Tmall Paid Advertising – Full Guide

Tmall Paid Advertising - Full Guide

Alibaba accounted for 34.3% of the total net digital Ad revenue in China in 2019. Neither Google’s counterpart in China – Baidu (17.5%) – nor in some degree Facebook’s counterpart – Tencent (17.2%) – can challenge Alibaba’s dominance in digital advertising industry in China.

revenue share

1.What is Alimama?

Alimama is the marketing technology platform within Alibaba eco-system.

Alibaba Paid Advertising

Based on intelligent algorithms, Alimama integrates and extracts data from search results, recommendations, videos, finance, logistics, and Alibaba-related websites and apps, and generates a large, complex, and heterogeneous uni data picture.

It offers multiple paid advertising solutions based on bidding methodology to support the marketing needs from brand exposure to sales conversion. 

Alimama offers sellers on Alibaba Group’s marketplaces (e.g., Taobao, Tmall) online marketing services for both personal computers and mobile devices.

2. What are the most used Alimama paid advertising solutions?

The most used paid advertising solutions within Alimama are search ads, display ads, feeds ads and affiliate marketing.

2.1 Search Ads

Zhitongche (ZTC) 直通车

ZTC is one of the most cost-efficient keyword search marketing tools targeting consumers with specific purchase intention.

It also works well for brands with limited organic search traffic. Each product can be set with 200 keywords, merchants can freely set prices for each bidding word. The product will be displayed according to the bidding ranking. The corresponding Product Detail Page can be entered via just one click.

ZTC is charged by ad clicks (cost-per-click).

Since ZTC provides a direct access of products for consumers through search, it´s commonly used to promote new products for new customer acquisition or hero products for maximal conversion.


ZTC provides two modes of ads promotion: standard promotion and smart promotion. Standard promotion is the traditional mode of self-selecting keywords and participating in bidding; smart promotion only needs to select the promotion product and the upper limit of the bid, and use machine intelligence to select the keyword for display.

Keywords for ZTC can be selected following broad match and precise match approach.

Broad match means the products will be displayed when consumer´s search contains the pre-defined keywords or keywords related to them. Precise match means products will be displayed when consumer´s search is exactly the same as the pre-defined keywords. You can tell from Tmall store backend tool Biz Advisor(生意参谋)what keywords are searched by your customers to find the products. These words are of course the preferred precise match keywords.

Broad match can be used for long tail keywords e.g., your product Chinese nickname or specific functions and precise match can be used for popular keywords, e.g., category name.

It is important to set up some test scenarios in order to find out the best keywords with optimized budget and ROI.

Star Shop/Brand Zone 明星店铺/品牌专区

Star Shop/ Brand Zone is the brand name related keyword search ad. It is predominately available for brand flagship stores from Tmall. Thus, it is the best Tmall advertising channel to make flagship store distinguishable from unauthorized sellers and distributors.

It´s usually used as the best channel for the sellers to reach consumers who are already showing the brand preference.

star shop brand zone

The banner is displayed at the top of the search results; thus, the ROI of star shop/ brand zone is the highest among the 4 paid advertising tools in Alimama.

Star Shop vs. Brand Zone

Brand zone is an upgrade version of Star Shop with more functions:
Banner size & format: Compare with Star Shop, Brand zone as the upgrade version, offers a bigger banner size and display multiple ad formats, e.g., image, gif and video to match different communication needs from the brand.

star shop vs brand zone

Furthermore, more interactive shopping mechanisms are supported from Brand Zone back-end, e.g., place livestreaming or participate game to win shopping vouchers.

Billing method: Star Shop charge for CPM, while Brand Zone need to coordinate with the Alimama key account manager, and purchase on a quarterly/half year/full year basis.

Search method: Star Shop are brand relate keywords e.g., Brand name + product name or category name. Brand zone can add more brand relate keywords, e.g., product nickname or core functions.

Purchase method: Star shop is displayed through real-time bidding. For brand zone, merchants can purchase in a quarterly basis.

2.2 Display Ads

Diamond Booth 智钻/钻展

Diamond Booth is the display ad that is based on visual display (including image & videos), with precise targeting as the core approach, same real-time bidding cost model but different from ZTC & Star Shop/Brand Zone, it can be displayed both inside and outside Taobao environment through mobile app or PC. There are 192 display locations in total. Mobile display often has the best performance given over 90% traffic are coming from mobile.

Diamond Booth is charged by ad exposure (cost-per-mille). There are 3 major targeting scenarios:

1) Interested target pool: this target carries multiple preference labels recorded from the platform through algorithm calculation based on consumer’s behaviors, e.g., who purchased in your store before, within certain time period who made interactions to your store or products but hasn’t purchased. and this target has been commonly used for direct sales conversion especially during the platform promotion / store activity period.

2) Pan-interested target pool: The labels behind this target are interested in specific product categories relate to your brand, preference in own/competitor brands or products and it commonly used for education & engagement, convert them into interested target pool in a store activity period.

3) Unknown targets pool: this target is never been interacted with your brand or similar brand in your category who shows the least shopping relevance. This target has been selected commonly to explore if both of the interested target pools are been well used and looking for further expansion on new consumers.

Diamond Booth supports single product page or store home page as the ad link destination.

diamond booth

Same as ZTC, Diamond booth provides both manual operation and system smart operation on target selection.

2.3 Newsfeed-Ads

Super Recommendation 超级推荐

Super Recommendation is an algorithm-driven advertising system to push personalized recommendations to consumers based on their in-app activities. It helps brands promote its products, contents, short videos or live-streaming programs under a bidding model.

The targeted consumers of Super Recommendation are those who don’t have a clear purchase intention. Therefore, the strategy should integrate high potential products with interesting contents or live-streaming programs of hero products.

Super Recommendation ads can be displayed on Taobao App Homepage, Shopping Cart, Payment Page, Weitao, Live-streaming Homepage and Youhaohuo 有好货.

super recommendation

Super Recommendation on the Taobao homepage is the most visible ad placement, appearing after the first scroll. Most consumers view the recommendation out of curiosity rather than a clear purchasing intention. The goal of Super Recommendation marketing strategy is better to focus on attracting users to click on the ad, to enter the store, and to start browsing other products. This will increase the traffic within the store, therefore increase the store ranking and sales eventually.

It is better to push forward not only hero products under Super Recommendation, but also products that could maximize the click-through rate.

Super Recommendation on the Taobao Payment Page follows another strategy. Users here are more likely to make another impulse purchase since they are already doing it. Therefore, for this ad placement, products with higher conversion rate are better to be pushed.

super recommendation strategy

2.3 Affiliate Marketing (Taobaoke)

TaobaoKe is the Affiliate Marketing tool which allows merchants to set up commissions reward for individuals or platforms that could help promote the brand. It is often used for attracting traffic from outside of the Taobao ecosystem. For instance, consumers place orders via the hyperlinks generated from affiliates through private channels, including vertical websites, social platforms, WeChat chat groups and so on.

Merchants are also allowed to create shopping cart links on short video platforms. Consumers who browse products in diverse channels, get influenced and recommended from the peers, shopping based on the personnel trust and word of mouth effect.

Furthermore Taobaoke enables merchants to cooperate with individuals particularly to capture the non-commercialized traffics which is an important tool for less well-known brands with limited paid advertising budget.

affiliate marketing

3. How to optimize Alimama paid advertising solutions?

In order to optimize the Alimama paid advertising performance, the first step is to evaluate the performance status quo and identify improvement potentials.

Alimama paid advertising center is the working desk which integrates real time paid advertising performance data, industry trends and benchmarks.

The most relevant KPIs about each paid advertising tools is the foundation to evaluate the performance. 

paid advertising performance data

When the improvement potential is identified, budget and strategies can be adjusted accordingly.

There are 4 major aspects to be improved for a more effective paid advertising strategy:

  • Target consumers
  • Keywords
  • Ad material design
  • Time of use bidding

3.1 Target consumers optimization

  • Define and select the target consumers with clear objective (e.g., new consumer acquisition or direct conversion).
  • Design test scenarios for the pre-defined target consumers groups.
  • Test results data monitoring and continuously improvement on click performance and sales conversion.
target consumers

3.2 Keywords selection optimization

  • Review, sort out and categorize different keywords
  • Assign the best-fit keywords to different products to be promoted
  • Develop a complete launch plan
  • Create AB testing scenarios, continuous data monitoring and timely optimization

Biz Advisor offers suggestions of relevant keywords which can be a good starting point for brands to define its own keywords (similar to google keywords planner).

Also, monitoring the competitor’s product search keywords is a recommended way to gain inspiration. For competitors, it is better to choose those are close to brand’s own sales volume.

3.3 Banner optimization

eTOC offers a banner automatic optimization solution which is powered by automatic banner variations creation software. The software can create hundreds of different banner variations in just a few seconds:

  • Disassemble the banner to the single elements
  • Develop different independent IDs as the basis for multiple combinations for the banner
  • Test the banner variations by displaying to different consumer groups
  • Identify the most effective banners for certain consumer groups
tmall advertising banner building

3.4 Time-of-use bidding set up

  • Take the slack and peak bidding hours into consideration and set up optimal time-of-use bidding to maximize the spending efficiency.
  • Refer to industry benchmark to set up the time-of-use bidding
  • Test time-of-use bidding efficiency to decide own bidding rhythm
peak hous in the latest 30 days

4. Conclusion

Performance marketing is a must have sales driven marketing measure in China e-commerce. Understanding Alimama paid advertising tools’ mechanisms is of utmost importance to achieve e-commerce success on the biggest China e-commerce platform Tmall.

Brands can perform benchmark analysis of competitors’ strategies, compare the advantages and disadvantages of each marketing tools, based on its own brand tonality and budget allocation, and then adjust and optimize the best advertising format for brand development gradually.

If you are interested in more information about Alibaba paid advertising marketing, please do not hesitate to contact us:

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