China is the largest e-commerce market in the world, average Chinese consumers are more likely to make a purchase online using their smartphone than walking into a department store. This huge demand to shop online in China has created one of the fiercest e-commerce competition environment in the world.
There are literally more than 30 different large e-commerce platforms in China, and probably hundreds of smaller ones that nobody uses. As a foreign brand owner (business) that sells physical products and you want to sell your products to China. You’re probably wondering which channel is right for you?
So here is a list of 10 ways to sell or distribute your physical products to China using e-commerce or online shopping.
Taobao was created by Alibaba in 2003, really to fight off the presence of eBay in China. And it was extremely successful. Today Taobao is the most popular e-commerce platform in China with will more than 760 million products listed.
Taobao is an ideal starting place for anyone outside of China trying to sell your product to the Chinese market because it is just like eBay, which means you can setup your store and start selling today if you want to. The downside, however, Taobao has a reputation for cheap knockoffs.
TMall is also owned by Alibaba; in fact, it was formerly called Taobao Mall. TMall is created to counterbalance the poor reputation that Taobao has for the number of fake products it carried. In order for you to sell on TMall, you must either by the brand owner or an authorized reseller of the brand.
While TMall doesn’t operate like Amazon, it does charges a yearly service fee of 60,000 RMB ($9,400) and requires you to deposited a minimum 150,000 RMB ($23,500) just to start a store on the platform. This is done to discourage knock offs and shady companies. The great thing about TMall is as you can imagine will attract a lot of higher end consumer, the downside of course is you’ll need capital to sell on it.
JD ( 京东)
JD.com is the second largest online retailer in China and pretty much just like TMall. This is a trend you’ll find a lot in China. It also requires you to pay a high listing fee and takes a 1- 10% commission cut. In order to sell on JD, you must go through their partnership process.
JD is well known for its speed and same day delivery and it owns 214 pickup stations all across China. Despite JD coming in second in sales volume to TMall, JD has a much better reputation in minimizing counterfeits than TMall. This is large because JD is more like Amazon and has more control over its inventories.
As of today, Dangdang does not look too good in China’s e-commerce seen. Few people know this but Dangdang was actually one of the first Chinese e-commerce platforms even before JD and Alibaba.
Even though Dangdang is graduate losing its position it is still a worthwhile e-commerce platform right now.
Amazon China (亚马逊中国)
While Amazon is the 800-bound guerilla of e-commerce retailer in the world, it is not even in the top 5 in terms of market share in China. Just like many foreign tech giants in China, Amazon struggled and is unable to gain any respectable market share as of today.
While Amazon China may be a familiar channel for foreign businesses to sell on especially if you’re currently selling on Amazon already. Just keep in mind, currently, it has less than 1% of the market share of the entire Chinese e-commerce ecosystem.
Suning is actually not an e-commerce retailer, it is actually one of the largest non-government retailers in China. Suning was founded in 1990 and now operates more than 1,600 stores across mainland China, Hong Kong, and even Japan. However, if we were to compare sales volume Suning falls behind JD, TMall, and Taobao.
Suning does have an e-commerce platform, Suning.com. And if you want to sell on Suning it is pretty much the same process you would go through to sell on TMall. The benefit of selling your products with Suning is that you’ll also gain a brick and mortar exposure as well.
Like Suning, Gome also started as a brick and mortar retailer, but more specifically with electrical appliance retailers in Mainland China and Hong Kong. Gome is actually older than Suning and was founded in Beijing in 1987. Gome also has an online platform at gome.com.cn.
Yi Hao Dian is also a popular eCommerce platform in China. However, it focuses mainly on Grocery and other consumer commodities such as shampoo, tooth brush, etc. Of course, as with any Chinese tech-related ventures they all eventually expand everything else, but most people in China shop on YHD mainly for groceries.
eTao is also under the Alibaba Group, but it is not really an e-commerce platform; it is an online shopping search engine. I know what you think what is an online shopping search engine? At first, I’m just as confused you are but with a little bit of research, I realize that eTao is really a comparison shopping website.
Basically, eTao doesn’t sell its own products or allow other business or people to sell the product. Instead, it fetches product results from different Chinese e-commerce platforms and comparison its price, coupon, and sales price.
Little Red Book (小红书)
It’s not actually called Little Red Book I just translated it. The platform is called Xiao Hong Shu, it is the most interesting e-commerce platform in China right now. Unlike every other platform, we’ve talked about so far, they’re all pretty much standard online shopping platforms. In fact, if you visit each one of them and even if you don’t understand a word of Chinese you’ll find that they all look exactly alike.
Xiao Hong Shu however, is not just an online shopping platform, it’s a hybrid of Social Media/eCommerce platform. Think of it as Pinterest but with the ability to buy stuff as well. Basically, users share photos of products they like or have bought, and other users can view it and buy that product if they want.
It is our opinion that Xiao Hong Shu is a great platform for any foreign business to get started, especially for fashion or luxury apparel companies.
These are only the 10 of the most popular e-commerce channels in China, there dozens of more platform that are category specific for fashion, cosmetics, and mother and infant care.