Taobao is the biggest eCommerce website in China, together with Tmall, it accounts for around 80% of the market. What sets Taobao apart from other established eCommerce websites is that it’s a C2C (consumer to consumer) website and was started years before Tmall and its competitors.
People all over China buy from Taobao thanks to its competitive prices, wide assortment of products, and fulfillment capabilities. Many foreigners ask what products that are in great demand on Taobao, that’s why I’ve written this article where I list some of the most popular products on Taobao. First, let’s check what some of the differences are between Tmall and Taobao.com.
What are the differences between Taobao and Tmall?
First of all, Tmall is more premium than Taobao and mainly cater to consumers in the Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities. In fact, its name originates from the term “Taobao Mall” and you’ll find more branded and foreign products on the website. Taobao, on the other hand, has a wide selection of less exclusive products that are produced in China.
Taobao is known for being more price sensitive than Tmall, a reason why it’s popular in the smaller cities. Worth mentioning is that not everyone can sell on Taobao as you need to have a Chinese company before you can start selling on the website. That’s not the case with Tmall as foreigners are allowed to open stores and sell on its cross-border website, Tmall Global.
1. Clothing Products
Just by visiting Taobao.com, you’ll notice that there’s an ocean of clothing products like shoes, bags, pants, sweaters, you name it. Even if the website is more price-sensitive compared to Tmall, you’ll find everything from cheap Chinese products to Gucci bags. Don’t be surprised if you find a dress priced as low as USD 5 or a scarf for USD 2.
With a billion products on display, Taobao has become the number one eCommerce website in China, mainly thanks to its low prices. This is especially true for online shoppers in smaller cities who don’t have access to retail stores and the many shopping malls that can be found in bigger cities. Not to forget, with lower incomes, shoppers in smaller cities cannot afford to buy the prestigious products found on websites like JD and Tmall.
That said, Taobao has been struggling with counterfeit products for years, but has become more stringent recently. This is in line with the new eCommerce law and new regulations issued by the government in 2019.
2. Food & Beverage
Food and beverage products are some of the most popular on Taobao. There’s really no limitation to the products that can be found, but we see an increased demand for healthier food products, such as nuts and dairy products.
At the same time, products containing sugar, fat, and meat show lower sales volumes. Research shows that more and more Chinese use keywords like organic, low-fat, sugar-free, and farm-raised increase steadily.
Along with increased disposable incomes and the food scandals that have erupted in China over the past years, increasingly more Chinese also buy imported food products on websites like Kaola, Tmall, and JD.
Looking at overall consumption, there’s a great demand for dairy products, snacks (such as nuts and moon cakes), coffee, preserved food, fruits, noodles, oils, vegetables, and meat.
3. Consumer Electronics & Smart Devices
The demand for smart devices has increased much recently. Simply put, these are electronic items that can be connected to other devices or networks via 3G or Bluetooth, for example. Smart devices include everything from drones, wireless headphones, wireless speakers, and even smart glasses.
Just looking at the numbers, from 2013 until late 2015, the sales of smart devices had increased by 250%, according to Taobao.
Even if Taobao.com is the biggest eCommerce giant in China, many Chinese prefer to buy electronic products and smart devices on more reliable websites, like JD. This reduces the risk of coming across products that don’t meet safety standards and that are genuine.
4. Mom & Baby Products
As you might know by this time, mom and baby products are in the top segment when Chinese buy online. Diapers, baby beds, nutrition food, baby clothes, baby formula, and toys are all in high demand.
It’s also said that seven out of ten shops are run by Chinese online celebrities on Taobao and who mainly sell cosmetic products, mom and baby products, and clothes.
Looking at baby beds and equipment, even if most of the products are produced in China and sold by Chinese merchants, you can still find foreign brands from countries like Italy and Korea. Baby formula and similar products, on the other hand, primarily come from overseas and are sold by Chinese merchants.
Product regulations tend to be stricter for mom and baby products, something that you should have in mind before going into detailed planning. Be sure to work with a credible local partner, such as a distribution company, that can help you with the registrations and filing.
5. Health Products & Supplements
With the rising trend of health products, foreign health food and supplements increase in demand. Liver detox, weight loss products, kid’s supplements, and vitamins all gain a big traction in the Chinese market. That said, we also see more Whey protein on the shelves and in online stores.
That said, importing these kinds of products into China is easier said than done. More rigorous restrictions apply and you need to have the necessary approvals and registrations in place. As such, many foreign sellers choose the easy route by selling the products cross-border, on websites like Tmall Global and JD Worldwide.
Truth be told, most of the big brands in China leverage sales by selling their products both offline and online.
To manage this process on your own can be tricky and time-consuming, a reason why I suggest that you partner with a local foreign-owned distribution- or Tmall partner, that can help you to register the products and find distributors.
6. Sports Equipment
Sports equipment is another big product category that has increased in demand in the past years. You can find everything from cardio exercise equipment, dumbbells, yoga mats, gym gloves, tennis rackets, footballs, and boxing gloves on Taobao.
Due to the influence of Western cultures, the Chinese gym culture is growing at a steady rate and the Chinese government plans to create a sports industry valued at RMB 5 trillion until 2025. This will include improved fitness, including everything from grassroots sport to elite performance, according to Nielsen Sports.
The main goal is to entice people to have more active lifestyles, to reduce medical costs, and to improve the overall health of its people.
An interesting trend is that elders preferably buy small-sized products, such as table tennis rackets and balls, while younger people are keen to buy bigger products, like footballs and basketballs.