Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Mon Sept 26 2016 13:10:17

Alibaba Explains Why It Closed US Marketplace 11 Main

By: Ina Steiner

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Many small sellers had high hopes for Alibaba's US marketplace 11 Main when it launched in 2014, but the site was unable to gain traction among buyers despite a fair success in attracting sellers. Now comes an official answer as to why Alibaba gave up on 11 Main.

In an interview with the publication The Information, Alibaba Executive Vice Chairman Joe Tsai was asked, "Why did you shut down 11 Main?" Tsai's response:

"It was a test. Ultimately, it didn't get any traction. In business, you win some and you lose some. It wasn't a huge strategic initiative for us. There were some legacy reasons why we went into 11 Main, because we acquired this company. It didn't work. We accepted that, and we walked away from it."

Alibaba sold 11 Main to OpenSky in 2015 while taking a stake in OpenSky at the same time. In May of this year, 11 Main officially shut down.

Looking back at some of our coverage of 11 Main and feedback from sellers, initially management was seen as being too picky about who could sell there and who couldn't, and then they failed to market the site, relying on sellers to bring traffic to the site.

Ultimately Tsai's response reaffirms the latter point: 11 Main wasn't a priority. Alibaba dipped its toe in the water but wasn't committed to making an investment in the marketplace. 

If Alibaba had committed to making the site a success and marketed the site, could 11 Main have been a success?




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Readers Comments

Perminate Link for Alibaba Explains Why It Closed US Marketplace 11 Main   Alibaba Explains Why It Closed US Marketplace 11 Main

This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Mon Sep 26 13:27:06 2016

I hope that any new site entering the marketplace will tell sellers whether or not "it is a test".  If this is truly the case, they wasted a lot of sellers' time.

Tsai's response sounds very much like a politician's or PR rep's face-saving response.

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by: FeelingFroggy This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 26 13:49:46 2016

Most companies when they open a new enterprise consider it a test. If it doesn't work they close it.

Its just they nature of the beast. Nothing sinister here.

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This user has validated their user name. by: iheartjacksparrow

Mon Sep 26 14:48:20 2016

It sounds like Alibaba wasn't committed to making 11 Main successful. And I agree with the assessment that they were too picky about which sellers they wanted to have, and that they expected the sellers to do the advertising for them. It sounds like they wanted to make a minimal investment and then reap the benefits based on the hard work of the sellers.

I also think the name "11 Main" was a stumbling block to success. Is anyone going to figure out what the site is? It doesn't conjure up images of an online selling site.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Mon Sep 26 15:29:58 2016

I reviewed the notes I took when 11 Main recruited me.

In the final analysis, they wasted more than 60 of my work days for ONE sale.

I was told by 11 Main that they recruited ebay sellers based on their DSRs, and only accepted those with five stars across the board.

I was told on numerous occasions that 11 Main planned a substantial TV ad campaign during the 4th quarter and would also be heavily using other ad venues.

Their representatives (including a VP of marketing) promised me they would do all the marketing. All I and other sellers had to do was list.

I was told they planned a heavy ad campaign in NYC and asked me to Express Mail one of my most expensive items to them in NYC so they could photograph it.

I sent the item. I have no idea whether they photographed it or not, but they did promptly return it.

No such NYC ad campaign took place -- in fact, no advertising campaign of any sort that I'm aware ever happened at any time.

Mr. Tsai's comments are indeed self serving, false, and therefore sinister.

11 Main did nothing they committed to except provide a dedicated account representative who was 1000% more responsive and helpful than ebafia CSR I've ever encountered.

Since then I've received numerous 'invitations' from Open Sky, Rakuten, et. al. I've refused all of them for reasons well known to experienced sellers here.

None of them are to be trusted ever.

Perminate Link for Alibaba Explains Why It Closed US Marketplace 11 Main   Alibaba Explains Why It Closed US Marketplace 11 Main

by: ignatz This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 26 15:33:33 2016

I'll always believe that 11 Main was part of a strategy for Alibaba to acquire ebay, perhaps to create some negotiating leverage to say "if you don't sell to us we'll take your business away with our own website."

But it's nothing more than a hunch.

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by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 26 19:58:12 2016

The bs spouted means "once we realized how much it was going to cost us long term, we bailed".

The wanted to Amazon but only got as far as being %25 eBay.

I was accepted right away and probably made slightly north of 50 sales from beginning to end.

Their fraud protection was non existent but in the end, I was reimbursed each time.

The thought being Amazon was an over night issue but they learned the hard way.

They should have just bought eBay and soared us all from the madness of Wenig.  

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by: toml3030 This user has validated their user name.

Tue Sep 27 00:12:21 2016

IMO Alibaba will never have a substantial presence in US by buying or starting its own site.  Having too big a presence in US leaves it exposed to lawsuits for selling fakes like eBay, and selling fake items is way too important to Alibaba's success.

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by: ConnecticutGal This user has validated their user name.

Tue Sep 27 23:25:10 2016

IMO, 11Main was only started to give Jack Ma/AliBaba a "real" US presence ahead of its IPO on a US stock exchange.  My sense is that it was meant to make potential investors feel more comfortable that they weren't just investing in a Chinese company but rather a company with a global perspective.

Perminate Link for Alibaba Explains Why It Closed US Marketplace 11 Main   Alibaba Explains Why It Closed US Marketplace 11 Main

This user has validated their user name. by: LasVagueness

Tue Sep 27 23:36:24 2016

I have long since purged my 11 Main emails. While I was not recruited I was readily granted admission into their 'exclusive' seller's club...lol. Like Ming above, a colossal waste of time was expended. In my case it was to list ONE item. The site was not intuitive and as I recall there was *no* flexibility in shipping options (I'm not sure the site offered options). One listing was enough to sour me on the totality of 11 Main. Good riddance.  

Perminate Link for Alibaba Explains Why It Closed US Marketplace 11 Main   Alibaba Explains Why It Closed US Marketplace 11 Main

by: Garcia This user has validated their user name.

Tue Sep 27 23:56:22 2016

It was a big waste of time and immediately obvious that no one at 11 Main cared if sellers succeeded or not and they did nothing to help them.

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by: pfft!! This user has validated their user name.

Wed Sep 28 03:09:02 2016

You could almost say the same thing about Amazon's venture into "handmade".  They talked big and everything............but you NEVER hear a peep about it anymore.  Not from them.....not from sellers.....nothing.

Perminate Link for Alibaba Explains Why It Closed US Marketplace 11 Main   Alibaba Explains Why It Closed US Marketplace 11 Main

by: Flying Childers This user has validated their user name.

Wed Sep 28 07:34:24 2016

Between Etsy and Ebay, there was just no market for another site that sold cheap products made in China.

Perminate Link for Alibaba Explains Why It Closed US Marketplace 11 Main   Alibaba Explains Why It Closed US Marketplace 11 Main

by: bb6 This user has validated their user name.

Wed Sep 28 08:44:15 2016

Their timing on building the site couldn't have been better. It was at a time where everyone wanted to leave ebay and stick it to them. Any market place that does not advertise has a slim chance to none of existing. Sure you could have all the sellers in the world and maybe a few will buy from each other but you need to reach the mainstream of people that don't sell items if you want a marketplace to take off. You need to create good buzz. Limiting the sellers was the biggest mistake they could have ever made.

Perminate Link for Alibaba Explains Why It Closed US Marketplace 11 Main   Alibaba Explains Why It Closed US Marketplace 11 Main

by: Barbbie This user has validated their user name.

Wed Sep 28 10:06:19 2016

I did pretty good on 11 main. I spent months making sure my prices were the most competitive and liked the selective aspect. Not really any used items to compete with!  I still have the stock I bought of the things that were selling well there that I can't move anywhere else. The back office listing approvers where the main issue I had with them, it took months and by the time they approved my halloween stock it was over!  I had at least a sale a day there and I definitely miss that money now.
I did fall for Ratuken, but only gave them one of my best selling items at a competitive price and they were not able to sell even one in 3 months so I cancelled and they gave me my money back.
Open sky when they first called me the guy had some crazy scheme where I pay them 500 to list one item for a month. LOL.  A year later, I fell for a "coupon" in my inbox as a buyer. I went on there, put items in my cart and attempted to use the coupon, LOL, it did not work, it said the items did not participate or something like that. Basically, I see it as a scam site. I will not get involved with that kind of thing.
Jet seems to be worse than 11 main, a lot of hype and trouble but so far, absolutely no sales in 3 months. The back office there is just as bad as 11 mains' was as far as not listing items timely only this time it is costing me money. Then once you get something on there, they will just inactivate it without letting you know because suddenly they think it is not competitively priced.  They actually delisted an entire group of items for all sellers including me that sell regularly at higher prices elsewhere and the "customer service" is severely lacking. It sucks big time, don't even bother with them.

Perminate Link for Alibaba Explains Why It Closed US Marketplace 11 Main   Alibaba Explains Why It Closed US Marketplace 11 Main

This user has validated their user name. by: toolguy

Wed Sep 28 13:11:13 2016

@ConnecticutGal

Funny you mention Alibaba stock, it hit a 52 week high today and is only $5 from it's all time high!

Perminate Link for Alibaba Explains Why It Closed US Marketplace 11 Main   Alibaba Explains Why It Closed US Marketplace 11 Main

by: Nuts2U This user has validated their user name.

Fri Sep 30 23:51:52 2016

I applied to sell at 11 Main. Twice. Got rejected, twice. Reason given (twice): "Your stuff is great! We got no room for it, but definitely try again later." I bet a lot of sellers got led by the nose this way.

Thanks for nothing, Alibaba.



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