What is Tmall? Why is it important for brands?

Tmall is the biggest B2C (business-to-consumer) platform in China. Tmall was launched by Taobao in 2010 and since its creation is the number one online sales platform in the Asian giant. This e-commerce platform operates in Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan.

Tmall belongs to Alibaba group which owned several online maketplaces such as Alibaba, Taobao, Tmall, Juhuasuan and AliExpress.

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Tmall is characterized by the fact of:

  • Enable brands to sell their products and services directly to consumers in China
  • It uses Alipay’s payment system
  • Vendors have to be approved in order to set up a store in the marketplace
  • It ensures authentic and premium quality products to its consumers

What kind of opportunities does Tmall offer?

Being a general marketplace, it offers consumers all kinds of products from over 100,000 brands. Authorized brands and retailers are present on Tmall through the creation of a real Flagship Store graphically customizable. This allows brands to successfully promote their identity and allows them to create a very accurate user experience.

This, however, implies that once registered on Tmall, the supplier should take care of his “store”. It must manage:

  • the promotion of its brand
  • the delivery of its goods
  • the management of the customer service

Managing a Tmall Store can be a challenge

Therefore, you should already know how to manage you online store. In addition, selling online in China can be a challenge if your brand is unknown. There are a lot of factors that can affect brand sales on Tmall, branding is one of them. If your brand is unknown, Chinese consumers will hardly buy your products.

Due to these reasons, a multichannel marketing campaign can help you to build branding, increase sales and reach your goal in the Chinese market.

What kind of brands are suitable for Tmall?

Not every brand can get on Tmall because it prefers brands that already have some awareness in the Chinese market. Therefore, new brands cannot simply launch their stores on Tmall just because they want to.

There’s an extensive application and vetting process, and if your brand has no brand awareness then the GMV will be very low, because it takes a while to allow customers to feel comfortable with a new brand.

To sell on Tmall you need Branding

Branding in China is the key, In China more than everywhere else the reputation of a brand is what will make the difference. Chinese consumers don’t trust new brand and are not risk taker, resulting in a very low conversion rate. Therefore, build brand awareness should be the base of your marketing strategy.

Sell online in China can be a challenge for unknown brands. To increase your conversion and ROI brands it should level up with an Omni-Channel marketing strategy.

How can brands build awareness in the Chinese market?

Before to launch on Alibaba’s Tmall platform, brands have to take a serious look at their subcategory and where they fit in in the Chinese market.

Brands with no brand awareness amongst Chinese consumers should invest in branding for at least a year before selling on Tmall.

Many brands often work to develop their digital marketing strategies to build brand awareness in China before they officially launch a store on Tmall.

For example, the Italian brand Bvlgari is present on Chinese social media, like Wechat, Weibo, Xiaohongshu and on the Chinese Zhihu forum, has a Chinese site on Baidu, collaborates with KOLs, but does not have its own store on Tmall.

Build a presence on Baidu

Baidu is the dominant Chinese internet search engine company, and it is the equivalent to Google in the United States. The difference between them is that Baidu controls most of the search market in China. By Feb 2020, Baidu market share dominates the search engine market in China, in terms of all platforms (68.66%) and mobile (85.08%). Therefore, when a Chinese looks for information about a company, Baidu is one of the first places where he will go looking for information.

Localized website for China

To reassure a Chinese buyer, bring him to understand the value and quality of your products and therefore to trust your brand, your website should follow some rules:

  • It should be in Mandarin because it is easier and reliable for Chinese people
  • It should have localized content and design (for example, Chinese people love multicolor and full of information websites)

In addition to rank on Baidu, your website needs to:

  • be hosted in China
  • get ICP license
  • be in Mandarin because Baidu knows only Mandarin and gives priorities to Mandarin websites hosted in China.

PR, Forums and KOLs

You should put efforts on PR, use forums (Zhihu) and collaborate with KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders) to increase credibility and let others talk about you, creating a word of mouth strategy. In China it works a lot because KOLs and communities are powerful and widely listen to the Chinese internet, in fact, their opinion matters the most.

SEO & SEM marketing strategy

If you want to be more visible, a good Baidu SEO & SEM strategy can help you to reach your goal. Why?

Because through Baidu SEO makes you more visible on Baidu search engine, while through Baidu PPC makes you more visible on all the other sites where the Chinese will look for information.

Social media marketing

WeChat, Weibo, Douyin and Xiaohongshu are the most used social network in China which can help you to build a strong reputation.

  • Weibo has the widest reach for influencers because it’s more of a public platform. Celebrities and KOLs with their live streaming play an important role in this platform as they can help you engage followers.
  • WeChat, on the other hand, prevents strangers from following and viewing user profiles if they are not connected. By the way, it is the most used social media in China and it offers you the opportunity to sell your products directly in the app through mini programs.
  • Douyin is a short video app, an innovative social network that is very successful in China.
  • Xiaohongshu, the social-commerce platform, encourages users to share their personal experiences with products, give tips and provide discounted information. Here too live streaming works a lot.

The boom of live streaming

On these platforms live streaming has become very important for companies to sell products. In fact, these formats are more engaging and interesting and keep the user glued to the screen, because live streaming:

  • increases the feeling of “virtual” contact with the host
  • offers the possibility to send messages and receive live responses
  • Consumers can easily watch product and how it works in real time, having the possibility to judge to buy or not that product.

What is the next step? What should brands do if their marketing strategy don’t work?

If you have done all of the above processes and found that your brand has some recognition in the Chinese digital ecosystem, your brand may be ready for Tmall and you can consult a TP (Tmall partner) or apply directly through the Tmall English version.

While, if you have done all of the above processes and found little results for your brand, what you can do is to start building brand awareness by working with our digital marketing agency.

We can help you in all the above necessary steps from building a Chinese website to managing social media.

What are the other options for selling your products in China?

Those who are determined to create an e-commerce channel can also sell through affiliate channels such as WeChat or existing multi-brand stores on Tmall, JD.com.


WeChat was created by the Chinese giant, Tencent. At its core, it is a messaging app, but it has so much more to offer. It is the most popular mobile app of the country, on which they all spend hours every day. The app enables companies to create an “official account” to promote their company. This is the best way for a brand to:

  • create a community
  • gain followers
  • being actively engaged with them
  • You can also sell your products on WeChat

However, it is still hard to drive sales to a WeChat shop without any brand awareness. The ROI on advertising and even influencer marketing on WeChat is still comparatively low and many people do not feel comfortable making e-commerce purchases on WeChat.

Tmall multi-brand stores

Approach an existing multi-brand shop on Tmall and ask them if you can sell on their shop could be an option. The downside of this option is that they may charge a very high fee for this (as much as 70% of sales), and you still need to invest in brand marketing outside of Tmall to build brand awareness.


Once registered on Tmall, the supplier can take care of his online store. This will give you visibility and credibility with Chinese consumers, but you keep control!

JD, the second most used e-commerce platform in China, on the other hand, would be seen as a simple store offering a lot of products, as JD takes care of everything. So this option is very convenient! Because once your products are exchanged with JD, your role ends there. JD will buy the product in bulk and take care of the remaining tasks.

Therefore it could be a good alternative, but remember that in China branding is everything!

Do you want to know more about How to use Chinese e-commerce platforms to boost sales? Contact GMA a digital marketing agency, specialized in Chinese digital market.

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