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  • Claudio Iobbi

How to sell on Tmall: the 2019 guide

Have you ever asked yourself how to sell online your products in China?

If yes, you are reading the right article because we’ll provide you all information.

As we saw in other articles, Chinese digital marketing is really complicated: different culture, platforms and documentation requests are a few of the differences between Western countries and China; that’s why sometimes is much better to gain the support of a marketing agency especially for Chinese marketplace service.

For instance, the power of Amazon didn’t enter totally in the Chinese Market because another Chinese player has the biggest amount of the market share: Alibaba.

Alibaba is a Chinese multinational conglomerate holding company specializing in e-commerce, retail, Internet and technology.

China is a very marketplace-focused country. In fact Chinese users, unlike westerners, don’t search for individual brands online, but go to one of the established marketplaces.

This way to buy things online means that be visible, in those Chinese marketplaces, is crucial in order to be effective in this market.

In this article we are going to see how to sell your products in the best B2C Chinese marketplace: Tmall

1- What is Tmall?

Tmall Logo

Tmall is a Chinese-language website for business-to-consumer (B2C) online retail, operated in China by Alibaba Group. Tmall is divided into 2 parts:

  1. Tmall: it’s the platform which allows Chinese companies or foreign companies registered in China to sell the products to Chinese users

  2. Tmall Global: it’s the platform which allows foreign companies which are registered in any country to sell the products to Chinese users

B2C marketplaces in China: market share

Analyzing the structure of the B2C Chinese marketplace, Tmall is the biggest in China and, in the last quarter of 2018, China Internet Watch showed that it took a market share of 61.5%.

The second player, JD, has 24.2% market share.

Other players Suning, Vipshop, and Gome listed third, fourth, and fifth with a share of 6.7%, 3.7%, and 0.7% respectively.

The big difference from western countries is the market share of Amazon: in China they have only 0.6% of total market share.

2- Difference between Taobao and Tmall:

Tmall website

Taobao is a Chinese online shopping website, owned by Alibaba, which is the world's biggest e-commerce website and, according to Alexa, the 7th most visited website.

The key difference between Tmall and Taobao is that while Tmall is a B2C platform, Taobao is C2C.

To compare to the western market, Tmall is our Amazon while Taobao is our eBay.

Chinese users are more confident to buy on Tmall because they are more comfortable buying goods from a company directly rather than from an individual.

For your marketing strategy, Tmall should be the platform because all premium brands are there, while Taobao is much more focused on local brands and sellers.

3- Tmall Vs Tmall Global

As we wrote earlier, we have a big distinction between Tmall and Tmall Global.

Tmall China is for businesses that have a physical presence in mainland China, while Tmall Global helps to solve the problems for the businesses which are not domiciled in China.

As we saw in the table Tmall Global is more expensive than Tmall but it allows international businesses with no physical presence in mainland China to set up an online store on the Alibaba group’s platform, and help them enter into the very large and profitable Chinese E-commerce ecosystem.

Tmall Global doesn’t require that you set up a Chinese company or bank account. This is mandatory, if you wanted to sell anything through Tmall.

However, in order to offer your products through regular Tmall, you need a legal entity registered in China and for that reason the fee, especially the deposit, is lower than Tmall Global.

4- How to open a store on Tmall Global & Tmall step by step:

In this part we analyze step by step how to set up your store on the 2 platforms:

1- Meet the requirements:

  • On the regular Tmall you need the physical Chinese store to sell where buyers can come to pick up their goods, or where your products are displayed, or a warehouse where your goods are stored.

  • For Tmall Global you must be a registered business outside of mainland China, you need to prove that you are the brand owner or an authorized agency, the business must have been running for more than two years.2

2- Apply for the store:

You need to submit your product information to Tmall and wait for verification which can take up to 10 working days.

For regular Tmall you need a Chinese bank account while for Tmall Global you need to register an international Alipay account (your funds are transferred Into your Alipay account).

3- Pay the annual service and deposit fee:

You must cover the deposit fee (on Tmall is from 7K USD to 21K USD while for Tmall Global around 25K USD depending on your product category) and the annual service fee (The service fee range from 4K USD to 9K USD on Tmall and 5K USD to 10K USD always depending on your product category).

4- Choose the store:

You can set up three different types of stores on Tmall global while for Tmall regular we have one more (4). The stores are:

  • Flagship stores (Brand owner): to open this store as a brand owner on the Tmall Global platform, you need to provide a trademark registration certificate for your brand. That is to verify that you are the real owner of that brand.

  • Flagship stores (Merchants): to open a this store as a merchant on the Tmall Global website, you will need to provide the authorization from the brand owners to operate on Tmall.

  • Specialty stores: To open this store on Tmall Global, you need to be a merchant with documents of brand authorization giving you distribution rights to sell their products without geographical restrictions in China.

  • Authorized stores: this store can be opened only on regular Tmall if the merchant has the license to sell brand goods on their store. Authorized stores, also called franchise stores, can sell different products on their stores but is dependent on them having the authorization to sell those brands on their store.

5- Sign an agreement with Tmall:

This includes signing up on Tmall Global or Tmall regular platform, add your products and then launch your store. After that you can start to sell your products.

5- Conclusion:

Tmall Global allows domestic Chinese online consumers to purchase overseas imported products, and it can be considered as an alternative entry strategy to reach Chinese online consumers.

However, the requirements and the costs associated in order to establish a presence on the platform can be big barriers for companies. These barriers can be even bigger with regular Tmall.

We recommend that companies, which want to enter this marketplace, need an established brand with sufficient financial assets and integrated marketing with other Chinese marketing activities/platforms such as Wechat, Weibo, Baidu, etc in order to increase brand awareness, stimulate traffic and drive sales.