The biggest eCommerce platforms in China – Find the most suitable marketplace for your brand?

October 2020

China’s ecommerce market is massive, it accounts for over 55% of the online global transaction. But China’s eCommerce is also very complex and highly competitive. Users’ expectations are very different from the west and new platforms and features are introduced on the market constantly. This is a guide to the major Chinese players currently on the market and their key characteristics and offerings.

China’s ecommerce market is made out of many online competitors and company groups but is dominated by three main companies: Alibaba (Tmall & Taobao), JD.com, and Pinduoduo, together they control more than 80% of China’s online sales.

+8h cross border eCommerce Tmall

Tmall is owned by Alibaba Group and is purely focused on B2C business. Tmall can therefore be seen as a virtual shopping center which host most larger domestic and international brands you can think of. The main idea about Tmall is that it should be simple and only quality sellers are allowed, so buyers do not have to worry about the product they have purchased. This also mean there are higher requirements for a business to enter Tmall and longer processes to be approved to operate within this eco-system. Tmall has two different offering, the traditional domestic Tmall and the Tmall Global which is a cross border service for foreign entities that do not have a presence in China but still wishes to try out the market. For Tmall Global the requirements are still high to ensure the quality of business entering the platform. Tmall sells almost everything, from fashion to food, but is especially well-known to Chinese consumers to be the go-to place for fashion items. Therefore, 67% of the consumers on Tmall are also female.

+8h cross border eCommerce Tmall

Taobao is one of the best known C2C eCommerce platforms in China. The platform is owned by Alibaba Group and sells almost everything from food to vehicles. Taobao is among one of the most popular online shopping sites in China. When searching within the Taobao eco-system, product listening from Tmall will also be displayed (which is a B2C platform only). Taobao offers free registration for its users and therefore mostly used by small businesses and individual entrepreneurs to open their online store.

When users are buying on Taobao they are very price conscious and careful about their purchase. Buyers check several aspects before making the purchase, especially shop credit, customer satisfaction rate, and comments from others before making the final decision. It is therefore important that the UGC are the focus and managed in high degree with quick response time.

+8h cross border eCommerce Tmall

JD.com has long been seen as the largest competitor to Alibaba Group’s eCommerce platforms. JD.com focus on B2C online retailing and offer products in all categories like Alibaba Group. JD.com started out in the electronics and home appliances category and therefore also on top of mind for many Chinese consumers in this category. JD.com has focused the whole business model on trust towards the Chinese consumers both from a quality and deliver perspective. In order to support this, JD.com has its own logistic setup (called JD Logistics) with own warehouse, delivery, and after-sales services and therefore known for having fast delivery service, in many cases within the same day. In connection with electronics product quality is very important and therefore JD has offered guaranteed product quality. The buyers on this platform has therefore seen to be stronger for men, where 59% of the consumers are men. A main difference however is that JD.com do not support instant online customer service and its customer-service phone is hard to get through. Like Tmall, JD.com also have cross border services called JD Worldwide for foreign entities to sell into China.

+8h cross border eCommerce Tmall

Pinduoduo is known for its value for money merchandise and viral marketing. The low prices and thrill of getting a good deal have made it popular with value-conscious consumers. Pindoudou started as its mission to increase farmers income and saving for consumers by bring agricultural product to the cities directly and thereby cutting out the middlemen. The scope has quickly been widen and today includes household items, groceries, fashion, beauty and electronics. Pindoudou has taken a very important role in the Chinese eCommerce market, as it in 2019 beat JD.com (the second-largest eCommerce platform behind Tmall) by number of users and number of orders. Pindoudou has for a long time been focusing on smaller Chinese cities by offering the best deal and the possibility for users to work and in hand to get items at a bulk price but has now expanded rapidly all over China. Pindoudou Users can receive discounts, gifts, and even free items if they are promoting Pinduoduo to their network. For businesses registering on Pindoudou it is relatively simple as there is no registration requirements, no sales fees for businesses but focused on advertising cost.

A side from these main companies there exists many other marketplaces and online platforms which are specialized in specific industries as example Kaola and Suning.

+8h cross border eCommerce Tmall

Kaola has amongst the largest shares of online cross-border sales. It was launched 2015 by Nasdaq listed NetEase which is one of China’s leading internet and online game service providers. Kaola was then acquired by Alibaba group last year. The platform is known for selling high quality overseas products to a competitive price. The reason for this is because Kaola is known for purchasing directly from oversea brands inventory and thereby offer a lower cost compared to going through a local distributor.

Today, Kaola is offering a wide range a product groups like the other large marketplaces but in consumers’ mindset Kaola is especially top of mind in eatable categories where safety plays an vital role like baby formula, baby products, packaged food and nutrition products. The platform has 30 million active users and key target is customers who are professionals and white-collar workers age 20-45, with high buying power, seeking quality and authentic brands.

+8h cross border eCommerce Tmall

Suning started as a traditional retailer in 1990 with focus on consumer electronics products. Today Suning is seen as one of China’s most successful offline-to-online (O2O) companies with its 10.000+ stores and Suning.com eCommerce site (established in 2009). Suning consist of several vertical integrated industries ranging from retail, to logistics, real estate, and sports and is amongst the top 10 privately-owned Chinese enterprises list and Suning has been listed in the Fortune 500.

Today, Suning.com sells a wide range of products from electronics to cosmetics and baby care but the top of mind product groups from Chinese consumers mindset are electronic products, home appliances, and 3C products. Suning.com has been expanding quickly from being +internet to internet+ to smart retail. The strength of Suning is a strong website with the over RMB 300 billion in sales volume in combination with the 10.000+ brick-and-mortar points they have across 700 cities in China.