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China’s Tencent is using its vast social media network to attract luxury fashion brands to its WeChat app, similar to WhatsApp, potentially opening a new frontier in online retail.

France’s Longchamp and the U.K.’s Burberry have begun selling handbags and clothes on WeChat, China’s most popular messaging app. Givenchy and Dior are testing demand for their goods through flash sales on the platform.

The move signals a challenge to Alibaba, the dominant player in e-commerce in China, where online transactions are expected to reach 6 trillion yuan ($870 billion) this year, according to consulting firm Bain & Co. Alibaba’s sites processed more than $547 billion in transactions in 2017, which analysts say is more than eBay and Amazon combined.

Alibaba, Tencent and search engine Baidu are venturing beyond their traditional business lines into payments, social media and e-commerce.

On WeChat, its more than 900 million users book movie tickets, hail rides, order laundry pickup and pay for utilities without leaving the app. This year, Tencent also made it easier to launch multimedia advertising and set up shops on WeChat, making its platform more appealing to luxury brands.

Affordable brands such as Tag Heuer, jeweller Pandora and cosmetics companies have opened on Tmall, Alibaba’s platform for mostly large brands. But most luxury fashion brands remain wary of open platforms such as Alibaba and rival JD.com because they fear losing their aura of exclusivity. (Wall Street Journal)