What Can US Retailers Learn From Asian E-Commerce Companies?

There is stiff competition between Asian e-tailers and their American counterparts for the battle of global leadership. This is an extremely probable future as the e-commerce giants Alibaba and Amazon are already gaining momentum in India and Australia.

Nearly two-thirds of the US e-commerce industry is dominated by retailers such as Walmart, eBay, Best Buy and Amazon (that covers this space by over 40%), the local market is becoming more consolidated and less flexible. This is in comparison to the agile, data-driven, and fragmented Asian e-commerce industry.

Can the mature American retail market learn something from the comparatively young and rapidly growing Asian e-commerce market?

Modify selling strategies to Local markets

US-based brick and mortar stores and online retailers focus on domestic and English-speaking homogeneous markets. On the contrary, the nascent Asian e-tail market is constantly expanding beyond borders to markets with varying population sizes, purchasing powers and cultural backgrounds.

Here’s something to ponder upon — Amazon is the world’s third-largest retailer, it uses its universal selling strategy regardless of the market it scales up to, while its Asian competitor, Alibaba, the world’s sixth-largest retailer, acts on a different vision — “Act Local, Think Global”. This strategy works well in the rather fragmented Asian market and therefore, by extension, in the global market. Alibaba acts through local players or players that know the local market by offering a variety of affiliate programs.

For instance, Alibaba acquired a majority stake in Lazada, a major player in the South East Asian marketplace, an ideal platform for introducing Chinese vendors to non-Chinese buyers. Furthermore, another great example of Alibaba’s adjusting to local markets would be the expansion of Chinese marketplaces Taobao and Tmall in Russia. Alibaba’s strategy envisions adaptations to various local markets and finds ways of making the local systems reinforce each other.

person using smartphone

Cross-Border selling is the name of the game

Alibaba is not the only e-commerce company that wants to increase cross-border sales. Recently, South Korean retailer GS Retail made a $29 million equity investment in the U.S. e-tailer Thrive Market. US e-tailers are not far behind. Even in the US, retailers have begun to realize that buyers outside the English-speaking markets can also generate revenue. This trend could be seen when Walmart, one of the biggest retail chains in the US, acquired a majority stake in India’s largest online retailer, Flipkart, making the transaction “the world’s biggest purchase of an e-commerce company.”

To function in an unfamiliar environment, retailers need expertise, which in today’s market, only the Asian players have. They can soon be well equipped to battle American retail in the global market with optimized operations and the ability to cover different markets with subsidized prices.

Retailers who are tech-savvy, stay ahead

Innovation is a crucial element for businesses to compete in the market whether it wants to play internally, externally or globally. More and more businesses are opting for technology including AI and machine learning to gain an edge over the competition.

ML and AI are disrupting retail by enabling businesses to observe competitive prices and monitoring trends, helping them to react to changes and forecast demand and sales. This way, retailers can boost their revenue and can build data-driven strategies and make better business decisions. No algorithm can be useful if the data it processes is not of high quality. Trained on the data, can it recommend optimal pricing and forecast sales which directly affects the business performance. The better the data is, the better the outcomes are.


Successful businesses will be those that recognize and adjust their strategies and offerings to that particular market. Moreover, building several channels of communication with customers and leveraging the marketplace as a way of accessing consumers as well as integrating innovations and data into their operations will further strengthen their success.

It’s a no-brainer — Data-driven companies are already dominating the market. The other retailers need to jump on the bandwagon if they want to stay competitive.

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