You've probably heard of the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba (BABA) , but there's a good chance you don't know what they really do.

This is not just a Chinese version of Amazon (AMZN)  or eBay  (EBAY)  or PayPal (PPAL) ... it's all of those things and more.

Just look at Alibaba's e-commerce business. There's Taobao, which is China's largest online marketplace. It allows small businesses and individuals to not just sell items, but also provide product knowledge and lifestyle content.
Alibaba also runs more conventional consumer goods sites like Tmall which focuses on the Chinese market and AliExpress where you can shop here in the U.S.

Together these online businesses account for about 70% of Alibaba's revenue. We recently saw U.S. e-commerce giant Amazon buy Wholefoods (WFM) . What you might not know is that Alibaba has already been transforming grocery stores and department stores in China with its big data.

Alibaba made its hardware debut this month with a smart speaker called the Tmall Genie x1. At $73, it is cheaper than most of Amazon's Alexa devices, Google's (GOOG)  Home speaker and the upcoming Apple  (AAPL)  Homepod.

Alibaba shows no sign of slowing down. The company told investors it predicts it will hit $1 trillion in gross merchandise value in 2020.

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Editors' pick: Originally published Aug. 17.

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