Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group’s new U.S. shopping site is anything but Chinese.
The beta version of the site, called 11 Main, features a “Made in California” section showcasing six California-based merchants. One of the six is apparel maker Featherweight Clothing, whose clothes, according to its website, are all made in the U.S and have been worn by celebrities like Pearl Jam singer Eddie Vedder. Another one is Recoverie, which sells block prints, pillow covers and blankets – all handcrafted in San Francisco according to the company.
These featured stores represent the overall image that 11 Main wants to convey. The San Mateo, Calif., company, owned by Alibaba, said it is trying to create an online version of the main street shopping experience for American consumers. The launch of the U.S. site comes as Alibaba is preparing to go public in New York in what could be one of the largest initial public offerings in history.
From its simple black-and-white logo to the site’s overall presentation, 11 Main is clearly paying a lot of attention to design. For the most part, the site looks clean and polished, making it starkly different from Alibaba’s Chinese shopping sites, Taobao and Tmall, which are colorful and chaotic.
Still, a stylish website won’t make 11 Main stand out in the sophisticated universe of online shopping in the U.S. There are already many popular design-conscious shopping sites like Etsy and Fab.com. When it comes to the sheer volume and selection of products, Amazon and eBay EBAY +0.89% are far ahead.
11 Main, which opened its doors last week to a limited number of shoppers on an invitation-only basis, currently hosts more than 1,000 merchants, and it plans to keep adding more, according to the company.
The company said it received applications from thousands of merchants but chose only those who met its criteria based on product quality and customer service. In its online guide for sellers, 11 Main has instructions on how to take photos of products – including details on the angle, lighting and background.
There are several ways to find specific items on 11 Main. Other than the keyword search box at the top, there are tabs for nine broad product categories: fashion, home, jewelry, baby, collecting, tech, sporting goods, toys and entertainment.