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Alibaba’s shopping platforms, including Taobao (consumer-to-consumer) and Tmall (business-to-consumer), are frequented by Chinese consumers looking for ways to buy brands that may not be available to them in physical stores where they live.

For more and more Chinese people nowadays, they even also buy things online which are easily accessed from the local supermarkets.

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Tmall (named as Taobao Mall before) is a Chinese-language website for business-to-consumer (B2C) online retail, spun off from Taobao, operated in China by Alibaba Group. It is a platform for Chinese consumers to buy domestic goods.

Tmall Global is a significant step for Alibaba in cross-border e-commerce. Alibaba group officially launched it on February 19, 2014. It’s mainly for international businesses to sell brand name goods directly to Chinese consumers.

The goods on Tmall Global are mainly imported. Up to 2020, it has covered 92 countries and districts, with more than 5,100 kinds of products and more than 25,000 overseas brands.

Why Chinese Consumers prefer to choose imported products?

Nowadays, Chinese people prefer imported products more than ever. Why? There are two main reasons.

One of these two reasons is their purchase power is really strengthened, and money is the least elements Chinese people would care about.

For the other reason, better product quality is what they pursue all the time. And Chinese people gradually lose their faith in domestic products, such as formula.

Foreign luxury brand goods are very appreciated by Chinese people

Clothing, household items, and accessories are the main products favored by Chinese customers, but these items also lead to the boom of the sale volume of other items. Luxury imported cars such as Lamborghini and Mercedes have seen a 400% growth year-on-year.

Following a food safety scandal, there was an increased demand for baby formula made outside of mainland China.

American cookies and other classic US foods being sold have led to a surge in pre-orders for previously unavailable foods, with retailers regularly experiencing “sell-out” campaigns. China is fast becoming the biggest online market for wine, topping global internet sales ahead of more traditional wine-buying nations such as Brazil, the UK, and France.

More and more foreign brands open Tmall stores

The Chinese online apparel market has seen international brands such as Zara, Burberry, and Calvin Klein start their entry into China by opening Tmall Flagship Stores.

Example of shoe brands on Tmall

Burberry officially launched its Tmall flagship store on 23 April 2014. Calvin Klein launched its Tmall Flagship Store in China on 19 September 2014. Other American brands, in addition to CK, such as Apple, Microsoft, Beats, Bose, NBA Nike, Gap, Levi’s, Disney, Anna Sui, New Balance, and Estee Lauder have all launched their own Tmall Flagship Stores in China.

How to sell on Tmall Global

GMA’s Tmall agency services

How to open a Tmall Global account

If you want to start a business on Tmall Global, it is inevitable to open an official Tmall Global account which can assure the customers, especially for Chinese customers.

Having an online store on Tmall Global can save your time and money, as you don’t need to have an entity in China. Whereas setting up an account on Tmall.com requires e legal presence in China, which takes money and time.

Qualifications for selling on Tmall Global

Foreign merchants who want to sell at Tmall Global must meet at least the following requirements:

1. Owning an overseas company entity;
2. Be the brand owner/have brand authorization/provide a complete product purchase certificates from the brand side.

There are four types of stores for foreign companies to be present at Tmall Global:

  • Flagship store
  • Flagship store (marketplace type for services)
  • Authorized stores
  • Specialty store
Examples of foreign stores at Tmall Global

Products and services requirements

Commodities: The Tmall Global Guarantee Program claims authentic products that are produced or sold overseas to enter the market formally through Chinese customs and international logistics. Which means foreign brands don’t have storage in the Chinese mainland.

Brand store page: Commodity information should be described in Chinese. Using the international metric system as measurement units, and equipped with Chinese customer service.

Logistics service: Delivery should be completed within 120 hours. Products should be delivered from bonded warehouses in Chinese Free Trade Zone or directly from overseas to mainland consumers.

After-sales service: A return point must be set up in mainland China.

Branding is the base

Branding is the key to success for the business, especially for the new business planning to sell in China. For some foreign brands which are unable to open their own retail store in China, joining Tmall Global is a good way to reach their target.

Currently, Tmall Global takes the initiative to attract investment. This means that Tmall Global invites brands of their own volition to enter the Tmall Global marketplace. While this is their official policy, if you are interested in opening a Tmall Global store you’ll need to reach out to them directly to bring your brand/store to their attention.

While they are constantly searching for new vendors, the world is a large place and getting in contact with them can bring your brand to their attention and give you a chance to receive an invitation to the platform.

Tmall cosmetics landing page

There are some requirements in order to launch a Tmall store. Firstly, the brands have to be registered outside China and have good credit. Also, the companies have been run for over 2 years and annual sales must be more than US$10 million.

Prepare for enough business funds

Even though Tmall is a more professional and trustworthy platform for customers, but this will lead to a high cost for starting a business.

Tmall required a 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 and could be between US$5,000 or US$10,000.

However, marketers have the opportunity to avoid pay either half or the full-service fee if they reach Tmall’s predefined sales targets for the product sold. In addition, Tmall keeps 5% of the sales value as commission.

E-reputation is the priority

KOL marketing on Chinese social media
KOL marketing promote your brand reputation and awareness

Recently, KOL (Key Opinion Leader) marketing is very popular in China. It is efficient to promote the brand’s e-repetition and awareness, as those KOLs have already developed their communities based on the trust upon those KOLs. 

However, you need to pay attention to which KOL you want to partner with because you should choose the one who suits well your brand value, concept and image in order to manage a successful campaign.

SEO boosts your brand reputation

It is crucial to rely on SEO and other popular social media platforms. All Chinese researches in China are on Baidu. Baidu is the number one search engine in China, accounting for around 70% of the total market share.

You need to have a good ranking on Baidu to be visible. Chinese consumers will only buy brands that have a good ranking on Baidu. 

Chinese social media: essential for your marketing strategy

And more importantly, you should use various social media platforms to gain your e-reputation. WeChat has more than 1 billion active users every day.

The social media platform is amazing with a lot of convenient features useful for brands and users. For brands, it’s really easy to communicate with your target and develop a strong community of followers. Having an account on WeChat enables you to promote your brand via mobile or tablet.

Coca wechat
Coca-Cola’s marketing campaign on Wechat

China’s own social networks, different from Western ones

As most Western social platforms are blocked in China by the Great Firewall. China has developed its own system of social networks, such as Wechat mentioned above and many others.

Besides WeChat, Weibo is also a great choice for gaining E-reputation for the business. Weibo is the second-most mass-used social networking site in China, with around 82% penetration rate across the country and more than 550 million users in 2020.

The microblogging platform encourages people to post comments and content on all subjects. So it is important to create a Weibo official account to improve their presence in China and attract more followers.

If you want to know more about how to sell on Tmall and how Chinese social media and digital marketing can help you to sell, you need to rely on a professional and expert in Chinese commercial patterns and Chinese social lives. 

Gentlemen Marketing Agency is specialized in digital marketing in the Chinese market. Do not hesitate to contact us if you want to discuss any projects in China.


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  1. Hi,
    my company is located in Croatia and we would like to open shopn on tmall, what is the process for foregin business?
    Spiritus Orientalis j.d.o.o.

  2. Hello there,
    We are well known high end shoes brand proudly produced in Malaysia. We would like to know how to generate retailing platform for our first planned digital flagship on TMall. Appreciate if someone in charge to reply me as above.
    Thank you and with loving kindness.

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