Selling on Tmall
Number of registered users
One-off registration fee
Parcel tracking required?
Tmall, owned by Alibaba Group (NYSE:BABA), is the largest B2C online marketplace in China for domestic (Tmall.com) and international (Tmall Global) branded goods. More than 400 New Zealand brands are active through Tmall.com and Tmall Global.
Tmall is an open platform and provides both the infrastructure to host your storefront and access to hundreds of millions of shoppers. Don’t underestimate the resources required to set up, run and maintain a storefront on Tmall.com or Tmall Global. Both require substantial documentation in advance of setting up a store, and have comprehensive schedules of fees covering opening deposits, technology fees, logistics fees, commission on transactions and an Alipay service fee.
Expect to invest at least NZ$150,000 per annum, plus a one off set-up fee in your store. Your Tmall branding, artwork, photography, video content, promotions and product descriptions must be designed with your Chinese target audience in mind - repurposing existing collateral is not enough. You’ll also need to support your Tmall store with social campaigns, promotions and Chinese language customer support. Tmall recommends Chinese Alitalk customer service.
There are two ways to join Tmall’s platform:
- Companies with existing registered China in-country business operations can apply to Tmall.com. Trademarks must be registered in China. Find out more here.
- Companies with overseas licenses may be eligible to be invited to Tmall Global. Non-Chinese companies must use an authorised Tmall Partner (TP) to manage the invitation and day-to-day operation of the storefront. Trademarks must be registered in Hong Kong. Companies must have an Alipay compatible bank account. Once Tmall Global accepts an invitation, the onboarding process to store launch is four to eight weeks. Find out more here.
Shopping festivals are a key driver of online purchasing behaviour in China. Alibaba invented the 11.11 Singles Day festival, run through Tmall. In 2017, Singles Day was 18 times larger than Amazon Prime Day, generating US$25.3 billion in revenue. Ninety percent of payment transactions were mobile. Offshore companies that participate in 11.11 Singles Day are required to store their products in Alibaba's warehouses ahead of time, so customers receive their products as soon as possible after purchasing. Planning for 11:11 starts six months out in May each year.
Things to think about
- Trademark registrations or proof of licence to distribute brands in are prerequisites for launching a Tmall or Tmall Global store. Tmall requires registration in China, administered by the Trademark Office of China (CTMO) (in Chinese only). Trademarks in China are a 'first to file' system. Applications from non-Chinese nationals must be made through an accredited agent. You can do a preliminary trademark search yourself here, but there can be a delay of up to six months from filing to visibility in the database. A search by a trade mark attorney is recommended for accuracy. Be aware you may need to develop a separate brand for China. Tmall Global requires trademark registrations in Hong Kong, administered by the Intellectual Property Department. Registration steps are described here, and you can conduct an initial search yourself here. Comprehensive search by a trademark attorney is recommended.
- You must have an Alipay compatible bank account in advance of applying for your Tmall store.
- Goods will need to comply with all local health and certification procedures, which can be undertaken by specialist suppliers or a nominated partner.
- All food and drink products need to be fully compliant with Chinese Food and Drink Regulations and you will need to design and print a Chinese label to file for registration with the Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine for Food and Drink. Additionally, your first shipment will require a Sanitary Certificate upon entry, which can typically take 30 days. This is a legal requirement for you to be allowed to sell your product.
- Any branded products, such as beauty and cosmetics, must be checked to see if they require testing to obtain pre-market approval or notification from the China Food and Drug Administration (SFDA).
Free Trade Agreements and Customs
In a world first for any developed country, New Zealand entered into a free trade agreement with China in 2008. New Zealand is now the first developed country to launch an FTA upgrade with China. Read more on MFAT’s website.
To find out more about China’s Customs requirements, take a look through the English language website.
I want to find out about packaging and labelling for exportPackaging and labelling requirements can be very different from country to country, so get as much information as you can before making the decision to export.
Depending on where your products will be sold, you might need to use different materials or labels, and include different types of information. In some countries, you might have to translate all your packaging or labels into the local language – in others, applying a sticker with a few key details will do the job.
Make sure that you check out all of the requirements for packaging and labelling before tackling a new market, including anything that’s needed during transport or distribution.
You’ll find more details on the kind of things you need to think about in our guide to understanding international compliance requirements.
We suggest that you work with a customs broker or freight forwarder, or get advice from a lawyer in-market, to understand all the requirements for your product and the place where it’s headed. The Customs Broker and Freight Forwarder Federation (CBAFF) has a list of customs brokers and freight forwarders within New Zealand.
I want to find out about regulations and tariffs for exportRegulations and tariffs should be one of the first things you find out before exporting. They often determine whether a market will be easy or hard for you to export to, or whether you should try to do business there at all.
Understanding regulations in your export destination is a must-do. For an introduction to what you need to think about, see our guide on understanding international compliance requirements. This includes tips on how to research regulations, as well as insights on local regulations, standards, health and safety, and dealing with local bureaucracy.
It’s a good idea to take a look at the rest of the international compliance process while you’re doing your work on regulations – see more information in our guide to understanding international compliance requirements.
If you’re planning to export food or food-related products, you should also check out the food exporting page on the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) website. MPI maintains a list of Overseas Market Access Requirements (OMARs) for New Zealand food products in different export markets – search and identify OMARs for your product online.
Tariffs can make your products more expensive and less attractive to overseas buyers, so you need to know the charges your products will attract before you commit to a new market.
You can get a big head start in finding tariff information by using the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) tariff finder or the World Trade Organisation’s tariff download facility. You can search the databases by product name, but they work best when you know the approximate Harmonised System (HS) code for your product. HS codes are used by customs authorities around the world to identify products and apply tariffs. The longer the code is, the more precisely it describes your product. The first six digits of an HS code are usually the same worldwide – after that, there can be up to eight further digits, which often vary from country to country.
New Zealand Customs can help you to find out the first six digits of your HS codes – email VOC@customs.govt.nz.
To get a longer and more precise HS code for a particular market, look up and contact the local customs authority online, or talk to a customs broker or freight forwarder who has done business in that market.