• Top 4 eCommerce Websites in China

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    China has the biggest eCommerce market in the world and recently surpassed the US. Previously, we have mainly seen large brands entering the market but that will change in the coming years.

    Through the new eCommerce law, we will see more IP protection, a stronger focus on SMEs, and to simplify market entries.

    The eCommerce landscape changes quickly in China and some companies have managed to become top players in as little as two years. In this article, I explain some of the top eCommerce websites in China and what sets these apart.

    1. Tmall

    Launched in 2014, Tmall is China’s biggest eCommerce platform with a market share of around 40%.

    The platform is owned by Alibaba and was launched to differentiate sellers who are brand owners and distributors from the customer-to-customer sellers (C2C) on Taobao.

    In short, Taobao.com offers products in the lower price segment, while Tmall is more sophisticated and having more foreign brands. Some examples are Nike, Adidas, GNC, Coca Cola, Replay, Timberland, and Puma.

    Foreign sellers have the option to either opt-in for its local eCommerce marketplace, Tmall.com (Tmall Classic), or the cross-border version, Tmall.hk (Tmall Global).

    Difference Between Tmall Classic and Tmall Global

    A difference between the two is that mainly Chinese merchants and Fortune 500 companies sell on Tmall Classic. To sell on the platform, you need a Chinese company and register the products with local authorities, which is generally more costly.

    Thus, Tmall Global was launched which is a perfect channel for overseas merchants to test the market. That said, you also see larger companies who sell on both Tmall.com and Tmall Global.

    They can do this to test a product in the market before opting in for a long-term strategy and start selling on the local eCommerce website.

    Even if many other websites have been launched in the past years, Tmall remains a dominant force in the China eCommerce landscape.

    Product Categories

    • Supplements & Health Products
    • Cosmetics & Beauty
    • Fashion & Clothes
    • Mom & Baby
    • Food & Beverages
    • Household Appliances & Furniture


    • URL: www.tmall.com
    • Launched: 2014
    • Parent Company: Alibaba
    • Users: 493 million monthly users
    • Payment Option: AliPay

    2. Pinduoduo

    Tmall Global was founded as late as 2015 and many foreigners have limited knowledge about the website. The website has seen a meteoric rise and is not only one of the fastest-growing tech company in the world, but one of the biggest internet companies.

    The website has already surpassed JD with around 487 million monthly users.

    So what sets Pinduoduo apart from other eCommerce platforms? How has it managed to reach a gross merchandise volume of USD 15 billion in just two years, which took Tmall 5 years and JD 10 years?

    In short, Pinduoduo resembles that of Groupon and has revolutionized the Chinese market. It integrates social functions into the model and allows users to purchase products in “teams”, offering great discounts.

    The Business Model

    Compared to Tmall, Pinduoduo rarely takes on new brands and building them up. Instead, they look for wholesalers and resell the products at very low prices. That said, merchants still have the opportunity to use the “traditional” eCommerce model.

    The website has started to target foreign brands and also allows foreign companies to sell cross-border. This is inevitable for them to compete with other leading eCommerce websites like JD and Tmall.

    The main benefit of selling on Pinduoduo is the comparably low start-up fees.

    Worth mentioning is that the average order value is significantly lower on Pinduoduo. For example, while the average order value is around USD 60 on JD and USD 30 on Taobao and Tmall, the value on Pinduoduo is merely USD 6.

    Product Categories

    • Clothing
    • Fresh produce
    • Household items
    • Electronics


    • URL: en.pinduoduo.com
    • Launched: 2015
    • Parent Company: Hangzhou Aimi Network Technology
    • Users: 487 million monthly active users
    • Payment Option: WeChat Pay

    3. Jingdong (JD)

    Jingdong (JD) was launched in 2015 and was long the second-biggest eCommerce website after Tmall. Tencent, one of the biggest tech companies in China, owns around 20% of the shares of the website.

    Worth mentioning is also that Tencent owns around 40% of the shares in Shopee, one of the biggest eCommerce websites in Southeast Asia, and that fights head to head with Lazada, owned by Alibaba.

    Compared to Tmall, Jingdong has more male buyers and we see a greater demand for electronic products compared to fashion & cosmetics, for example.

    The same as it goes with Tmall, JD has both a local eCommerce marketplace (JD.com) and a cross-border platform (JD.hk). As you can see, there’s a Hong Kong cross-border domain, so it brings many similarities to that of Tmall Global.

    A benefit of selling on JD is that the entry requirements are lower compared to Tmall. The fees are generally lower as well, even if the deposit and sales commissions can be higher than Tmall depending on products.

    In short, JD Worldwide is a great option if you want to try the Chinese eCommerce market before making a full market entry by selling offline.

    Product Categories

    • Electronics & Home Appliances
    • Automotive Parts
    • Food, Beverages, and Alcohol
    • Fashion & Apparel
    • Digital Products
    • Cosmetics & Personal Care Products


    • URL: www.jd.com
    • Launched: 2015
    • Major shareholder: Tencent
    • Users: Around 320 million monthly active users
    • Payment Option: WeChat Pay/TenPay

    4. Kaola

    Kaola is one of the biggest websites for cross-border sales in China. With that said, they only select brands to sell cross-border as they primarily source foreign products on their own.

    Founded by NetEase in 2015, the website is comparably new but has managed to get a strong foothold in the Chinese market. Worth mentioning is that they have mainly focused on food, beverages, and supplements in the past.

    Now, you can find various product categories on the website.

    The process to start selling cross-border might not be as straight forward compared to Tmall and JD as Kaola focuses primarily on direct procurement. With that said, I recommend you to contact them if you’re a seller of food and beverages and want to tap into the Chinese market.

    Product Categories

    • Health & Wellness
    • Food & Beverages
    • Mom & Baby
    • Cosmetics & Skincare
    • Home Appliances
    • Apparel & Clothing
    • Electronics & Digital products
    • Sports & Outdoors


    • URL: www.kaola.com
    • Launched: 2015
    • Major shareholder: NetEase
    • Users: 30 million active users
    • Payment Option: AliPay


    Below I have included some commonly asked questions and my replies.

    What is cross border eCommerce in China?

    The cross-border eCommerce industry has grown rapidly in China in the past years as it shifts from being a pure manufacturing country to boost local consumption. Entering the Chinese market is not the easiest task on hand and requires product testing and registrations with local authorities.

    Cross-border eCommerce has made it remarkably easier to start selling in China. You only have to register with the customs and CIQ (recommended), but the registrations are not as rigorous as for traditional import.

    This is possible as you store the products in a bonded warehouse or outside of China and then ship the products to the end-consumers directly.

    Do I have to pay import duties when selling cross-border in China?

    No import duties are levied for cross-border sales. VAT still applies and is often included in the sales price.

    What is the difference between Tmall and Tmall Global?

    Tmall is a local eCommerce platform where you can find both Chinese and foreign products. Products sold on Tmall have to be registered with Chinese authorities and imported by a Chinese entity.

    Tmall Global, on the other hand, is a pure cross-border eCommerce website. It’s comparably cheap to sell on Tmall Global as you won’t need a Chinese entity or manage rigorous product registrations before selling into the Chinese market.

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