Launched in 2014, Tmall Global is the international division of Taobao Tmall. It is currently the largest cross border e-commerce platform in China, providing quality international products to Chinese consumers.
For foreign brands looking to sell their products to the China market, Tmall China is a great start. There are more than 14,500 foreign brands from 63 countries that sell on the platform. In fact, for more than 80% of those brands, Tmall Global store was their first step into the China market.
Here are 3 top Tmall China tips to help you successfully launch a Tmall Global store in China:
- Understand your value proposition in the Chinese market
- Add local expertise in your team
- Double up on brand and product promotion
Understand your value proposition in the Chinese market
As the iResearch data suggests, having a unique product is a compelling proposition in the China e-commerce market. While not many businesses are in such a fortunate position, they can still develop a value proposition that will get cut-through. It just takes some market research and careful planning to achieve this.
Having a unique product is a compelling proposition in the China e-commerce market.
Questions that will need to be answered in this phase include:
Who is your target market?
Getting a firm grasp on your target market is a key component of any positioning exercise. No brand can appeal to everyone - no matter what part of the world you are in - and China is a decidedly diverse country with 23 provinces and 56 officially recognised ethnic groups. Understanding these nuances in your target demographic will help you develop compelling messaging and avoid a cultural faux pas.
How will your product be applied in the Chinese context?
Another common mistake foreign businesses make is to automatically assume that their product will be used in exactly the same way as it is in other markets and as such can be marketed in the exact same way. This isn’t always the case. For instance, in the West we use fruit jam primarily as a spread on bread, whereas in China they use it more like a condiment. This seems to be a subtle difference, but it will have a big impact on your brand messaging and creative.
Who are your local and international competitors
Analysing the competitive environment for your product is a vital step to make strategic decisions on pricing, product offering and the niche that you can occupy in the Chinese online shopping landscape.
Add local expertise in your team
Once you have identified your Chinese consumer target market and value proposition, you can start to think about setting up your Taobao Tmall store - and you will need a Tmall Partner (TP) for this. In fact, as of today there is no single brand able to operate Tmall China without a TP.
Tmall China certifies partners if they meet certain criteria such as previous cross border e-commerce and logistics experience and multilingual staff. In a nutshell, your ‘Tmall (or trusted) Partner’ acts as your cultural bridge between your business and Tmall, as well as to help you identify the best product strategy within the Tmall ecosystem. Your TP should be in alignment with your overall market-entry strategy as well as help you figuring out the logistics.
The scope of the TP will vary from business to business, but the role should include:
- Deciding on the right Tmall store model and getting shipping organised
- Store layout
- Product selection
- Setting pricing for Tmall store items
- Liaising with the Tmall team and to ensure your brand’s participation in special promotions
- Supporting store setup and product listings in alignment with your overall brand strategy
- Adjusting the product and pricing based on the feedbacks of customers and sales data
- Buying guide pre-sales and after-sales service, including shipping tracking
- Answer all inquiries from AliWangwang
When selecting a TP, you should consider whether the candidate:
- Has a deep understanding of the Tmall ecosystem
- Has previous experience in your product category
- Is up-to-date with the latest Tmall policies
- Familiarity with the region you are targeting (speak the language, have relationships).
Double up on brand and product promotion
Once you have decided on your strategy, selected a certified TP and set up a Tmall store, it’s finally time to launch into your brand and product promotion. At this stage, it’s important to focus on brand awareness as well as product promotion. Many international brands seeking to enter the Chinese market make the mistake of placing too much emphasis on product sale too early and relying on Tmall alone to drive sales. This approach usually leads to disappointing results as product demand will be low to non-existent if there’s no awareness and demand for the brand in the market.
While your TP will take care of promotions and advertising within the Tmall ecosystem, these efforts will not be enough to drive awareness for your brand in the Chinese market.
As the Forever 21 example shows, their success wasn’t based on their Tmall store alone, but part of a comprehensive digital media strategy that included a Chinese website and the sophisticated use of Chinese social media platforms. You will need a China digital marketing partner to help you:
- Build brand awareness, more importantly through digital
- Set up a Chinese website
- Facilitate digital word-of-mouth promotion
- Increase your visibility on Chinese search engines
- Manage PPC campaigns
- Build and manage your reputation on Chinese social media platforms
- Engage with your customers beyond the pure transactions and turn them into advocates for your brand.
The easiest way to think about the difference between your TP and your China digital marketing partner is that your TP is mainly focused on the operation and logistics of the Tmall store, as well as bottom of the funnel offers such as discounts and promotions. Your partner for China digital marketing will take a more holistic view of your buyer journey and should place special emphasis on building brand awareness as this is often the hardest to achieve when entering a new target market.