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Re-trade and gamification, Alibaba’s innovative solutions for carbon transition

Céline Delacharlerie
4 minutes
China recently announced its five-year plan to become carbon neutral by 2060. This plan will accelerate the transformation of many industries, including major tech players like Alibaba, which laid the first groundwork a few years ago with its re-launch trade app Idle Fish to 75 million users and its Ant Forest  game that encourages citizens to change their habits and translates into tree planting.


What is the concept of Idl Fish?

According to the Chinese Research Center for the Internet Economy, between 2014 and 2018, the second-hand market grew by 450% to reach 100 billion dollars, and this figure is estimated to have doubled in 2020. Alibaba has been a major contributor to this trend. Xianyu, or its English name Idle Fish which translates as “Lazy Fish” in English, is a platform launched by Alibaba inside its e-commerce site Taobao in 2014. It became a stand-alone app afterwards, and even a market leader! Idle Fish users are mostly millennials, with 60% of users born after 1990.

Alibaba’s expertise in online sales, and access to the app via its Alipay “Super App” have made it possible to popularize, simplify and accelerate second-hand shopping. Alipay is a mobile wallet but has evolved over the years to cover a wide range of financial and other services.

With Idle Fish, Alibaba tried to create a more social application, a domain usually reserved for its WeChat competitor. Idle Fish is organized around mini-communities by hobbies (sport, photography, etc.). Some retailers are famous influencers. As in other social networks, it is possible to follow resellers, who share not only goods for sale but also photos and moments of life.

Alibaba has also set up a clothing recovery system which is then resold to partner companies for resale or recycling. Since the launch, 8,500 tons of clothing have been recycled, or 24 million pieces.

Finally, the app is connected to two other popular features of the Alipay “Super App”: the Ant Forest game and the  Sesame Credit rating system. Ant Forest is a mini-app that allows users to earn “green dots” to grow virtual trees that will then be planted, in the real world, in arid regions of China. In 2019, 230,000 trees were planted from actions on Idle Fish.

As transactions on Idle Fish can reach large amounts (cars, household appliances for example), the application makes it possible to unlock a pre-payment for sellers before delivery to guarantee and secure their transaction, if the payer’s Sesame Credit rating allows it. The Sésame Crédit rating system, is a score ranging from 350 to 950 set up by Alipay, which uses an algorithm to assess the confidence level of each individual based on their transactions on Alipay, their borrowing habits, delays in payment of invoices, delays in returning leased goods, etc.

Why download the application?


Resell your goods instead of throwing them away

Depending on the product category, you can add details on the condition of the property (time of use, origin, brand) and receive an estimate of the resale price. You can then chat with potential buyers.

Revendre vos vêtements

Get rid of old clothes and recover money immediately

In a few clicks, the clothes to be recycled can be recovered from the individual, who receives a payment in exchange, and then resold to partner companies who resell them, while another party, approximately half is recycled and transformed into new industrial or agricultural materials. For example, they can be used as fabrics for temperature control in greenhouses, anti-noise fabrics for greenhouses, etc.

Belong to a community around your passions

The app is organized by passions to create mini-communities, called “Fish Ponds”, or fish ponds in French. So you can for example join a literature community and follow the latest books resold by other users, or if you are a video game addict, you can join a community on this topic, etc.

Partager sa vie en photo

Share your life in photos as on Instagram

No need for more precision, everyone knows how the Instagram platform works and the types of content that are shared there.


Follow an influencer or celebrity and buy goods that he/she resells

You can also follow other users, such as on Instagram. They can be influencers or celebrities who sell their own business, and share moments of their life in photos.

Ant forest

Earn green points to grow your virtual tree… and real!

Purchases made on Idle Fish contribute positively to the impact on the environment, allowing you to earn “green dots” that help grow a virtual tree in the Alipay Ant Forest mini-app. These virtual trees are then converted into real trees that Alibaba commits to planting in China.

Céline Delacharlerie
Celine is the correspondent of the Echangeur in China. On the lookout for retail innovations, she identifies and analyzes the latest retail and consumer trends in Asia.
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