Twitter isn’t the only tech giant trying new things as it prepares for an IPO, Alibaba — China’s dominant online retailer — has made a subtle but significant play for Western companies after it launched an English language microsite for Tmall, its B2C shopping site for brands.

The business development-focused site, announced via Alibaba’s Alizila blog, is a guide to help western brands use the site to reach Chinese consumers through the popular service, which is already used by the likes of Microsoft and many others. That focus is made clear with its tagline: ‘China’s market at your fingers.’

Alibaba’s IPO is still up in the air, unlike Twitter’s plans, but that hasn’t stopped it from making a couple of interesting moves of late. Most notably the company led a $206 million investment round in US e-commerce logistics firm Shoprunner, which is seen by some as a testing of the waters in the US, perhaps ahead with a view to future expansion.

This video — uploaded by a Tmall marketing manager — accompanies the site:

Irrespective of its relatively low profile presence in western markets, Alibaba has grown into a colossal company, which accounted for 3 billion of the 5.69 billion parcels sent in China last year. Not content with seeing its volume of transactions top that of Amazon and eBay combined, it is aiming to grow transactions across all of its services — which include its Taobao consumer-to-consumer marketplace, among others — to a gigantic CNY3 trillion ($490 billion).

Hitting that figure would see it surpass Wal Mart as the world’s largest retail platform, but clearly expanding to new markets is critical to achieving that kind of ambitious growth. Along those lines, this English ‘explainer’ website may well be a forerunner to future overseas marketing and advertising plans, or just another testing of the waters.

Either way, it comes at a time that the company is said to be considering publicly listing on a US stock exchange, after running into problems with regulation in Hong Kong — although CEO Jonathan Lu recent said that the location of the IPO is still to be decided.

➤ Tmall English language guide | Via Alizila