So meta: Amazon just opened an online store on Alibaba

Emma Haslett
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The store sells products including Blue Diamond nuts and Lego (Source: Tmall)

Amazon and Alibaba may be a hair away to declaring themselves official arch-nemeses, but that hasn't prevented the US online retail giant from making the most of the opportunities presented by its rival. Amazon has opened a shop on Alibaba's Tmall, the Chinese tech giant's equivalent of, er, Amazon.

What does it all mean? Amazon's had trouble replicating its success in the US and Europe in eastern markets. Total international sales rose by just three per cent in the fourth quarter, down from 13 per cent in 2013. Presumably, it's keen to get a bigger slice of the Chinese online retail market, which is expected to pass $1 trillion by 2019, according to research by Forrester.

Last quarter, it launched its Amazon Global Store in the region, which provides products from the US to Chinese customers, based on the most popular searches on its Chinese site.

But as any exporter knows, when expanding into foreign markets, it helps to have a local partner who knows their stuff. And who better than the region's online retailer, which last year counted 334m active customers between its Tmall and Taobao marketplaces? Tmall alone has a 57 per cent share of China's online retail market.

As Forrester analyst Sucharita Mulpuru told Bloomberg: "Everyone knows that Chinese e-commerce is dominated by Alibaba and at some point you go fish where the fish are."

Still, there was a triumphant note when Candice Huang, a spokesperson for Alibaba, added: "We welcome Amazon to the Alibaba ecosystem... their presence will further broaden the selection of international products and elevate the shopping experience for Chinese consumers." Er, quite.

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