With an increasing purchasing power and digitalization of its society, China’s e-commerce market has naturally been growing exponentially while embracing several innovations for both consumers and merchants. Chinese companies have thus made a real run to become the best e-commerce platform in China, thanks to the development of cutting-edge technologies. A big part of this innovative culture can be explained by the competitiveness of the market as well as a demanding consumer base.
E-commerce: China’s Key Market
These past few years, China has become one of the world’s largest e-commerce markets. As the major driver of the country’s retail economy, e-commerce sales have experienced considerable growth from 12.4% in 2014 compared to 36.6% in 2019. After the Covid-19 outbreak, online sales have been one of the key drivers for China to keep its economy pretty much stable. In 2023, the e-commerce industry in China is expected to reach around 64% of the total retail sales market with an estimated amount of $1.9 trillion.
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China: A Very Digitalized Market
With a shift toward new technologies and internet-related tools, the Chinese population is one of the most connected in the world, from purchasing products on the internet to paying for their cab. Thus, it is no surprise that e-commerce platforms were increasingly able to attract Chinese consumers that don’t want to spend time on brick-and-mortar stores.
As seen on the above graphic, the number of online shoppers in China keeps increasing, reaching more than 782 million online shoppers in 2020, following the Covid-19 pandemic. As a matter of fact, with the Covid pandemic, consumers have shifted from offline to online purchases on e-commerce platforms. Moreover, in order to alleviate the tough competition, many brands are sending e-vouchers to their followers through social media, which attracts even more Chinese consumers.
Some of the factors contributing to the e-commerce growth are increased internet penetration, and always increasing spending power, but also the expansion of several e-commerce platforms that are gaining strength.
What are Chinese consumers looking for when shopping on e-commerce websites?
With online consumption growing at a rapid rate, Chinese consumers are more than ever requiring trustworthy and accessible shopping platforms and services. Marketplaces are providing verified brand stores that give consumers a one-stop-shop. Brands that want to conquer the Chinese market will have no choice but to be involved in Chinese e-commerce platforms in order to get exposure and legitimacy.
One of the best ways to gain their trust is to sell your products on platforms that are known for the quality of their products, and the two leading platforms according to this criteria are Kaola, Tmall, and JD.com. If we take the example of Tmall, it is the second most trusted platform for Chinese consumers, right after Kaola, with 36.1% of the respondents that have more trust toward Tmall compared to other platforms.
Tmall: One of the Leading E-Commerce Platforms in China
Founded in 2008 under the famous Alibaba group, Tmall (天猫), is a subsidiary of the e-commerce website Taobao (淘宝网). Its target market is primarily B2C (Business-To-Consumer). Tmall’s concept is ambitious and wise as it allows both local Chinese and international companies to sell their products through the platform in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan. Tmall stands out from its competitor’s thanks to its strict standards in terms of quality and renown.
In terms of gross merchandise volumes in 2019, Tmall was the second e-commerce platform in China, just after Taobao.
Then, on the other hand, Tmall was the leading platform as of 2020 based on total traffic volume, according to Alexa, topping websites such as the leading search engine in China, Baidu, QQ.com, Sohu, Taobao, etc.
When looking at this report, we can see that Chinese consumers have been spending on average 7 minutes per day on the app, which is more than twice the time spent on its competitor JD.com.
What is Tmall.com, the e-commerce platform for established brands in China?
Tmall is the biggest (most profitable) B2C (business-to-consumer) platform in China. Tmall was launched by Alibaba 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, Macau, and Taiwan. This virtual shopping center hosts many international brands, such as Gucci, Calvin Klein, Burberry, Lancôme, L’Occitane, etc.
Over the years, Tmall was able to grab the majority of china’s e-commerce market shares, establishing itself as the most popular Chinese e-commerce website and becoming the best online gateway for local and international retailers.
As of 2021 Q1, Tmall accounted for around 50.8% of all transactions on B2C platforms, far ahead of the 2nd e-commerce platform JD.com with 15.9% of the transaction share and Pinduoduo with about 13%.
Tmall.com enables brands to sell their products and services directly to consumers in China. In the same way as for Taobao, Tmall uses Alipay’s payment system. Nonetheless, one of the main differences between Taobao and Tmall is the products’ quality. As a matter of fact, Tmall’s commitment to providing high-quality products is much more important than Taobao, as merchants have to be approved in order to set up a store on the platform. Due to its business policy, Tmall ensures authentic and premium quality products to Chinese consumers.
Moreover, to operate on Tmall, a company is required to use what is called a “Tmall Partner”, which is a third-party company that helps to provide assistance in onboarding and operation for businesses that are working on Alibaba’s platforms such as Tmall.
How to Open a Merchant Account on Tmall.com?
First of all, you have to know that in China, the possibility to open a shop on the top e-commerce platforms such as Tmall and JD.com does not only depend on your motivation but mostly on how your brand appears and the potential it will have on the platform. If you want to get the opportunity of selling your products on one of the most consulted e-commerce websites in the world, you will need to show what you have to offer, and convince Tmall that you have the potential to attract and retain Chinese consumers’ interest.
Then, in terms of registration, Tmall requires its merchants to have official Chinese documents as well as to have their products registered with the local authorities. This is the reason why most of the foreign brands you’ll see on Tmall tend to be international and F500 brands that already have an entity in China (We can help you register your company in China and get a license for your products categories!).
Contact us to open your merchant account on Tmall.com
What are the Requirements for Opening a Merchant Account on Tmall?
- Only companies located in Mainland China and with a Chinese retail business license can apply to open a store on Tmall.com
- Marketers have to submit the necessary information including documents that confirm the reliability, genuineness, and existence of the company and its products.
- Products must be located within China in order to send the order quickly to consumers.
- Tmall stipulates that vendors must ship an order within 72 hours after the purchase.
- 7 days after receiving the item, consumers have the right to return it for a refund.
For more details, you can go look at this website.
What are the Different Types of Accounts Available on Tmall.com?
Brands can open three kinds of stores: Authorized store, Specialty store, and Flagship stores.
- Authorized store
This means that the merchant holds the authorization documents from the brand owner to open a shop on Tmall.com. Authorized stores can be opened under the following circumstances:
- Shop authorized to sell branded products,
- Store authorized to sell products of multiple brands, but all brands belong to the same entity (special approval from Tmall is required).
Furthermore, the authorization documents of the owner of the trademark (trademark) must not be subject to regional restrictions.
- Specialty store
By using this method, merchants are able to sell products of two or more brands that belong to the same product category. Specialized stores can be opened under the following circumstances:
- The store sells products of two or more brands that the merchant does not own,
- The store sells products of a brand (trademark) owned by the merchant and also sells products of a brand not owned by the merchant,
- The store sells products of two or more brands owned by the merchant.
A single merchant can apply to open only one specialty store within a single product category.
- Tmall Flagship Store
In recent years, Tmall has been mainly focusing on providing value to a new potential set of customers, especially those living in lower-tier cities, instead of just targeting top-tier cities. Thanks to this strategy, Tmall has been able to increase its customer base, as well as a greater power in the e-commerce market.
Tmall is not only a gateway for a brand’s debut, but it is also a powerful platform of innovation in terms of technology, and it shows how e-commerce will look in the future. By using a flagship store, it means that the merchant is the owner of the brand or has the exclusive authorization of the brand owner to open the store.
If you want to open a flagship store on Tmall.com, you will have to provide the following documents:
Tmall Registration and running fees:
If you want to sell your goods on Tmall, be aware that the fees are quite high (although, in most cases and with the right strategy it is totally worth it)
- A Tmall Flagship store cost between 50,000 RMB and 100,000 RMB
- Marketplace: between 100,000 RMB and 150,000 RMB
- In terms of technical services, you will have to pay between 30,000 RMB and 60,000 RMB per year
- Sales commission for Tmall can represent 0.5% to 10% of sales (although most of the time it will be around 2% and 5%).
- Finally, as a subsidiary of Alibaba, Chinese consumers are purchasing with Alipay, so it will represent 1% of your sales.
The Benefits of Opening a Tmall Account
As opposed to other Chinese e-commerce platforms, Tmall offers more protection to its consumers with its 7-day return policy. In addition, Tmall’s merchants are more credible and trustful among Chinese consumers that are reassured because merchants have to be approved before setting up their store.
One way to illustrate that is the fact that more than 780 million consumers in China have purchased at least once through Tmall, thus, explaining why a growing number of international brands are joining Tmall Global, thus contributing to the growth of its gross merchandise volume.
Over the years, Tmall’s gross merchandise volume increased from 847 billion yuan to 3 202 billion yuan in 2020 (more than 3 times higher)!
Even if you are not quite familiar with Tmall, you have probably already heard of it these last few years, during big sales events. Tmall is indeed famous for its multiple sales record such as the 11.11, which can generate 74.10 billion dollars within 24 hours!
Known as the “Single’s Day”, or 11.11 (双11) this 24 hours-event has become the largest physical retail and online shopping day in the world. It is the biggest sales event for e-commerce platforms such as Tmall, JD.com, and Taobao. Thus, if you want to do business in China using Tmall, you will have to focus particularly on this big day, in terms of communication and marketing, but also in terms of advertising.
On top of that, Tmall integrates Alipay as its online payment system which is very popular in China and is considered as the most trustful tool for Chinese shoppers. In addition, Tmall offers analytic tools such as the “Daily Update” that provides daily sales reports. These tools are very useful for vendors in order to take useful and strategic decisions based on their sales.
Tmall currently has over 70,000 brands in more than 50,000 stores and enables vendors to sell their goods all across China. Due to its huge popularity, Tmall is the place to be for those looking to reach Chinese online shoppers without needing to open a physical brick-and-mortar store in China. Many luxury brands are also particularly present on Tmall, which even encourages Tmall to launch its Luxury Pavilion.
What are the differences between Tmall.com and Tmall Global?
There are two ways to join Tmall’s platform:
- 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 fulfillment and logistics.
- Companies with overseas licenses are eligible for Tmall Global.
Thus, the difference is clear: brands that are already established in China with a local entity for example, can open their store on Tmall.com, while international brands that are outside of China can open their stores on Tmall Global. Depending on your situation, you will be able to choose between Tmall.com or Tmall Global. Moreover, it is also possible for the biggest brands to open their online stores on both Tmall.com and Tmall Global. If you want to have more information about that, you can contact us. Be careful, Tmall will verify all the information and will look at all your documents to see if it fits.
Tmall Global: The Best E-Commerce Platform for International Companies
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 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 to purchase imported products. To understand Tmall’s popularity, we can see that there are more than 20,000 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 categories. Tmall Global has been the 6th moth used online store in China, and 65% of Chinese customers use its app on their smartphone. It is also important to know that 78% of Tmall Global customers also use Tmall.com.
Tmall Global, as a popular online marketplace in China where many international brands are selling their products, has become the easiest way to enter the Chinese market. Indeed, submitting your brand to the platform is not nearly as complicated as registering on the local version of Tmall.
How to Open a Merchant Account on Tmall Global?
The process to open a merchant account on Tmall global is the same as for Tmall.com.
Contact us to open your merchant account on Tmall Global
What are the requirements for opening a merchant account on Tmall Global
In order to open a merchant account on Tmall Global, you will first need to determine the compatibility of your brand by following these steps:
- Assess prerequisites
- Determine needs from third party service providers (TPs) more
- Create logistics plan
- Prepare necessary documents
- Reserve technical resources
- Begin API integration more
- Complete negotiations and sign contracts with TPs
According to your situation, you will have to provide different documents to prove the existence of your brand. For more details, you can look at this detailed website.
What are the different types of accounts available on Tmall Global?
There are several types of stores you can register on Tmall Global:
Flagship Store: Only brands with a trademark such as ® or TM can have a flagship store. The brand will have to be represented by the owner of the store, or a representative of the brand. The owner of the store must possess all documents from the brand, authorizing the setting up of such a store on Tmall’s platform.
Speciality Store: Merchants holding a brand’s distribution rights to sell without any geographical restrictions in china are able to open this store format. Specialty store types may sell products of up to two categories
Monopolized store: Merchants who own brand licensing goods are allowed to open a monopolized store in Tmall. Retailers can sell 2 or more goods in several categories.
How much does it cost to be on Tmall Global?
You have to take into account that Tmall’s fees will depend on your sector of activities as well as several other criteria. Just so you know, opening a store on Tmall can be considered extremely expensive. That’s why you have to do researches beforehand in order to see if the ROI will cover all the expenses and will be enough according to your expectations. Of course, you can contact us to discuss it.
To give an idea of the fees on Tmall global:
Tmall Global requires 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 which can be between US$5,000 or US$10,000.
However, marketers can be exempted from these charges, 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.
If you want more detailed information about Tmall Global, here’s a document explaining all you have to know about Tmall Global, according to your situation.
Benefits of Having an Account on Tmall Global
Thanks to Tmall Global, international brands have the chance to sell their products in the Chinese market without having a physical presence in China. In addition, Tmall drastically slashes the amount of time it takes to enter the Chinese market with its already established infrastructure.
- Tmall provides a streamlined channel for overseas retailers to sell directly to Chinese consumers.
- Tmall Global offers logistics solutions that simplify the international shipment of orders as well as options for marketing in China.
- Increase brand exposure via Tmall. and connect the brand with Chinese online payment systems.
Tmall Global is indeed the most interesting sub-platform within the Tmall ecosystem for foreign companies. It allows for international brands to sell their products directly to Chinese consumers within mobile apps. Although there are stringent requirements for registering a Tmall Global account (i.e. registration, partnership with Chinese entities, etc.), this is an incredibly effective and well-worth acquiring tool for companies that want to reach an increasing number of Chinese consumers that will be more reassured when purchasing products on Tmall Global than on your website.
Going further: Having an account on Tmall is not sufficient to sell your products in China
Branding is essential if you want to conquer the Chinese market
Branding is the key to success for businesses in China, especially for new and small companies. 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.
A few years ago, Tmall Global took the initiative to attract foreign companies by inviting them to join the platform. However, as the competition is getting tougher, brands now need to apply on their own or get their attention in order to be invited.
E-reputation is the key
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 can be a powerful way to increase your sales, as well to promote your brand. It is also an efficient way to promote your brand’s e-reputation and awareness.
However, you will need to choose carefully the KOL you want to work with, as it has to suit your brand’s value in order to manage a successful campaign.
SEO will boost your brand’s reputation
It is crucial to rely on SEO and other popular social media platforms. The majority of the population uses the search engine Baidu to do research. Baidu is indeed the most popular search engine in China, with approximately 70% of the total market share.
So, if you want to do business in China, you’ll need to have a good ranking on Baidu to be visible. Chinese consumers will only purchase products from brands that have a high ranking on Baidu.
Chinese social media are essential for your advertising and marketing strategy
If you want to succeed in China and attract thousands of customers every day, you should 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.
Social media platforms are amazing thanks to their creative and convenient features. For brands, it’s really easy to communicate with your target audience and develop a strong community of followers. 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 business. Weibo is the second most popular app in China, with around 82% penetration rate across the country and more than 550 million users as of 2020.
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:
Contact us to register your merchant account on Tmall
The Chinese market is one of the most promising in the world in terms of opportunities, both for smaller companies like startups, but also for larger international companies. However, in order to succeed, you will need to use local e-commerce websites, such as Tmall, one of the top Chinese e-commerce platforms. To do so, you will need to do a lot of research beforehand as well as be prepared to complete the application process in order to sell your goods on the platform. That’s why working with specialists in the Chinese market can be the key to success.
If you want to sell your products on Tmall / Tmall Global, GMA might be the perfect solution for you
As depicted in this article, there are a few mandatory requirements to register on Tmall Global: The company must be registered overseas/ Merchants should own a trading license/ Merchant must be the brand owner or have the brand re-selling authorization/ Merchants need authentic products. Even though the documents are not exactly the same for Tmall.com, it can be extremely difficult for foreign brands to take care of the process of registering on Tmall on their own.
Nowadays, all documents must be in mandarin for the request to be reviewed. We can help you go through the whole process and figure out the cost which will depend on the type of store you want, as well as the kind of products you will sell. The process usually takes between 1 to 2 months.
Doing surveys and and creating your Tmall account
The first thing we’ll start with is a market survey, in order to analyze your competitors and set an achievable goal. Entering Tmall is a big deal that requires a lot of resources, it would be a shame to get into it blindfolded. We help you to collect all the documents and information necessary to set up the Tmall account. We will then advise about the different Tmall store formats. Finally, we will configure an Alipay and Tmall account.
We will take care of your promotional campaigns and events
Tmall.com and Tmall Global host a number of events, offering as well marketing tools to merchants. We can optimize your traffic acquisition process on-site by setting up compelling and attractive campaigns. It could be native advertising (paid ad integrated into the app) or by launching a special edition for an event, getting ready for shopping festivals (discount/gamification/ store design, etc).
We will help you manage your Tmall store
Outside of promotion, having a store on Tmall requires as much work as an e-commerce store anywhere in the world, except that it has to be in Chinese mandarin. We design appealing stores taking into consideration the Chinese netizens’ habits online for a smoother web experience. We manage your listing, your content and take care of the customer’s services.
The look and UX of your store are extremely important in China, as they will be the first things that Chinese netizens will see. The same goes for product pages that need to be optimized for your target audience. If there is one thing that is common to a successful brand on Tmall it is detailed product pages. If you need assistance managing your stock and the customer’s services, our agency will provide you with a team of professionals or train your own team on how to please your customers’ expectations.
Taking care of your off-site marketing
Unfortunately, opening an eCommerce store in China is not enough to get traffic and conversion. While you could still get some traffic with on-site marketing using Tmall merchant tools, chances are your conversion rate would be too low for a positive ROI. The solution is to implement an omnichannel strategy. Chinese consumers are using various apps and social media in their daily routine and they are used to be exposed to brand communication. Data researches are also showing that consumers are spending an increasing amount of time researching a brand online before committing to it. If your brand is nowhere to be found on the Chinese internet, it will be extremely difficult (almost impossible) to develop your activities in China.
At GMA, we will help you build strong brand awareness using Chinese social media, forums, and search engines. We can also help you design and run such a marketing strategy, such as using discounts, organizing contests during shopping festivals, etc.
Our international team can help you overcome the pitfalls of the Chinese market
Working with an agency that has both the western and Chinese points of view like Gentlemen Marketing Agency can help you overcome the pitfalls of the Chinese market. Our agency has accompanied many companies entering the Chinese market through Tmall, JD.com, Taobao, Kaola, Xiaohongshu, etc. Proud of the success of the companies that contacted us, our experts are ready to help any company willing to do business in China. So, if you are interested in doing business in China, do not hesitate to contact us and we will reply within 24 hours.