Tmall Global’s decade-long fast track platform paves the way into China for international brands

Tmall Global’s decade-long fast track platform paves the way into China for international brands

Tmall Global’s decade-long fast track platform paves the way into China for international brands

[Sponsored article]

In the quiet moments before sleep, Li Miao places an order on her mobile phone for a bag of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe coffee beans and a jar of premium French face cream. The next day, they arrive on her doorstep in China. This seamless shopping experience is made possible by the efficient logistics orchestrated by Tmall Global’s transformative “fast track into China” platform. This pathway not only brings diverse products to the doorsteps of mainland Chinese consumers, but also acts as a catalyst for global brands, propelling them into the vast and lucrative Chinese market at an unprecedented pace.

Established in 2014, at a time of the surge in cross-border online shopping in mainland China, Tmall Global has evolved significantly over the past decade. From its initial offering of 100 overseas brands, it has grown into a powerhouse featuring more than 46,000 global brands from 90 countries and regions, covering 7,000 product categories. This remarkable growth, facilitating access for over 100 million users to imported goods from around the world, is a testament to Tmall Global’s enduring commitment to innovation.

Fast track to China: a decade of innovation

Tmall Global’s fast track into China platform has been a journey of innovation and adaptation. It has revolutionised cross-border e-commerce by establishing bonded warehouses, a strategic move that allowed overseas brands to build a direct connection with mainland Chinese consumers by shipping products in advance.

In 2016, Tmall Global introduced business procurement centres to facilitate direct engagement and collaboration with overseas suppliers. Two years later, Tmall Global underwent a substantial onboarding transformation, shifting from an invitation-only model to an application-based approach. This strategic change aimed to enhance convenience, enabling a broader spectrum of overseas brands to establish their presence on Tmall.

The groundbreaking Tmall Overseas Fulfilment (TOF) platform, a direct-mail-based model, was introduced in 2019. This innovation allowed millions of overseas products to be listed simultaneously in mainland China and sent to consumers there in just seven days with a single click.

Facing the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, Tmall Global responded by bringing in a “bonded factory” model in 2020. This involved moving the final processing stages of overseas products to a factory in mainland China, leading to a more streamlined supply chain. This demonstrated Tmall Global’s adaptability and resilience during unprecedented global disruptions.

The year of 2022 marked a crucial organisational upgrade for Tmall Global. The company integrated three of its business units: the third-party, Tmall Global platform handling its cross-border flagship online business; the self-operated retail one-party, Tmall direct import business; and its direct-mail-based TOF business. This integration aimed to enhance supply chain efficiency and elevate customer service.

A bonded factory model enables global brands and suppliers to ship products to mainland China prior to completing import processing, facilitating faster supply chains.

End-to-end support: from sourcing to digital operations

Tmall Global’s fast track into China platform covers the entire journey of a brand’s entry into the country, encompassing sourcing, supply chain, logistics, warehousing and digital operations. With a global presence of six procurement centres, support for 14 currencies, more than 100 overseas warehouses and 500 international transport routes, Tmall Global ensures a seamless supply chain service for merchants. It also provides multiple solutions to help overseas brands at different stages of development access Alibaba Group’s vast user base via various digital operation options. Tmall Global leverages its understanding of consumer behaviour and category performance, coupled with brand expertise in innovation, to accelerate a brand’s incubation period.

Success stories: a glimpse into Tmall Global’s impact

Spanish skincare brand 180 Concept surpassed 11 million yuan (US$1.53 million) in gross merchandise value transactions within a year of using Tmall Global’s platform. Nutrafol, a professional hair wellness brand from the United States, sustained consecutive monthly sales hits. And Ambie, a headphone brand from Japan, exceeded sales in its home country within a year of entering the market in mainland China through Tmall Global. These success stories underscore Tmall Global’s impact in propelling global brands to new heights within the thriving Chinese consumer landscape.

Navigating a new era: growing the consumer market

Within a decade, Tmall Global has grown from zero to become mainland China’s leading cross-border e-commerce platform. Despite the impact of Covid-19, Tmall Global’s success reflects the resilience and vibrancy of mainland China’s consumer market. The nation’s cross-border e-commerce import market is estimated at 548 billion yuan for 2023, highlighting the continued appetite for quality imported goods. Following the pandemic, the market witnessed a surge in healthy lifestyle choices, fuelling demand for specialised functionalities in imported goods. Platform data analysis revealed triple-digit growth in sectors such as healthcare, sports, outdoor activities and personal care.

A live streamer sells goods in a warehouse of Tmall Global. The e-commerce platform is turning to disruptive marketing strategies to continue to engage consumers.

Looking ahead and recognising the opportunities from emerging consumer needs, the challenge resides in effective alignment between expanding supply and diverse consumer demands. The solution lies in two critical areas: content and technology.

Disruptive innovations of content such as short videos and live streaming have reshaped how consumers make decisions. Tmall Global will intensify its engagement in these areas through ongoing investments in building a robust content ecosystem, including social media seeding, overseas influencer networks and offline experience centres. The ultimate goal is to transform Tmall Global from an e-commerce “shelf” into a global lifestyle “guidebook”.

Simultaneously, technology-driven initiatives will be the core focus for Tmall Global. Artificial intelligence (AI) solutions are rapidly being adapted to enhance efficiency. Examples include using AI models for generating detailed product pages, implementing smart pricing, and effectively managing a large number of stock-keeping units with lower costs.

Over the last decade, Tmall Global has grown alongside international brands in China. Today, amid global economic uncertainties, the company persists in creating new business opportunities for merchants through openness and innovation. Tmall Global remains committed to navigating uncertainties, charting new paths and sustaining a focus on mutual growth within a shared global landscape.

Tmall Global is a commercial initiative of Alibaba Group Holding, which owns the South China Morning Post.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the sponsor and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of South China Morning Post Publishers Limited. Any content provided by our sponsors is of their opinion, and is not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organisation, company, individual or anyone or anything.

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