Alibaba’s Tmall Global: Major Moments In A Decade At the Heart of China’s Cross-Border E-Commerce

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Alibaba’s Tmall Global: Major Moments In A Decade At the Heart of China’s Cross-Border E-Commerce

  • Founded in 2014, it now features over 46,000 global brands from more than 90 countries
  • Its global logistics network includes 100+ overseas warehouses and 500 international transport routes

Alibaba Group’s Tmall Global has built a cross-border platform serving over 100 million customers in the last ten years. 

The business has been at the center of a surge in cross-border e-commerce into China, helping brands from British beauty devices brand CurrentBody to Australian health products producer Blackmores reach China’s consumers. 

As always, logistics plays a crucial role in e-commerce. Over 70% of Tmall Global’s cross-border goods are stocked in warehouses in China’s biggest cities, making next-day delivery possible for over half of its orders.  

We look back at the major milestones from launch to running China’s largest platform for imported goods.

Early 2000s

Shutterstock 2021563973

The bad old days

Chinese consumers struggle to shop overseas, surfing websites written in a foreign language that accept only foreign credit cards. After making purchases, consumers must line up logistics to deliver parcels to China.
Shoppers resort to asking friends traveling abroad to buy coveted items on their behalf and carry them back in suitcases. Professional buyers, called daigou, flourish.  

February, 2014

Bonded Warehouse Hangzhou 2014
An early bonded warehouses in Hangzhou.

Enter Tmall Global

Tmall Global officially launches in February, 2014 after laying the groundwork in 2013. The platform starts with 100 overseas brands.
Its launch coincides with growing policy support for cross-border e-commerce. In 2014, the term “cross-border e-commerce” is included for the first time in a government work report. China pilots cross-border e-commerce retail import business in six cities, allowing shipments from bonded areas.
Tmall Global sets up bonded warehouses, helping overseas brands connect directly with Chinese consumers by shipping products before sale.
The biggest customers are mothers purchasing overseas-branded baby formula after food safety scares.

Japanese toilet seats are also hot items, as tourists balk at carrying hefty items home. 


Jack Justin Pavilion Launch

Canada joins 18 other country pavilions on Tmall Global.

Policymakers clarify how they would supervise and tax cross-border retail imported goods, providing guidelines for the development of the industry.

Tmall Global introduces business procurement centers to facilitate direct engagement and collaboration with overseas suppliers.


Tmall Global changes how it onboards overseas brands, shifting from an invitation-only model to an application-based approach.

The platform integrates blockchain technology to bolster consumers’ trust in cross-border commerce and products’ authenticity.


Kim Kardashian Viya Huang Tmall Global Influencers Small

Kim Kardashian, the reality TV star and social media influencer, sells out of her name-sake brand KKW perfume in a few minutes during a livestream, drawing 13 million viewers for her Tmall Global debut.
Tmall Global launches the Tmall Global Influencer Ecosystem to train and support 2,000 mega-popular influencers. 

Tmall Overseas Fulfillment is born


Pandemic Measures

Facing challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, Tmall Global adopts a “bonded factory” model in 2020. This innovation involves pre-positioning the final processing stage of overseas finished products in China, shortening the supply cycle.

Billie Eilish

U.S. singer-songwriter Billie Eilish launches a flagship store on Tmall Global, following other partnerships between Taylor SwiftRihanna, Victoria Beckham and the platform.


Tmall Global integrates three separate parts of its business – its 3P business, Tmall Direct Import; its 1P business; and its direct-mail-based business, Tmall Overseas Fulfillment – into one unit to enhance supply-chain efficiency and elevate customer service.

Tmall Global’s Gm Lynn Dong And Simon Property Group’s Gm David Mistretta

New York’s Woodbury Common outlet mall livestreamed via Tmall Global to share 1,500 upmarket brands and over 100,000 outlet products on Black Friday, 2022.

Tmall Global Mascot

Tmall Global announces it will incubate around 1,000 international brands over the next three years. 


China’s cross-border import market tops RMB550 billion (US$77 billion), showing Chinese consumers’ continued appetite for quality imported goods.
In the post-pandemic era Chinese consumers are more concerned with pursuing a healthy lifestyle. Tmall Global’s data analysis of cross-border commerce reveals triple-digit growth in sectors such as health, sports, outdoor activities and personal care.


10 years old and going strong

Today, Tmall Global features over 46,000 global brands from more than 90 countries, spanning over 7,000 product categories.

Women account for 70% of its customer base and two-thirds belong to Generation Z.


The road ahead

Tmall Global is investing in content and technology as it continues to evolve from an e-shelf into a global lifestyle expo.

To accomplish this transformation, it is working on strengthening engagement via short videos and livestreaming.

It is also exploring uses of AI, such as in generating product pages and fueling pricing engines.

Explore more Tmall Global content

Additional reporting by Elizabeth Utley

AlibabaChinese ConsumersE-CommerceGreater ChinaTmallTmall Global
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