China’s seminal e-commerce site Taobao, which enables anyone to become an amateur shopkeeper, has over a million merchants on its platform. This is where the Sino-US startup Appconomy sees a niche to help these sellers create a native mobile app of their Taobao store (pictured).
Appconomy’s Mike Golden tells us this service is called Zhangyingbao and it’s now launching officially after being in testing since November. In that time it has amassed 2,000 Taobao vendors as users, who now have their own custom store apps made using the Appconomy service. It’s not just the apps they get, as Zhangyingbao also incorporates a chat function for store owners to talk online with their customers. Mike adds: “You can communicate with app users via pushed in-app notifications and in-app email.”
Taobao, and its parent compamy Alibaba, already have a chat platform for its platform merchants, but Zhangyingbao can streamline the process for e-shoppers who opt to use the custom store apps. Payments can even be made while mobile, using Alibaba’s Alipay.
Appconomy’s CEO and president, Brian Magierski, says that the startup’s cloud commerce services are an answer to the problem of how amateur shopkeepers and small businesses can form lasting relationships with a customer. Brian explains:
The Zhangyingbao service, through the merchant-specific mobile apps it generates, offers a robust solution to the problem, providing merchants a unique, convenient option that saves on advertising costs, enhances their shop’s popularity, and builds strong relations with their shoppers via in-app notifications and other communications.
We’re told that the custom app service doesn’t yet cover the B2C version of Taobao, which is called Tmall – that’s where larger retailers and even global brands go to create virtual shopfronts. Mike chips in to say, “Expanding to Tmall is an option for the future, but merchant needs and customers are different – we would be solving a different set of problems.”
Appconomy has one other e-commerce oriented product, which we looked at recently. Aimed at both consumers and offline retailers, it’s a mobile wallet service called JinJin. For the startup, whose personnel is split between Shanghai and Texas, JinJin and Zhangyingbao are “part of the common cloud commerce platform roadmap.” Indeed, some of the custom app Taobao merchants will get cross-promotion in the Jinjin app so that a business boost might result from that cross-fertilization.
The Taobao and Tmall sites amassed $159 billion in sales in the first eleven months of 2012.