On August 15th, the founder of 360buy, Liu Qiang Dong, set the stage for a price war anew. Behind all his clamorous moves, I cannot help myself but wonder what his true color is? A drama king? A bluffer? A schemer? Or simply a pain in the ass for other major B2C players to suffer? And what is more important, how long will he stay in this e-commerce race?

In July, I wrote a blog about how he utilized “tomato love affair” on Sina weibo for social marketing purpose. Back then, not only did he flaunt his tomato love, but also murmured his plan of launching another round of drastic price war. So I was not totally surprised to hear it is happening again. After all Liu is a true instigator of price war; he addicts to start such war declaration to his archrivals most of the time, if not all the time.

If his aggressive spirit of engaging in price war does not totally put 360buy into the position of a “common foe” for other rivals, then 360buy’s position as the second largest B2C platform surely does. Taobao as the number one e-commerce platform, about 40% of the market share, is obviously too big to take down at this moment. Additionally Taobao is more or less an open platform, a somewhat different breed from those e-retailing B2Cs. By looking at 360buy, market share hovering around 15%-17%, is really a not so intimidating target for the rest of the big competitors to supersede right? In particular, Suning, Gome, Dangdang, 51buy are itching for a fight as they are thinking “come on, we are also specialized in 3C products selling and can do so much better than you 360buy”!

Whenever Liu’s price war campaign kicks off, the media is often filled with various and heightened speculations. Just to list a few themes here:

  • Price war is the camouflage of 360buy’s legendary yet much delayed IPO
  • 360buy is running out of the cash, and we will see a crash soon
  • Burning the money out of those VCs, not out of Liu’s own pocket is surely a cool thing to do
  • Suning and Gome are really biting 360buy, therefore Liu needs to revenge
  • Gee, Liu is just acting with such bravado and he is not really offering the cheapest prices

Well, gazing through all those nebulous comments, I must admit Liu’s conceit, voracity, fearlessness and vainglory above all measure, actually equip himself this bizarre charisma of summoning up all the public attentions more than any other entrepreneurs do. In an age of digital business, in which word of mouth and online buzz are all that matters, isn’t Liu’s dominant influence overwhelmingly crucial for his e-business? Saving some advertising dollars while inculcating your online consumers in a more convincing way? In this wacky environment of China e-commerce, don’t we require such a wacko kind of genius to perform the drama?

I think before 360buy’s IPO, Liu will incessantly pull out all the tricks, and price war must just be the norm. It is a game he can afford and he knows how to play well. Those VCs have to be behind his back, as 360buy might be too big to abandon now. Guess 360buy’s much anticipated IPO should be the watershed here; until then Liu is going to stay in this race and continues to be a pain in the ass for the rest of B2C competitors in the arena of China e-commerce.


By Cécilia Wu
English & Chinese Editorial Manager