For China-based online retail marketplace AliExpress, mobile is what drives their continued international expansion. A revamp of their mobile site and app has seen app downloads exceed 5 million, and AliExpress has grown into a popular ecommerce site globally in markets including America, Russia and Brazil.
Global marketplace AliExpress allows consumers from around the world to buy everything from baby clothes to refrigerators and diamond earrings directly from their Chinese sellers. With customers in 220 countries, mobile is at the heart of their success.
After AliExpress opened to international customers in 2010, it became clear that many consumers were using their smartphones throughout the entire purchase journey, from researching items to ordering them. Based on this insight, AliExpress decided to direct their focus on using mobile to drive their international expansion.
This meant rethinking the entire shopping experience for mobile, and going back to basics to create the best possible experience on mobile devices for both buyers and sellers. This included designing a mobile app to make it easy for returning visitors to access the company's services, browse, and buy merchandise on their phones.
However, as international transactions began to rise, the company’s data showed that many overseas buyers were shopping through their mobile browser rather than using the AliExpress app, and that the mobile site and app were serving different audiences. The site tends to bring in new consumers who generally prefer to try AliExpress through the site itself, while repeat customers tend to download and use the app.
“We found that buyers in the US and other developed markets were visiting our website via mobile browser rather than using our app,” says Joe Yan, AliExpress Director of Global Operations and Expansion. “Therefore we created an optimised mobile website to improve the user experience for those buyers.” This included making sure that the most important information, such as product images, prices and shipping costs, was clearly visible above the fold (the portion of the site that is viewable on screen without having to scroll down).
To help convert more new customers into repeat buyers and further increase international sales, AliExpress also put banners on its mobile site to promote using the app, and encourage its download from Google Play. “We have banners on m.aliexpress.com explaining to users the benefits of having an AliExpress mobile app. The mobile site is a good place to transition a non app user to an app user of AliExpress,” explains Bolei Shen, AliExpress Senior Product Manager.
Data has played a huge role in directing AliExpress along the right path. "We collect data, including user feedback, product usage, and mobile purchases," says Yan. The company then analyses this data to identify the best optimisation strategy. For example, when AliExpress also discovered that many consumers like to manage their orders on the mobile app, the team developed mobile push notifications to update consumers on their order status.
The growth of the AliExpress mobile site has outpaced that of the desktop site. The app, available from Google Play, has also now seen over 100 million downloads, and has a user rating of 4.5. AliExpress has now seen customers from 195 countries place orders, with Russia, the United States, and Spain the highest spending countries. Overall transaction volume for the online marketplace now exceeds $4.5 billion.
The company’s next goal is to serve even more customers internationally while making cross-device use easier.
“Our mobile strategy will drive international expansion for us,” says Yan. “It will enable us to find better ways to enter different markets depending on the mobile maturity level. Mobile is the future and we must take heed.” Joe Yan, Director of Global Operations and Expansion, AliExpress