by Ker Zheng
What is Tmall Global? In short, Tmall Global is a sub-platform of Tmall where international merchants sell imported products through cross-border e-commerce.
Users can access Tmall Global through both the Tmall and Taobao mobile apps; the logos and designations are purple as Tmall Global's official colors are black and purple, whereas Tmall's main colors are black and red. Below, we mark the Tmall Global access points on both the Tmall and Taobao apps.
Once we click into the Tmall Global section, you will see that the font and background images are all purple. The Tmall Global logo is purple, and its product images are marked with a purple trim to differentiate them from non-imported items.
For international merchants looking to sell on Tmall Global, it's important to understand the following differences, which we lay out below.
Tmall (sometimes referred to as Tmall Classic) requires its merchants to have local China entities and register its products with the local authorities. Merchants on Tmall tend to be larger Chinese brands and F500 brands who have established their offices in China already. This includes the likes of Zara, Estee Lauder, Adidas, etc.
Tmall Global sellers, on the other hand, are companies with corporate entities outside of China and sell imported products. Companies that have opened up stores on Tmall Global recently include Huda Beauty, Everlane, and Drunk Elephant.
Tmall Global products are imported products, and tend to be stored in bonded warehouses in Chinese free trade zones, though in other cases they are shipped directly from international warehouses in the US, Europe, Hong Kong, etc. The products officially enter China and clear customs after the customer makes an order.
For Tmall Classic stores, however, the goods are typically stored within Cainiao (Alibaba logistics) warehouses inside mainland China, meaning that products are shipped to customers more quickly through domestic shipping companies.
Processing returns is more complex with Tmall Global, as merchants have to find another way to sell or get rid of returned merchandise in China, despite the fact that they do not have legal Chinese entities. This can be challenging for apparel items where the return rates can be high due to size/fit differences.
Download our 53-page guide for global brands on Tmall Global. Learn about all of the requirements and options for merchants, as well as tips and tricks on how to drive traffic and sales.
Fees & Commissions
The fees are also slightly different. Note that the deposits and fees are can be higher for Tmall Global merchants.
Since TMG merchants have no Chinese entities, it is harder for the platform to force the sellers to provide compensation in case something goes wrong with a product or customer experience. The higher deposits are designed to protect Tmall and consumers from such a risk.
Tmall vs Tmall Global FAQ
What are the Benefits of Selling on Tmall Global?
The main benefit is that the seller is using the cross-border e-commerce channel, which enables it to build an "asset-light" presence in the China market and reach Chinese consumers without having to invest time and money in establishing a China entity and registering products. It is less risky and requires less capital than setting up a Tmall store.
What are the Disadvantages of Selling on Tmall Global?
One disadvantage is that the per-unit costs of shipping products one by one to China are higher than if you were to ship them by bulk.
This is especially the case for drink products, whose lower unit prices cannot cover the shipping costs. However, this can be mitigated by moving the products in bulk to a bonded warehouse in a Chinese free trade zone, though this raises inventory risks if the products cannot be sold.
Another disadvantage is that the shipping times are slower and the products can get caught up in customs, negatively impacting the customer experience.
Why Do Some Brands have Both Tmall and Tmall Global Stores?
This is a common situation for larger brands that have been selling in China for some time and have already registered their products with the local authorities.
For example, a company may launch a Tmall Classic store after selling through Tmall Global and cross-border e-commerce for some time. In some cases, the seller will choose to sell their top-selling SKUs on Tmall and reserve long-tail or newer products on Tmall Global.
This way, the seller can assess customer demand before the products undergo the required registration and testing processes. Such processes for certain categories such as health supplements can take years, so it's important to assess all the risks first.
Which Categories are Good for Tmall Global vs Tmall?
Tmall Global is better for health, beauty, and mom & baby products because they tend to be lighter products that are easier to ship, and Chinese customers are more likely to value foreign brands for these product categories. There are also additional product testing requirements for health & beauty products which make it difficult to sell through normal trade channels.
For other categories such as food and beverage and fashion apparel, Tmall is better because customers are more likely to want to try these products in person before making a purchase, meaning that brands selling these products will likely have to set up a Chinese entity and sell in offline retail stores.
Should I Choose Tmall Global or Tmall to Launch my Brand in China?
It depends. If offline retail is a large component of your overall sales strategy, and you have the capital and long-term commitment to set up a Chinese corporate entity, with inventory stocked in mainland China warehouses, then Tmall might be the better choice for you. If you are looking to test customer demand and are more cost-sensitive, then Tmall Global might be the better path to take. It also depends on what kind of categories you aim to sell (see above question).
1. Tmall Global is a sub-platform under Tmall, and can be accessed by users through both the Tmall and Taobao mobile apps. International merchants use Tmall Global to sell to Chinese consumers through cross-border e-commerce
2. Tmall Global merchants do not have to have Chinese corporate entities to sell on the platform, which makes market entry easier. However, the logistics can be more complex due to the cross-border nature of the transacionts
3. The primary benefit of Tmall Global is that it requires less upfront investments on the merchant's part, and the seller can use Tmall Global to gauge customer demand in China before establishing a bigger presence in the market.