The explosive growth of Alibaba's digital shopping app should worry Amazon

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Jeff Bezos Drew Angerer/Getty Images Jeff Bezos.

Amazon may be the undisputed king of digital retail , but a challenger is quickly rising up the ranks.

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba is fast gaining a foothold, with its western-facing shopping app AliExpress witnessing explosive growth over the past one year.

The app has grown 80% year-over-year between 2016 and 2017, according to app market data res search company AppAnnie, from 28 million to 50 million iOS and Google Play downloads worldwide.

AliExpress also appears in the top five apps based on monthly active users in the UK, Australia, France and Germany, and is also expanding in emerging markets like India, Russia, Brazil and Turkey, said the company.

The app has grown significantly in 2017 in the U.S. as well, with its smartphone monthly active users increasing nearly 25% year-over-year. It has landed in fourth place among top
digital-first shopping apps, ahead of Amazon Prime Now and behind Amazon, Wish and Etsy, respectively.

Screen Shot 2017 10 11 at 2.16.40 PM AppAnnie

While AliExpress could provide stiff competition to Amazon moving forward, Amazon is still number one by quite a margin. Amazon's monthly active users in the U.S. are nine times the size of the number two app, Wish, according to the company. It continues to attract monthly active users at a healthy rate, with users growing by 35% year-over-year.

Marketers too are closely watching Alibaba's prominent rise and looking to partner with it.

WPP chief Sir Martin Sorrell has frequently called out Alibaba's growing importance. "Google, Facebook and Amazon, along with two Chinese companies - Tencent and Alibaba - are the ones we need to watch out for," he said in an Advertising Week discussion with New Yorker writer Ken Auletta on Sept. 25, reported Digiday. And in September, WPP's media-buying arm GroupM announced that it was partnering with Alibaba to identify potential customers at an early stage of an ad campaign.

AliExpress is also likely to make a bigger name for itself this Black Friday, said AppAnnie.

Get the latest Alibaba stock price here.

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