Tmall, or Tianmao (天猫), is an Alibaba-run spin-off from the popular online marketplace Taobao. Launched in 2008, Tmall aimed to cater to users that prefer branded products when shopping online.
Tmall had 939 million monthly active users as of June 2022 and generated US$84.54 billion in gross merchandise volume (GMV) during the 11.11 Global Shopping Festival alone last year.
Tmall launched Tmall Global in 2014, with the goal of streamlining the registration and selling process for overseas sellers and providing Chinese users with the opportunity to purchase international branded products without ever leaving the country. Tmall Global, as the pioneer of the cross-border e-commerce model, has a clear advantage in terms of brand and product variety over JD Worldwide and other cross-border e-commerce platforms.
Tmall Global is still China’s largest cross-border e-commerce platform as of Q2 2022:
|Name of E-commerce Platform||Market Share (Based on Gross Merchandise Value)|
|Little Red Book||2.4%|
* Source: analysys.cn
Tmall and JD, China’s two most important e-commerce platforms, account for more than half of the market. Alibaba’s Tmall, as the forefather of the Chinese e-commerce industry, dominates the market in terms of GMV and user annual average spend, whereas JD has a younger user base that is more reliant on online shopping.
According to a recent survey, there is an increasing overlap in both users and sellers for Tmall and JD, with over 60% of sellers opening stores on both platforms. However, for your first e-commerce store in China, it’s best to stick to one platform and measure market reaction.
Tmall has over 29,000 international brands from 87 countries setting up shop here, and it has the most extensive product list when compared to other e-commerce platforms. However, according to sales data from the annual 11.11 shopping festival, apparel and fashion, skin care and make-up, health supplements, maternity and baby products, and food and wine have consistently been the best-selling categories for several years in a row.
JD.com, on the other hand, made its name in the early days by selling electronics and digital equipment, particularly mobile phones and laptop computers. Since its launch in 2004, JD.com has significantly improved its product category and brand diversity although its top seller categories have remained electronics and home appliances, followed by skin care & makeup products.
Before delving into the registration rules and requirements, we recommend that businesses first compare their best sellers to the best-selling categories on different platforms and target the one with the most users for your product type.
Technically, an international brand has two options for reaching Chinese users on Tmall:
1) Create a Tmall (China) store with a Chinese entity and store goods in domestic warehouses.
2) Open a Tmall Global store with an overseas entity and store goods in either bonded warehouses in China or warehouses overseas.
Tmall Global, as previously stated, is a division of Tmall that specializes in introducing outstanding overseas brands to Chinese users. The shopping experience for consumers is nearly identical, with the exception that packages from Tmall Global stores may arrive 1 to 3 days later than those from Tmall stores. Unless it’s an emergency purchase, Tmall Global stores are just as competitive as standard Tmall stores without the hassle of transaction system setup, logistics, and qualifications that are typically required for a company involved in import-export business in China.
When overseas sellers join Tmall Global instead of Tmall, the cost of setting up an online store is dramatically reduced because there is no need to establish a legal entity, rent office space, or obtain product certifications.
For young brands or brands that are completely new to the Chinese market, particularly those with no offline presence or distribution, it makes far more business sense to start with Tmall Global and test your marketing strategy and customer response before investing in a Chinese entity and hiring local staff.
Tmall Global, like Tmall, has long positioned itself as a “third-party platform” earning revenue from store platform usage and a small percentage of each sale made on the platform, with the exception of Tmall Supermarket, which adopted the reseller model. By perfecting its offering in marketing, logistics, and cross-border transactions, it strives to provide the best infrastructure for sellers and facilitate sales.
Tmall Global launched its reseller model section “MaoXiang” in February 2022, where Tmall Global bulk-buys products from selected brands, stores them in domestic warehouses, and resells them to users in Mainland China.
Now, overseas companies can choose to either become a supplier for MaoXiang, the reseller section of Tmall Global, or open a flagship store on Tmall Global and manage their own inventory and product listing. More information on the two different partner models can be found here.
To open a flagship store on Tmall Global, you will need to first read the platform rules and check for entity and industry qualifications requirements based on your product type.
Following that, you will need to complete the steps below:
1) Submit all required materials
In this step, you will specify the store type, your brand, and product category, as well as provide detailed company information and supporting documents.
This will take about two hours if all necessary materials are ready at hand.
2) Wait for Tmall Global to review your application
Tmall will evaluate and investigate your brand, entity, and qualifications.
This will take approximately 7 working days.
3) Pre-launch preparation:
Once approved by Tmall Global, you will need to activate your merchant account, pay the required security deposit, and specify your preferred logistics model powered by Cainiao (a Chinese logistics network company launched by Alibaba in 2013)
This will take one day.
4) Store goes live
At this point, your store is practically live. You can now pay Tmall Global an annual platform usage fee, list your products, optimize your store’s webpages, and launch marketing campaigns.
Tmall Global registration is available here, as is an application roadmap.
To become a supplier, submit your application here and provide the following documents:
1) Business license and a Chinese translation signed by an authorized representative of the company ???
2) Authorization letter signed by an authorized representative of the company (template provided by Tmall Global)
3) Passport or ID card of the authorized representative
4) Proof of the company’s tax payment over the previous year
5) Bank statements from the company’s bank account
6) A copy of the trademark obtained outside of Mainland China for over a year and Chinese translation signed by the authorized representative
7) Proof of authorization from the trademark holder
The price is divided into four parts:
1) A Refundable Security Deposit
In the event of any damages or expenses incurred as a result of the service agreement with Tmall Global, a one-time payment of CNY 150,000 to 300,000is used as collateral.
2) Annual Fee
An annual fee of CNY 30,000 to 60,000, depending on the product category.
A commission of 0.50% to 5%, depending on the product category, plus a 1% Alipay service fee per item sold.
Logistics costs vary depending on the pricing model you choose with Cainiao (an Alibaba-founded logistics network company):
Bonded warehouse is the most expensive of the three pricing models discussed above, but it also guarantees the shortest delivery time.
While the platform rules, merchant qualification requirements, and payment structure are all available in English on Tmall Global’s official website, the following pages during the registration process are not:
To provide product details, translate them into Chinese, and compile texts and images in the format specified by Tmall, a Chinese-speaking product management team will be needed.
This is what Tmall calls “store decoration.” A well-designed store interface and product pages significantly improve the user experience when shopping online, and having designs localized to meet the habits and capture the attention of Chinese consumers is just as important as providing in-demand quality products.
Ensuring a good shopping experience can be difficult for overseas sellers due to time differences and online customer support in Chinese, and product return and refund are difficult due to package tracking and logistics costs, which is another reason why a Chinese-speaking team well acquainted with cross-border e-commerce pain points and customer demands is essential for your store’s smooth operation.
AppInChina has assisted international brands in not only establishing their digital presence in China but also in achieving sales across multiple e-commerce platforms. Contact us today for a free consultation on your brand’s go-to-market strategy.