The Chinese market is the largest e-commerce market in the world, with an estimated value of US $ 1,412.2 billion in 2022. According to Statista , eCommerce in China is expected to grow annually by 15% to US $ 1,625.8 billion.
Looking closer, e-commerce sales in China account for 64% of total retail sales in the country. Most e-commerce spending occurs through smart-phones: the number of mobile shoppers in China has grown steadily over the past decade and reached 905 million in 2021 .
Since 2022, the Alibaba group, with its platforms Taobao, Tmall and Tmall Global, holds almost 50% of the market share of the Chinese e-commerce. However, it is not always easy to understand the real difference between the two platforms Tmall and Tmall Globa and which is the most fit your products.
Here is a quick guide to understand how they work.
Tmall is a B2C platform founded in 2008 as an answer to the problem of fakes sold on the sister platform (and always owned by Alibaba) Taobao. In fact, Tmall stands out from the competition mainly thanks to strict quality standards that brands must meet to avoid counterfeiting problems. On Tmall, Chinese consumers can purchase products from local Chinese entities and international merchants, with the guarantee of not running into false.
Established in 2014, it is a cross-border e-commerce platform. Tmall Global allows foreign companies to directly sell goods to Chinese online shoppers without the need for a Chinese business license or warehouse in China. In general, it greatly facilitates bureaucracy for companies that want to sell in China without having a physical presence in the country.
Differences between Tmall and Tmall Global
The first difference obviously concerns the business model .
Both platforms operate on the B2C model, but the main difference is that Tmall works with merchants with a registered office in China and whose products are registered with local authorities. Tmall is a good choice for large Chinese brands with corporate entities in the country or for international companies that are already present and well established in domestic trade.
Tmall Global, on the other hand, is aimed at brands that do not have a physical presence in China. These companies can ship their products to Tmall partner warehouses located in Chinese and non-Chinese free zones, and do not need to work with local business partners to sell products to Chinese buyers on the platform.
This obviously generates differences in the logistic management of the products .
When it comes to Flagship store on Tmall, the products are usually stocked inside Cainiao warehouses (Alibaba’s logistics) based in China. It is a good option for big brands registered in China, because it allows you to deliver products much faster by relying on Alibaba’s logistics system. There is no need for customs clearance and all other actions that prolong the delivery process.
As mentioned, companies working on Tmall Global send their products to free zones in China, or to other warehouses in Europe or Hong Kong. The products are cleared through customs only once they have been sold, and this generates delays in the delivery of the same. Furthermore, this system complicates the issue of returns a little, as the products are sent back from China.
Let’s say Chinese customers tend to preprefer Tmall because the products arrive faster and the return process is very easy. On the other hand, Tmall Global allows buyers to buy products that are not on the market, and therefore have a wider choice among international brands.
Regarding the management costs of the platforms, there are no substantial differences (see table below)
However, it must be taken into account that the bulk of the expenditure concerns the digital marketing, influencers and advertising activities that you will put in place to make the your product visible and known to consumers. In addition, you will need to provide a discount plan to respond to the continuous “shopping festivals” held in China during, of which 11.11 is just the most popular.
Having said all these premises, the choice lies in a single question: where are you at your job in China?
Managing both Tmall and Tmall Global successfully requires massive marketing efforts and a lot of attention to internal market dynamics.
Tmall Global gives the possibility to “test” the market without running into big bureaucratic problems and without a local commercial partner. On the other hand, in the case of market testing we suggest different platforms, such as RED, which is less popular from the point e-commerce view but it allows you to do a great branding job at much lower prices than those required to do a good job on Tmall.
If, on the other hand, you have a business partner or a large company, with good marketing budgets and extensive market knowledge, Tmall is the e-commerce for you.
Do you want to build the right strategy for your brand in China? Contact us!