Opinion: Tmall Global has Fast-Tracked International Brands into China for a Decade

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Opinion: Tmall Global has Fast-Tracked International Brands into China for a Decade

  • How Tmall Global will cater to emerging consumer needs by investing in content and technology
  • China’s largest cross-border e-commerce platform counts 100 million users and over 46,000 global brands

Before sleeping, Li Miao places an order on her mobile for a bag of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe coffee beans and a jar of premium French face cream. The next day, they arrive on her doorstep in China.

This seamless shopping experience is made possible by Tmall Global. The shopping channel not only delivers a wide range of products to the doorsteps of mainland Chinese consumers, but it also helps propel global brands into the vast and lucrative Chinese market.

Established in 2014 at a time of surging cross-border online shopping in mainland China, Tmall Global has rapidly evolved over the past decade. From a start of 100 overseas brands, it has grown into a commerce powerhouse featuring over 46,000 brands from 90 countries and regions, covering 7,000 product categories.

The journey doesn’t end here. Tmall Global plans to cater to the emerging needs of its 100 million plus users and deepen engagement with them by embracing new forms of content and advances in technology.  

Tmall Global-min
Retail & E-Commerce

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

Decade of Innovation

For the past decade, Tmall Global has been on a journey of innovation and adaptation.

It has revolutionized cross-border e-commerce by establishing bonded warehouses allowing overseas brands to connect directly with mainland Chinese consumers by shipping products in advance of sale.

In 2016 Tmall Global introduced business procurement centers to facilitate direct engagement and collaboration with overseas suppliers.

Two years later, Tmall Global underwent a substantial transformation, shifting from an invitation-only model to an application-based approach to onboarding. The overhaul was designed to ease entry onto the platform, enabling a broader spectrum of overseas brands to launch on the platform.

The groundbreaking Tmall Overseas Fulfilment program was introduced in 2019. Its direct-mail-based model allowed millions of overseas products to be listed simultaneously in mainland China and sent to the nation’s consumers with a single click in just seven days.

Facing the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, Tmall Global responded by adopting a bonded-factory model in 2020. This involved moving the final stages of processing overseas products to a factory in mainland China, streamlining the supply chain.

In 2022, Tmall Global welded three business units into one to enhance supply-chain efficiency and elevate customer service. The three businesses were: its third-party Tmall Global platform handling cross-border flagship online business; the self-operated retail one-party platform, Tmall Direct Import; and Tmall Overseas Fulfilment.

End-to-End Support

Tmall Global’s support for brands encompasses different aspects of their entry into China, including sourcing, supply chain, logistics, warehousing and digital operations.

With a global presence of six procurement centers, support for 14 currencies, over 100 overseas warehouses and 500 international transport routes, Tmall Global ensures a seamless supply-chain service for merchants.

It also provides multiple solutions to help overseas brands at different stages of development access Alibaba Group’s vast user base. Tmall Global leverages its understanding of consumer behavior and category performance, coupled with brand expertise in innovation to accelerate a brand’s incubation period.

Spanish skincare brand 180 Concept surpassed RMB11 million ($1.53 million) in gross merchandise value transactions within a year of using Tmall Global’s platform. Nutrafol, a professional hair wellness brand from the United States, recorded consecutive monthly sales gains. Ambie, a headphone brand from Japan, exceeded sales generated in its home country within a year of entering mainland China’s market via Tmall Global.

Navigating a New Era

Within a decade, Tmall Global has gone from zero to mainland China’s leading cross-border e-commerce platform.

Despite the pandemic’s impact, Tmall Global’s success reflects the resilience and vibrancy of mainland China’s consumer market. Preliminary data shows the nation’s cross-border e-commerce import market grew year-on-year to RMB548.3 billion for 2023, highlighting the continued appetite for quality imported goods.

Following the pandemic, consumers embraced healthy lifestyle choices. Platform data analysis showed triple-digit growth in healthcare, sports, outdoor activities and personal care.

Looking ahead, Tmall Global is looking to meet Chinese consumers’ growing appetite for a diverse range of products and deepen engagement with its customer base by investing in content and technology.

Innovation in content creation, particularly in short videos and livestreaming, has reshaped how consumers make decisions.

Tmall Global will build a robust content ecosystem, including social media seeding, overseas influencer networks and offline experience centers. The ultimate goal is to transform Tmall Global from an e-commerce “shelf” into a global lifestyle “guidebook”.

Simultaneously, technology-driven initiatives will be a major focus for Tmall Global.

Artificial intelligence (AI) solutions are rapidly being adapted to enhance efficiency. Examples include using AI models for generating detailed product pages, implementing smart pricing, and effectively managing a large number of stock-keeping units at a lower cost.

Over the last decade, Tmall Global has grown alongside international brands in China. Despite an uncertain economic climate globally, the company persists in creating business opportunities for merchants through openness and innovation.

Tmall Global remains committed to navigating uncertainties, charting new paths and sustaining its focus on mutual growth within a shared global landscape.

Lynn Dong is the general manager of Tmall Global. Over the last decade the focus of her career has been on the cross-border import business. In 2010, she joined Alipay as one of the original team members responsible for global partnerships. Three years later she established Tmall Global’s business development function and supply network, also developing the overseas brand incubation and operation system.

In 2018, she launched Tmall Overseas Fulfilment, boosting the company’s growth. She became Tmall Global’s general manager in 2022, leading the integration of Tmall Global’s business operations and streamlining of its import businesses.

Chinese E-CommerceLynn DongOpinionTmall GlobalWomen At AlibabaWomen Entrepreneurs
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