that makes it significantly easier for Chinese shoppers to buy directly from American e-commerce sites, and for American e-commerce sites to cater to them.
It's good news for Chinese shoppers and perhaps even better news for American brands. According to the company, it will facilitate shipping, tax and customs processes that currently make it difficult for U.S. brands to sell to the Chinese. In addition to the payment service, other ePass features include marketing to help brands target Chinese shoppers, a delivery service that physically gets the product to the customer's doorstep in China and easy tracking and confirmation when goods arrive.
Brands and retailers can choose to sign up for one, two or all of these features. They integrate into the existing U.S. sites, on which shoppers simply select ePass as their payment option, and pay in Yuan. Alipay receives a percentage of transactions. That percentage varies depending on how many of the company's services are used.
EPass could open up American brands to a huge market: China's e-commerce market has grown at a staggering rate over the past few years, with an increasing number of shoppers spending online — over $300 million in 2013. So, if retailers are quick to adopt ePass (Gilt.com, The Gap and H&M have already signed on according to AP), it could be a big boon to local brands.