TMall: A quick guide into China’s main marketplace

February 10, 2022 by
Frank Calviño
Photo by Toby Yang on Unsplash

TMall has become the referential marketplace for the Chinese market. It has gained a reputation as, perhaps, one of the best entry points for selling online in China, and being part of the Alibaba Group, it has all the money, resources, and technology needed to remain relevant and competitive both inside and outside China. 

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For those reasons, we are going to quickly explore the main characteristics of TMall, its core business model, its differences with Alibaba, and above all: how can you sell with your e-commerce using China’s main online marketplace? Let us begin! 

TMall vs Alibaba: Who does what? 

Let’s start by addressing the elephant in the room: TMall is the largest marketplace in China. Yes, it sounds weird when, especially when most of the western audience, has only heard about Alibaba as China’s main and biggest online marketplace. 

Thing is, both claims are correct. Alibaba.com is essentially one of the world's largest B2B marketplaces online, and TMall is China's largest B2C online retailer and technically separate from Taobao Marketplace or Alibaba.com. 

This means that, for direct-to-consumer, TMall is the place to go. And if you plan on selling B2B, then you have to use Alibaba. In any case, both companies belong to the same group, although TMall insists that it has autonomy and is operated as an independent venture. Meaning they can even directly compete against Alibaba. 

TMall the king of Chinese e-commerce 

With over 64% of the transaction share for e-commerce in China in 2021 - according to Statista - it is pretty clear that TMall is king concerning e-commerce in China. 

And the advantage that TMall has over its competition is so huge that the second place is JD.com with barely 15.9% of the transaction share and in third is Pinduoduo with about 13%. And if you are wondering where is Amazon? Well… it is close to being statistically non-relevant at all in China, only reaching 1% of the total market share. 

A luxury market for the new generation 

China is a new world in terms of what e-commerce has traditionally done. And perhaps one of the most relevant characteristics of TMall reflects this in an amazing and unexpected way: The Luxury Pavillion

TMall has created a section inside its website as well as an app called The Luxury Pavillion, aimed at selling luxury goods and brands. 

This app allows hand-picked clients of the platform to get access to the most premium and luxury brands within dedicated virtual flagship stores. 

They also benefit from a unique user experience which many times includes AI customer support and AR technologies to try on or virtual experiment with the brand's goods. 

Screen capture of TMall home page. As you can see, it is cluttered with products and categories

Is TMall needed to sell in China? 

Technically no, and yet, if you want to succeed you should take it into account. It is a matter of raw numbers. The amount of potential customers inside this platform currently surpasses any other form of your store - both e-commerce or traditional brick-and-mortar - that you could use for China. However, getting part of this traffic is an enormous challenge. “TMall is like a 1000-floors shopping mall. If you are on floor 983 no one will find you. It’s a matter of being on the first floors of the mall. The lower the floor you are, the more traffic you get”, pointed Marius Rossell, CEO of TRILOGI eCommerce Agency specialized in the China market. 

Keep in mind that TMall traffic analytics for November surpassed the 114 million visits, over 90 million visits in December, and again, over 100 million visits in January. These numbers are massive and you won’t get this amount of exposition to potential customers anywhere else. 

But… There are other ways to enter into the House of Dragon and in our next chapter, we will deal with the intricacies of launching a flagship store in China. Are you ready for this adventure? 

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