Lessons Alibaba can learn from Amazon

Chinese e-commerce giant, Alibaba, issued its first quarterly earnings report since its initial public offering in September. Results were in line with analysts' expectations and revenue came in stronger than expected.

While there's still tremendous room for growth, because less than half of the Chinese population is still not online, some eyebrows have been raised as investors see hints of Alibaba branching outside of China.

Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.
Adam Jeffery | CNBC
Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.

It's no secret that the company some might consider as Alibaba's American counterpart, Amazon, is struggling to make money. Are there lessons Alibaba can learn from Amazon?

From a top-line perspective the two companies may bear some resemblance, however, it's not an apples-to-apples scenario.

Read MoreGrowing pains may loom for Alibaba: Expert

"It really to me represents the next generation of e-commerce companies that really don't have to build out as much of the infrastructure as Amazon did," Mohan Sawhney, marketing professor and director of the Center for Research in Technology and Innovation at the Kellogg School of Management told CNBC.

"Growth is very seductive. There are so many opportunities for Alibaba," said Sawhney. "They've got to be careful because getting into unrelated business around a movie studio or out of China is a very different ballgame," he added.

If Alibaba does follow through with branching out as a number of other e-commerce companies have done, how will it impact profits?

"I think at some point they do have to start build out infrastructure because the good news about the Alibaba model is obviously its very asset light and hence the phenomenal profit margins, the bad news is they have very limited control over customer experience the fulfillment the logistics. I mean Amazon for all its spending has built a excellent customer experience," said Sawhney.

"They have to think about balancing their profits and their margins with their growth and their customer experience," Sawhney said.

Joseph Tsai, Alibaba executive vice chairman, speaking Tuesday on CNBC's "Squawk on the Street," had this to say about a comparison to Amazon.

"We'll we're not like Amazon … Amazon's margin is hampered by the fact that they take on inventory and they have a large costs of goods sold item, so their gross margin starts [at] a very, very low margin. Somewhere in the low teens. And in our case, we operate in a marketplace model, where the revenue we generate, coming from commissions and also online marketing services, have inherently very high margins."