Sell on Tmall or JD

Tmall and JD are the biggest domestic e-commerce platforms in China covering almost 75% total China e-commerce market share. Tmall is used as an example below. JD follows a similar process.

What is Tmall and Tmall Global?

According to Tmall official website, there are two ways to join Tmall:

  • Companies with China in-country business operations can apply to Tmall
  • Companies with overseas licenses are eligible for Tmall Global

Tmall Global provides an opportunity to serve the Chinese e-commerce ecosystem for international companies with no physical business in mainland China. At the very beginning, you can open a Tmall Global store for market testing. After two years testing and learning from Tmall Global, Tmall is the next destination for new international brands to enter with, as Tmall caters more mainstream consumers needs.

Which countries do Chinese consumers prefer to buy?

Japan, South Korea, and the United States have always been the top 3 brand countries most favored by Tmall Global consumers from 2015 to 2018. Australia, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, and Thailand among the top 10.
Different countries feature different most welcomed selling products:
Ranking of top 10 countries and sold imported products on Tmall Global in China

Below are some examples of brands entering in the Chinese market via Tmall Global and Tmall:

Tmall Global

  • Brand A is eager to expand into the China market but reluctant to take on local inventory risk. Tmall Global allows brand A to enter the China market while removing this risk.
  • Brand B has noticed a recent increase in overseas purchase demand for their product. Tmall Global offers brand B the opportunity to reach these consumers who are interested in imported high quality products.
  • Brand C had previously thought selling finished food products directly to the China market is impossible. Tmall Global enables brand C to bring their locally famous product to Chinese shoppers.

Tmall

  • Brand D has been selling offline in China for 5 years and has already built up the target market. Brand D will soon open a Tmall.com store to introduce their product to a broader audience from online.
  • Brand E has been manufacturing products in China for foreign markets and would now like to try selling their branded toys to the Chinese domestic market. Brand E would open a Tmall store and utilize their local inventory for fulfillment.
  • Brand F is looking to break into China’s market. They have a multipronged approach to open physical stores in mainland China and reach consumers online. With their China branch office in place, brand F is well-positioned to increase its online presence with Tmall.com

What is a brand flagship store?

There are different types of stores can be opened in Tmall and Tmall Global. For international brands and retailers, the most important and relevant one is the Tmall or Tmall Global brand flagship store. You can consider a brand flagship store as a webshop, only this webshop is hosted on the marketplace Tmall.

If you are an international merchant without a Chinese legal entity, you can open up a Tmall Global Flagship Store to sell directly to the Chinese consumers.

The official definition of Tmall Global Brand Flagship store is: Stores opened by brand owners or exclusive dealers directly authorized by trademark holders on Tmall Global. In principle, the brand flagship store can only sell goods under the corresponding brand. If the store brand is a group brand, it can sell goods under multiple brands of the group. The goods must directly come from the store brand trademark holder.

Steps to launch a flagship store on Tmall

  1. Submit the qualification of store opening enterprises
  2. Step-by-step process
  3. Joining application
  4. Application review
  5. Store information supplement
  6. Going live
To go through the store opening process will not take long. However, there are a lot of preparation behind. For example, define the go to market strategy (assortment, pricing, sales channels, marketing strategy…) find qualified partners… Therefore, it will take brands and retailers at least 6 to 12 months for the store opening preparation.

Payment Solution

You need to register an Alipay account before setup. Like Paypal, Alipay is linked with company’s bank account and the funds are sent immediately if it is requested.

Tmall Flagship Store Fee structure

There are four types of fee are charged by Tmall for a flagship store:
  1. Deposit fee
  2. Annual fee
  3. Platform commission
  4. Alipay service fee

Logistics & Warehouse Solutions for a Flagship Store

There are two mostly used logistics models: bonded warehouses and direct shipping.

Bonded Warehouses Model

The goods are export in bulk to a bounded warehouse in China and been stored in bounded warehouses till there is an order, then goods are transported to customers.
The delivery is fast and takes lower shipping costs. However, the initial setup cost and the risk of low inventory turnover ratio are inevitable.

Direct Shipping Model

The goods are shipped directly to consumers in China after orders are made. You have to cooperate with Cainiao overseas warehouse, which is a part of You don’t need upfront set up fees and the cost of delivering goods balances with your increase in sales. The disadvantages are the slower delivery speed, higher delivery cost, and delay in delivery due to customs check.
depiction of the direct shipping process to China through e-commerce from overseas

Shop Operation

There is a partner role which might be new to the international brands — TP. TP is the so called Taobao or Tmall Partner which refers to the third-party companies that helps you operate your daily store or channel businesses on Alibaba’s e-commerce platforms in China. Your shop operations team provided by TP is responsible for everything related to daily shop operation business, e.g., creating product details pages, develop your store sales plan, execute performance marketing (e.g. paid advertising on Tmall), carry out store promotional events and e-commerce festivals such as double 11, customer services… Your shop operations team shall at least consists of 4 people: store manager, designer, customer services (before and after sales). TP usually works at two different models: distribution model or consignment model.

eTOC Provides You the One-Stop Services of Opening Online Store in China

As you can tell from the process and structure of opening a Tmall brand flagship store, this is not a simple decision which can be easily made. We strongly recommend the international brands and retailers to conduct comprehensive research, gather enough information and plan a business case in advance.

eTOC is a great fan of the “test and approve” approach. For brands who want to first test the Chinese market and get real market feedback, we also provide you with a “China Market Speed Test” service which enables international brands and retailers to first test its product potential with a very limited budget and gather market real data for the next “go big” solution – opening up Tmall brand flagship store.

If you want to open a Tmall or JD brand flagship store, you can contact us for a first free consultation.