Alibaba makes new e-commerce foray in the U.S. with 11Main.com

11Main will sell specialty goods on an invitation-only basis with customers

China's Alibaba Group is expanding in the U.S., with a new e-commerce site that's geared for buyers interested in boutique stores.

The site, called 11Main, works as an invitation-only marketplace that will offer "one-of-a-kind items" from specialty shops offering clothing, jewelry, arts and more. The beta version of the site is set to go online Wednesday.

The site was built by a company, also called 11Main, that was created by two U.S.-based Alibaba subsidiaries, Auctiva and Vendio. Back in 2010, the Chinese e-commerce giant bought the two companies as part of drive to bring more U.S. small business customers to Alibaba.

Both Auctiva and Vendio help U.S. businesses sell products on e-commerce sites including eBay and have been operating independently since they were acquired. But unlike Alibaba's own Tmall and Taobao sites, which lead the China online retail arena, 11Main is targeting a more niche market, and aims to recruit small-scale merchants. It will have to contend with eBay and Amazon, two of the U.S.'s largest e-commerce sites, which already have a massive following.

Prior to 11Main, Alibaba had been selling goods to U.S. customers through AliExpress and Alibaba.com, two wholesale supplier sites that sell internationally. The Chinese company has also backed ShopRunner, a direct competitor to Amazon, with a US$200 million investment.

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