China Insights

Alibaba just made it easier to do business in China

Malcolm Pinkerton

Vice President

Retail 08.07.2019 / 18:00

Alibaba Money Full

A new service will help Alibaba double the number of foreign brands on Tmall Global to 40,000 in three years.

Alibaba has taken another giant leap forward towards its ambition of becoming the world’s fifth-largest economy by 2023, becoming a truly global titan of commerce. A crucial element of realising this is attracting more global brands, large and small, to its platform.

This has just become much easier with the new English-language portal on Tmall Global.  Introduced in 2014, international brands on Tmall Global cover more than 4,000 categories and originate from 77 countries and regions. Tmall Global now plans to launch other foreign-language sites, including Spanish, Japanese and Korean.

Global eCommerce expansion ramps up with launch of English Tmall portal

This new service will certainly help Alibaba double the number of foreign brands on Tmall Global to 40,000 in three years, with a goal of generating more than half of the company’s revenue from outside China by 2025.


New growth engines are also essential given a cooling economy in China, an ongoing trade war with the US and increasingly aggressive competitors including and Pinduoduo. Efforts are well underway in this regard, with Alibaba having made inroads into Southeast Asia through the acquisition of Lazada, but it now aims to broaden its reach even further.

Attracting more international brands across key categories will provide a strong fillip to growth. Alibaba is already increasing investments to unlock growth from China’s lower-tier cities and rural areas, which currently account for only 20% of total orders for the company. This means plenty of room to grow for the business, and cements the huge opportunities to go after for international brands.

Streamlining the Gateways to China

The new portal allows English-speaking merchants to fill in details online about their products, which are then vetted by Alibaba based on category and quality. If they fit the bill, Alibaba contacts them within 72 hours to gauge if their products are a fit for the Chinese consumer and Tmall.


The portal provides a hands-on guide to overseas merchants on how to open a store on the platform and make use of tools such as Tmall Overseas Fulfilment, which provides a low-cost way to set up their business in China before they start selling to domestic consumers. Tmall Global will also advise merchants on optimising operations after they’ve established a strong presence on the platform.


Prior to the site, joining Tmall Global was only possible through personal introduction, or by signing up at trade fairs. With huge emphasis on leveraging technology, namely artificial intelligence, to automate processes, a self-service portal and onboarding system makes sense. Especially if Alibaba wants to hit its ambitious target.

Kantar’s Point of View

  • China is a fast moving, dynamic, highly nuanced, highly competitive, market. Understanding the drivers and influencers of growth, and how to unlock them is a scary prospect and often too daunting for smaller non-native brands.
  • The provision of Tmall Global’s portal will help brands understand the vast, diverse and digital-facing Chinese market - while at the same time providing Alibaba with what it strives for, operational efficiency through the efficient and effective use of data. Removing friction and pain-points from the entire process of attracting, onboarding and helping to succeed, this new portal will certainly appeal to smaller brands. However, brands will need a good understanding of how to tailor products, messaging and marketing strategies to truly grow in China.
  • The need to deal with real-time data and industry benchmarks will become an imperative. This will remain a challenge for smaller brands and will be essential capabilities if they’re to fully realise the opportunity in China and potential of selling through Tmall Global.
  • Brands will still need to truly understand the landscape, and the ever-evolving shopper-retailer-brand relationships if they’re to establish credibility within the organisation, and externally with key partners.  Demonstrating the potential of Alibaba’s ecosystem and platforms in prioritising investment for maximum ROI, is only one piece of the jigsaw.

Source: Kantar

Editor's notes

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