• Top 5 E-Commerce Websites in Asia: A Complete Guide

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    Cross-border E-Commerce is set to grow immensely in Asia in the coming decade.

    At the same time as China has become the world’s biggest E-Commerce market, neighbouring countries like Indonesia, Vietnam and Philippines grow at impressive rates.

    With increased prosperity, mobile usage and internet penetration, Asia will continue to be the most interesting E-Commerce market in the world. And that’s for a long time to come.

    But, Asia is diverse and many don’t know in which country, or on which platforms they should sell.

    In this article, I’ve listed some of the most popular and interesting E-Commerce marketplaces for cross-border sellers in Asia.

    1. Tmall Global (China)

    China’s E-Commerce market is not only the biggest, but one of the most developed in the World.

    With a population of 1.4 billion and a surging middle class, it’s become three times bigger than the US E-Commerce market.

    Here, Tmall Global (天猫国际) is undoubtedly one of the most popular cross-border E-Commerce websites.

    Tmall Global was created by Alibaba.com in 2014 and currently has around 350 million registered users. Now, that’s equally as big as the entire US population.

    It’s just slightly behind Kaola.com, which has a cross-border market share of 26%, while Tmall Global has around 20%.

    As China is set to become an import-nation, Tmall Global is a perfect solution to increase the supply of foreign products.

    Shipping products with Tmall Global

    Being a cross-border marketplace, you need to ship your products directly from overseas, or from a bonded warehouse within Mainland China.

    After, Alibaba’s own designated logistics company, Cainiao, will take care of last mile deliveries to end customers.

    That’s not the case with Tmall.com, which is the local version of the marketplace. Here, you need to import the products in-country first.

    Thus, by using Tmall Global, Chinese buyers will reduce the risks of coming across counterfeit products, which are still widely sold on local E-Commerce marketplaces.

    At the same time, overseas companies can easily overcome regulatory hurdles, by shipping directly from overseas.

    That said, Tmall Global has become one of the most crowded and expensive marketplaces.

    Not to forget, with its new invitation-only policy, most foreign companies need to work with local Tmall Partners to sell in their brands.

    Key information:

    • Established: 2014
    • Registered users: 350 million
    • Product categories: Apparel, cosmetics, home appliances and more
    • Sales model: B2C, Cross-border E-Commerce
    • Head office: Hangzhou, China

    2. JD Worldwide (China)

    Launched in 2015, JD Worldwide brings many similarities to Tmall Global.

    It’s a pure cross-border marketplace that originated from JD.com, launched in 1998.

    Tencent, one of the biggest Chinese companies and competitors to Alibaba, controls around 20% of the company.

    Looking at registered users, JD Worldwide is a bit smaller than Tmall Global, with almost 300 million users.

    Having a cross-border market share of around 13%, it’s only behind Kaola and Tmall Global.

    Selling on JD Worldwide vs Tmall Global

    What sets Tmall Global and JD Worldwide apart is the low entry requirements.

    For example, JD Worldwide doesn’t work with an invitation-only policy and it’s generally easier for foreign companies to start selling here.

    Not to forget, the setup and running fees are lower as well.

    Thus, many “Tmall Partners” prefer to (or only) help foreign companies to sell on websites like JD Worldwide, Xiaohongshu and Pinduoduo.

    Worth mentioning is that the website has a comparably high rate of male customers and is big on electronic products and home appliances.

    That said, you have no issues to find other products in other categories, such as clothing, food, accessories, and more.

    Shipping products with JD Worldwide

    When I talk with foreign companies, they often have questions or concerns about shipping and fulfillment.

    Here, JD excels in the sense that it has some of the best fulfillment capabilities.

    With 7 large fulfillment centers and 200 highly automated warehouses around China, JD Worldwide has no issues to deliver products the same- or the next day.

    By collaborating with a number of international shipping companies, foreign sellers can easily distribute products to Chinese customers.

    Key information:

    • Established: 2015
    • Registered users: 300 million
    • Main categories: Electronics, automotive, food and more
    • Sales model: B2C, Cross-border E-Commerce
    • Head office: Beijing, China

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    3. Kaola (China)

    Kaola was launched in 2015 and in the same year as JD Worldwide.

    Started by one of the biggest IT companies in China, Netease, Kaola has the biggest cross-border market share of around 25%.

    Still, the amount of registered users is surprisingly low, at around 30 million.

    Interestingly, few foreigners know what Kaola is, as Tmall Global gets the most attention.

    Compared to the above listed marketplaces, Kaola mainly focuses on food & beverages.

    But, you’ll find all kinds of products on the website, including clothing, electronics, cosmetics and more.

    Selling on Kaola is comparably cheap and you usually need to pay three different fees:

    • Initial deposit (refundable)
    • Commissions / revenue share
    • Yearly cost / product category fee

    Yet, Kaola also allows foreign brands to open and run stores on their own, which will save you plenty of costs. They’re also big on direct procurement.

    For more information about the specific fees, I recommend you to read my guide that explains how you can start selling on Kaola.

    Shipping products with Kaola

    The same as it goes with JD Worldwide, Kaola has great fulfillment capabilities and work with plenty of third party logistics companies.

    If you want to manage fulfillment and last-mile deliveries on your own, Kaola also allows you to do so when selling cross-border.

    Key information:

    • Established: 2015
    • Registered users: 30 million
    • Main categories: Food and beverage
    • Sales model: B2C, Cross-border E-Commerce
    • Head office: Guangzhou, China

    4. Lazada (Southeast Asia)

    Launched in Singapore in 2012, Lazada is the biggest E-Commerce website in Southeast Asia.

    Alibaba became a majority shareholder of the company in 2016, a strategic move to grasp market shares outside of the Chinese market.

    Truth be told, even if the Chinese E-Commerce market is set to grow a lot in the coming decade, the Southeast Asia market is way more untapped.

    By selling cross-border on Lazada, you’ll not only get access to a single market.

    Instead, you can sell various products in the following countries:

    • Singapore
    • Vietnam
    • The Philippines
    • Malaysia
    • Thailand
    • Indonesia

    So, to make the decision whether you should sell in China or in Southeast Asia is not easy.

    In fact, there are clear benefits and drawbacks to sell on Lazada, compared to Chinese marketplaces.

    Pros of selling on Lazada

    • It’s significantly cheaper. You don’t need to pay any deposits or running fees to the platforms, only a commission of 2% – 8%
    • No need to hire expensive Tmall Partners. A Lazada Partner can set up your store and train your team for USD 500. They can also run the store at a cost of around USD 200 / month
    • The mobile usage and internet penetration is still very low in Southeast Asia, but set to grow massively
    • It’s way less competitive and untapped than China
    • Lazada is headquartered in Singapore and provides material and customer support in English (not Chinese)

    Cons of selling on Lazada

    • Product restrictions. Food, beverages and supplements can generally not be sold cross-border. This will inevitably change in the coming years
    • Southeast Asia’s E-Commerce market will continue to be much smaller than China’s
    • Lower sales volumes in general. You need to sell on multiple marketplaces in Southeast Asia

    Shipping products with Lazada

    Lazada entices cross-border sellers to use its own fulfillment solution, Fulfillment By Lazada (FBL).

    Here, all its fulfillment operations are centralized to a fulfillment center in Hong Kong, managed by Timeslogistics.

    From here, Lazada manages inbound, storage, pick & pack and quality control before shipping your products to Southeast Asia.

    It’s mandatory to use Lazada Global Shipping (LGS) if you use FBL, which is not really a drawback.

    By using LGS, Lazada will take care of everything from last-mile deliveries, returns and failed deliveries.

    Key information:

    • Established: 2015
    • Registered users: Unknown (Around 750 million visits/year)
    • Main categories: Electronics, gadgets, clothing, food, automotive
    • Sales model: B2C, Cross-border E-Commerce
    • Head office: Singapore

    5. Shopee (Southeast Asia)

    The same as it goes with Lazada, Shopee only focuses on E-Commerce markets in Southeast Asia. Also, it’s headquartered in Singapore.

    Interestingly, Tencent owns 40% of the shares in Shopee’s parent company, Sea Group. So, it’s kind of evident that Alibaba and Tencent now compete outside of China’s borders.

    Recently, Shopee has been fighting head-to-head with Lazada and even surpassed it in some countries, in terms of monthly visits.

    But, I rather see Shopee as a compliment to Lazada, as the fees to start selling on both sites are almost negligible.

    First of all, Shopee doesn’t claim any commissions at all.

    It’s completely free to sign up as a seller, there’s no need to pay deposits or running fees for that matter.

    Now, you’re not the first one to wonder how Shopee makes money. They only earn money by paid advertising on the site.

    Shipping products with Shopee

    You have two different options when fulfilling and shipping products:

    • Fulfillment By Shopee (FBS)
    • 3rd party shipping solutions

    On the contrary to Lazada, that almost forces its sellers to use FBL, Shopee only allows FBS to certain sellers.

    As mentioned in my article about selling on Shopee, FBS is only available for top brands, distributors, and key sellers with high sales volumes and lack fulfillment capabilities.

    Most of the times, you need to find fulfillment and shipping service providers on your own.

    Key information:

    • Established: 2012
    • Registered users: Unknown (Around 700 million visits/year)
    • Main categories: Electronics, gadgets, clothing, food, automotive
    • Sales model: B2C, Cross-border E-Commerce
    • Head office: Singapore
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