Following China’s digitalization and innovation in new technologies, the Chinese are more than ever using e-commerce platforms in their daily lives. This has contributed to the growth and success of cross-border e-commerce companies like Alibaba Group, with its shopping platforms Taobao (consumer-to-consumer) and Tmall (business-to-consumer).
E-commerce platforms have become an eldorado for international businesses that want to expand their activities in China. However, as everything is different, it might be complicated to understand the differences between Chinese e-commerce platforms.
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In this article, we will focus on Tmall’s international platform: Tmall Global, and cross-border e-commerce in China. So, if you want to export global goods to the China market, you will find some explanations, tips, and advice about Tmall Global.
What is Tmall Global?
Launched in 2014 by the giant Alibaba Group, Tmall Global (天猫国际) is the international version of China’s leading online marketplace: Tmall. Known as the most famous and largest cross-border e-commerce B2C platform, Tmall Global (aka Tmall.hk) offers both wholesale (B2B) and retail (B2C) models for international merchants and has evolved to be a trusted platform among Chinese online shoppers to purchase imported products.
To understand Tmall’s popularity, we can see that there are more than 30,000 international brands that are registered on the platform, in more than 77 countries. The platform also has a large variety of products, with more than 4000 product categories.
Tmall Global has been the 6th most used cross-border e-commerce online store in China, and 65% of Chinese people use its app on their smartphones. It is also important to know that 78% of Tmall Global customers also use Tmall.com.
If we look at this graphic, we can see that as of 2020, Tmall Global Store had more than one-third of the whole import cross-border B2C e-commerce retailers.
Why should you be on Tmall Global?
Tmall Global offers brand owners without a legal entity in China direct access to Chinese consumers. In other words, access to the Chinese market. You have to know that Chinese shoppers are very cautious when purchasing products. Thus, they tend to think that foreign products have a better quality than some Chinese products.
Knowing about these Chinese consumers’ shopping behavior can assure you that, by selling your goods on Tmall Global, you will be able to reach a wider audience as well as increase your visibility in the China market.
You also have to consider that the online penetration of China’s overall retail has reached 32.2% in 2022.
“Brands, particularly small- and medium-sized players that have been hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, are trying to find new channels to grow. In China, e-commerce platforms such as Tmall Global are consumers’ preferred avenues for purchasing overseas products.”– Maggie Liu, Tmall Global’s General Manager
The platform is easy to use, and consumers can find almost everything on it, from video game consoles to makeup. With the rise of Chinese consumers’ booming appetite, it is easier for foreign brands to sell their products at a higher price than Chinese products.
Read More: China Online Market Place Guide
Alibaba’s Tmall Global Cross-Border E-commerce Audience in China
You might also want to know which part of the population uses Tmall Global. In fact, Tmall Global is mostly used by females under 35 with an annual income of over RMB100,000 ($14,500) who are living in big cities.
You will have to consider this information, as it can help you target specific consumers and plan your advertising and marketing strategy ahead.
What product categories do Chinese consumers purchase on Tmall Global?
Imported clothes, household items, accessories and luxury products are highly appreciated by Chinese shoppers. For example, luxury imported cars such as Lamborghini and Mercedes have seen a 400% growth over the years.
However, if we look at the most popular products on Tmall Global, we can see that Beauty & Personal Care represents more than a quarter of global sales. In 2022, the luxury market in Mainland China is expected to reach a growth revenue of +21% according to BCG and Tencent.
But Chinese are also fond of health supplement products. Finally, following a food safety scandal about powder milk a few years ago, there was also an increase in demand for mother and baby products, especially for foreign baby formula products.
China is also the biggest online market for wine, topping global internet sales or other countries like the UK, U.S, France, etc. To be honest, China e-commerce loves basically all foreign products.
An increasing number of foreign players have joined Tmall China
Following Tmall’s huge success, the online apparel market has seen international brands such as Zara, Burberry, Calvin Klein, and Sephora entering the Chinese market by opening Tmall Flagship Stores.
In fact, around 40% of online consumers are buying foreign/imported goods. Thus, international brands know that the China market creates an opportunity to drastically increase their sales, thanks to the 1.02 billion internet users (more than twice the number of internet users in the U.S).
As you can see, many international brands, such as Casio, Burberry, Louis Vuitton, etc already sell on Tmall Global. Tmall Global offers are popular in China because the Chinese want to buy directly from global brands instead of spending money on intermediary platforms.
How to join Tmall China & Tmall Global?
There are two ways to join Tmall’s platform and open a Tmall Flagship Store:
- Companies with China in-country business operations can apply to Tmall.com.
As an open platform marketplace, Tmall.com provides the infrastructure to host your storefront and unfiltered access to hundreds of millions of shoppers. It is much like operating your own B2C website, offering autonomy from design to operations to Tmall overseas fulfillment, Chinese customs, and logistics.
- Companies with overseas licenses are eligible for Tmall Global.
What are the differences between Tmall vs. Tmall Global?
Depending on your situation, you will be able to choose between Tmall.com or Tmall Global to sell imported products. Moreover, it is also possible for the biggest brands to open their online stores on both Tmall.com and Tmall Global to tackle the Chinese e-commerce market.
Tmall Global’s Business Model
Thanks to Tmall Global stores, which are also called “Flagship stores”, you’ll be able to reach more than 300 million rising middle-class young consumers and other international merchants. The brand flagship store is an online storefront hosted on Tmall Global that you’ll be able to operate yourself with the help of a Tmall partner (TP). It will enable you to sell your products directly to Chinese people through Tmall’s logistics.
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How does the Tmall Global Flagship Store work?
How to open an account on Tmall Global?
If you want to start your business on Tmall Global, it is mandatory to open an official Tmall Global account that can reassure Chinese customers. Having a Tmall store can save you time and money, as you don’t need to have a Chinese entity, whereas setting up an account on Tmall.com requires a legal presence in China, which might be a big problem for the majority of overseas merchants.
How do we help you register on Tmall Global?
Applying for Tmall requires time and money. It is a long process that is entirely in Chinese, which can be difficult for you if you don’t speak the language. When it comes to the store itself, you can also count only on Chinese language customer support.
By working with a professional agency, you won’t have to do all of that. As a digital marketing agency, we can easily open an official account for you on Tmall global.
What services do we offer?
Qualifications for selling on Tmall Global
Foreign merchants who want to sell imported goods on Tmall Global’s platform must meet at least the following requirements:
1. Owning an overseas company entity
2. Be the brand owner / have a brand authorization, and provide complete product purchase certificates from the brand side.
There are four types of stores available for overseas vendors on Tmall Global:
- Flagship store
- Flagship store (marketplace type for services)
- Authorized stores
- Specialty store
Moreover, you’ll also have to prove to local China entities that you have enough money to cover all the expenses and that your company has been running for at least 2 years. Your annual sales must reach over $10 million to be accepted.
How much does it cost international brands to be on Tmall Global?
Tmall requires a security deposit between US$8,000 to US$25,000 depending on the store format. The e-commerce platform also charges an annual service fee, which varies according to the product category, which can be between US$5,000 or US$10,000.
However, marketers can be exempted from these security deposit and annual service fee, or pay only half or the full-service fee if they reach Tmall’s predefined sales target. In addition, Tmall keeps 5% of the sales value as a commission.
Products and services requirements for Tmall Global Flagship Store
- Commodities: The Tmall Global Guarantee Program claims authentic products manufactured or sold overseas to enter the market formally through Chinese international customs and international logistics. It means that foreign brands are not able to store their products on their own in Mainland China.
- Brand store page: Commodity information should be translated into Chinese. Using the international metric system as measurement units, and equipped with Chinese customer services is a must to sell commodities on Tmall.
- Logistic services: Delivery should be completed within 120 hours. Products should be delivered from bonded warehouses in the Chinese Free Trade Zone or you should sell directly from overseas to Chinese domestic consumers via one of the overseas distribution centers.
- After-sale services: A return point must be set up in Mainland China.
Branding is essential if you want to conquer Mainland China
Branding is the key to success for businesses in China, especially for new and small foreign companies. For some cross-border e-commerce brands which are unable to open their own retail store in China, joining Tmall Global is a good way to reach their target.
E-reputation is the key in China
Because of China’s rising use of social media and e-commerce platforms, it has become essential for brands to maintain and increase their online reputation. Thus, you will have to be extremely careful and attentive to Chinese consumers’ comments. You will also have to create an official account on the biggest and most popular social platforms (WeChat, Weibo, Douyin, Kuaishou, etc).
Promote Your Business/brand with Kols
In China, KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders) are extremely popular as they help to increase your sales, as well as promote your brand. However, you will need to choose carefully the KOL you want to work with, so she/he will match the brand’s value to manage a successful campaign.
Baidu SEO will boost your brand’s reputation in China
It is crucial to rely on SEO and other popular social media platforms. The majority of the population in China uses Baidu as a search engine. Baidu is indeed the most popular search engine in China, with approximately 70% of the total market share.
So, if you want to sell imported products in China, you’ll need to have a good ranking on Baidu to be visible. Chinese consumers will only purchase products from brands that rank high there, especially shoppers born after 1995, that consult all their shopping decisions online.
Chinese social media are essential for your advertising and marketing strategy
If you want to succeed in China, you need to use various social media platforms to increase your e-reputation. With 1.2 billion monthly active users, WeChat is a must-have for brands that want to conquer the Chinese market. Check examples of Wechat Official Pages of some larger Chinese brands to see the importance of this platform.
Social media platforms are amazing thanks to their creative and convenient features. Having an account on WeChat enables you to easily promote your brand on a vast ecosystem of apps and websites.
Besides WeChat, Weibo is also a great choice for gaining e-reputation for your cross-border e-commerce business. Weibo is the second most popular app in China, with around 582 million monthly active users.
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If you still don’t know which platform to use between Tmall.com and Tmall Global, you can read our complete article about Tmall.com, and send us an email to receive our Top article and Reports with case studies.
We set you up on Tmall & Tmall Global
If you want to know more about Tmall Global (and Tmall), or if you have any other questions about selling your goods in China, do not hesitate to contact us and we will get in touch with you within 24 hours.
Gentlemen Marketing Agency specializes in digital marketing in the Chinese market and is a Tmall Partner. Do not hesitate to contact us if you want to talk about your projects in China or need help with cross-border eCommerce services to sell goods in China. We will help you will the registration process, contact local authorities if needed, obtaining an import license and import certificate and so on.