By Sam Gaunt | Marketing Manager

After our recent breakfast roundtable event with Alibaba, we wanted to share some of the advice for trading on Tmall that was discussed.

Tmall.com or Tmall Global?

Beginning the session, Mei Chen, who looks after international business for Tmall’s owner Alibaba, explained the dominance of the marketplace in Chinese ecommerce. With a circa 60% market share, climbing to 85% in some categories, it is Chinese consumers’ first port of call when searching for products and product content. In fact, the average Chinese consumer visits Tmall and Taobao between seven and eight times a day.

Overseas brands often start selling online in China using Tmall Global - the cross-border equivalent – as there is no requirement for a Chinese business entity, in-market warehousing or Chinese product testing compliance. Many cosmetics brands choose not to move onto Tmall.com – the local platform – as regulations insist on testing products on animals, which may not align with a Western brand’s ethics and identity.

Mei warned that it can take three to six months to get set-up and trading effectively on the platform. Although organising documentation and admin is fairly simple, building consumer awareness takes time and resources.

You can read our blog about setting up your business for selling on Tmall.

Tmall Trading Breakfast event group picture.jpg

Key Trading Dates

For brands that are launching on Tmall just before Singles’ Day (11th November), it is advised not to take an active part in the retail phenomenon as it is easy to be quickly overwhelmed by the increased demand. Practicology’s CEO, Chris Vincent, added that brands should expect three times the sales in November compared to their second highest performing month.

To fully prepare, Mei recommended that brands should be trading for at least three months prior to Singles’ Day and should also investigate other important dates that have special significance for Chinese consumers.

These events are not just opportunities for brands to heavily discount their products and Chinese consumers (who particularly appreciate getting a good deal) also respond well to product bundles, free gifts and special edition products.

Luxury leather brand, Loewe, used the Chinese equivalent of Valentine’s Day to sell a limited range of 99 handbags through a Tmall pop-up store, playing on the cultural significance of the number 99 that has a similar pronunciation to the word ‘forever’. This allowed Loewe’s to participate in the promotional event while retaining their full price strategy.

You can find a full 2018 Chinese Trading Calendar in our China Report.

Tmall Trading Breakfast event Chris and Mei.jpg

Serving the Chinese Consumer

Customer service is critical to maximising sales, as Chinese consumers do not use it just for complaints, but also to check product information and even haggle on price. Because of this, Chinese consumers rely heavily on Tmall’s in-app messaging platform, wanting instant responses rather than waiting 2-3 days for a reply to an email enquiry.

Mei said that although Alibaba were actively investing in developing its AI chatbot technology for standardised questions, having a well-manned customer service team is still essential.

Choosing your trade partner

Selecting a capable and appropriate trade partner is key to success in the region. Chris explained that trade partners normally take care of Tmall customer service for a brand and require the necessary knowledge of the products and category to maximise sales conversion. 

80% of a brand’s traffic on Tmall comes from hero product pages rather than the main store front page. Trade partners must have a deep understanding of the products that will drive the most traffic in your chosen category, and must ensure the text, images, links and language on those pages are perfect.

Mei agreed that it is crucial to find a trusted trade partner, as they are responsible for runing and optimising the account on behalf of the brand. While there are thousands of trade partners in the market, Tmall only certifies a small number – including Practicology – and staff are required to pass exams and refresh their knowledge every three months to retain their accreditation.

Our in-market trading teams can quickly assess a brand’s performance, analysing search results versus sales and drilling down into individual product categories to identify improvements. If you’d like to find out how Practicology can help solve your Tmall challenges, please get in touch.

 

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