Nowadays, social and ecommerce are coming closer together. Social media started to build up marketplaces and ecommerce platform started to build up content platform. And It’s even more advanced in China.

As you would have already known from one of our previous articles, Pinduoduo, Chinese top social e-commerce platform went IPO on Nasdaq last month – one of the largest deals of the year.  

Interestingly, while many people are complaining that Pinduoduo is selling fake and copycat products, many “Pinduoduo” copycats apps start to emerge in the market as well.

Some examples of Pinduoduo copycats. Most of these apps have similar logos or also have “duoduo” in their app name.

Shanzhai the Shanzhai

We have seen Pinquduo, Changduoduo, Pinduoquan, Paduoduo, Quanduoduo, Huiduoduo, Pinquduo, among hundreds of others. This is truly loyal to the spirit of Chinese “Shanzhai” (or Copycat) entrepreneurs.

Anyone remembers BlockBerry?

However, even though these copycats have similar logos or names with Pinduoduo. When you try it, you will find they are actually different.

Most of them don’t have their own ecommerce system. What they offer is to provide coupons or discounts of Taobao or Pinduoduo and then redirect  traffic to Taobao merchants to get commissions.

In a way, they are affiliate marketing platforms which leverage the similarity of name and appearance to Pinduoduo to get organic traffic from confused users.

Most of these companies don’t have enough funding to support their own marketing campaigns and their monetization capability is quite limited.

We suspect some of them did not have the plan to ever make it big – just earning some affiliate commission is good enough for them. But in another way, it also shows how fast blue ocean can turn into a messy, bloody one.

Under such a fierce competition, without a unique value proposition to acquire customers, it’s quite difficult for them to grow or sustain in the market.

Many of these platforms you see will disappear pretty soon.

Long term goal 

So what shall we do to build up a successful ecommerce site? Below are 3 tips.

  • Have a unique offering to the right audience.

Besides Pinduoduo, some other social ecommerce platforms are also quite popular in China, such as Liwushuo(礼物说), Little Red Book (小红书) and so on. Each of them provides a unique offering to stand out in the market. Pinduoduo targets low-income customers with group-buying strategy of cheap products. Little Red Book uses social influencers impact to motivate Chinese young ladies to share about fashion product reviews and styling tips. Liwushuo provides a one-stop styling gift shopping to help customers solve the pain points of choosing a gift and share with friends.

Chinese social ecommerce sites. From left to right. Xiaohongshu, Pinduoduo, Liwushuo.
  • Viral marketing via social media

All these successful ecommerce sites have one thing in common: integrate seamlessly with China’s most popular social media app WeChat. People don’t necessarily need to download a separate app to use the service which makes it much easier and simpler for people to share with their friends and go viral.

  • Don’t forget the power of community

As it’s about social ecommerce, “social” is important. Community or key opinion leaders can play a very important role to help increase the user stickiness. Little Red Book is a good example. They have a big team of community managers to manage different categories’ communities, arrange online/offline events, and motivate people to stay active on the platform.

Recently, some friends asked us whether they could copy “Pinduoduo” business model in other countries. In general, we think there is a potential but it’s not easy. (Read our Chinese article) Different countries have different consumer behaviors and ecommerce landscape. Hope above tactics can give you some ideas.

But as we always suggest, what matters more is to really understand the local market then adapt the method and take actions to suits the local conditions.

Good luck.

Thanks for reading The Low Down (TLD), the blog by the team at Momentum Works. Got a different perspective or have a burning opinion to share? Let us know at [email protected].