That’s why cross-border e-commerce in China represents such a huge opportunity for international brands, offering access to the world’s most lucrative digital market.
But what are the best e-commerce platforms for international brands in China?
In this guide, we’ll answer that question by breaking down the top e-commerce websites in China and how businesses can start selling on them.
So, let’s get started — here’s our list of Chinese e-commerce websites that every international brand needs to know about.
Top e-commerce website in China: #1 Taobao
Owned by the Alibaba group, Taobao is the most popular e-commerce site in China. It’s the eighth-most visited website in the world, and was launched in May 2003.
Since then, it has gone on to become the go-to for Chinese consumers on the hunt for a wide range of products, hence the name — which translates to ‘search for treasure’ in English!
Further, Taobao is both B2C and C2C (like eBay), making it ideal for brands, small businesses, individual sellers and everything in between, hence it’s become the biggest Chinese marketplace.
Key Taobao statistics and facts
- The Taobao app reaches more than 755 million users
- Taobao has more than 670 million annual active consumers
- The website attracts 299 million daily active users
- In 2020, GMV on Taobao reached approximately 3.39 trillion yuan
Popular product categories on Taobao
Taobao is best for:
- Clothing & apparel
- Food & beverage products
- Smart technology
- Mom & baby products
- Health products & supplements
- Sports equipment
How international brands can get started on Taobao
To sell on Taobao, businesses need to be registered as a company in China. This requires a Chinese business license, office, and bank account — all of which can take around six months to put in place, and can be costly.
That said, setting up on Taobao is absolutely worthwhile, as it’s one of the top e-commerce websites in China. It’s also entirely fee-free, too, which is a major bonus for businesses watching their margins.
Top e-commerce website in China: #2 Tmall (and Tmall Global)
Launched in 2008, Tmall (originally Taobao Mall) is Taobao’s partner site for B2C online retail. It sells higher-end products than Taobao, and is easier to access for international brands, thanks to its Tmall Global initiative.
Specifically, Tmall Global is a cross-border marketplace that makes it possible for non-Chinese businesses to sell to Chinese consumers. Check out our guide to learn more about this platform, and why it’s the best Chinese website for online shopping for international brands.
Tmall also launched the Tmall Luxury Pavillion in 2017, which is the leading Chinese luxury e-commerce platform, selling over 180 premium brands.
Key Tmall statistics and facts
- In 2020, GMV on Tmall reached more than 3.2 trillion yuan
- Alibaba (including Tmall) has a 53.3% share of all e-commerce sales in China
- There are over 180,000 brands available on Tmall
- Tmall is among the top China shopping apps, attracting over 800 million users
- Between 2020-21, over 1000 international brands are expected to start selling on Tmall Global
Popular product categories on Tmall (and Tmall Global)
- Fashion and apparel products
- Baby & maternity products
- Cosmetics & skincare products
- Food & beverages
- Vitamins & supplements
- Household Products & furniture
How international brands can get started on Tmall (or Tmall Global)
We’ve covered this in detail here, but here’s a quick breakdown:
- First, you’ll need to apply to open a store on Tmall, which will require all business documentation. The good news is that you don’t have to be based in China to sell on Tmall Global, so you won’t need a Chinese business license or bank account.
- After you’ve been approved, you’ll then have to set-up your Tmall store, which will include confirming your China online shopping international shipping arrangements.
- From start to finish, the whole process can take around 90 days and will include an upfront deposit of between $8-25,000, an annual fee of $5-10,000, and ongoing commission fees of up to 5% per sale.
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Top e-commerce website in China: #3 JD.com
Next on our list of China online shopping sites is JD.com: Tmall’s closest competitor and the second-largest online B2C retailer in China.
Launched in 2008, JD.com is often referred to as China’s answer to Amazon, since it has its own logistics network and sells directly to consumers, unlike the Alibaba group.
Like Tmall, JD.com also has a platform for cross-border e-commerce, JD Worldwide, which connects international brands to Chinese consumers.
Key JD.com statistics and facts
- JD.com has a 24.4% market share of the Chinese e-commerce market
- JD.com annual customers grew 32% to 442 million 2020
- The JD Central app has been downloaded by 8 million users
- JD.com achieves an annual revenue of over $82 billion a year
Popular product categories on JD.com are:
- Electronics & home appliances
- Automotive parts
- Food & beverages
- Fashion & apparel
- Digital products
- Cosmetics & personal care products
For JD Worldwide specifically, beauty products, infant and mom products, and health supplements sell best.
How international brands can get started on JD.com
The best way for non-Chinese brands to sell on JD.com is via JD Worldwide.
To get started, you’ll need to:
- Contact a JD Worldwide Business Development Manager at email@example.com
- Provide the relevant documentation, outlined here
- Wait for approval, which will take between 2-4 weeks
- Pay the necessary fees (including a $15,000 deposit and $1,000 service fee)
- Set up your JD Worldwide store and start selling
Check out our guide to selling on JD Worldwide for a step-by-step breakdown of the application process.
Top e-commerce website in China: #4 XiaoHongshu
Launched in 2013, XiaoHongshu (or ‘Little Red Book’) is an innovative social commerce platform that taps into China’s e-commerce trends by putting user reviews and influencer endorsements at the forefront.
Put simply, the platform combines e-commerce with social media, encouraging its users to leave comments and reviews about ‘luxury goods’ (like make-up) sold in its RED Mall.
This model has proved hugely successful in China, where customer reviews and recommendations influence consumers more than in any other market in the world.
Key XiaoHongshu statistics and facts
- XiaoHongshu has around 300 million registered users, which has tripled since 2018
- In 2018, it achieved topline revenue of over $230 million
- 40% of XiaoHongshu users are under 24-years-old
- 79.2% of users are female
- 52% of users live in first-tier cities in mainland China
Popular product categories on XiaoHongshu are:
With a user-base dominated by young females, the most popular product category on XiaoHongshu is luxury goods. This includes:
- Make-up products
- Skincare products
- Fashion products
- Premium products
And, the most popular brands on XiaoHongshu include:
- Mac Cosmetics
How international brands can get started on XiaoHongshu
We’ve covered this in detail here, but overall, start-up steps include:
- Registering for an account on XiaoHongshu’s enterprise system
- Providing all company details, including financial information
- Signing a merchant contract, after the approval process
- Paying all necessary fees, including a deposit of around $3,000
- Completing your XiaoHongshu training
- Opening your store and importing products
You’ll also need to open a brand account to engage with users and to promote your products with in-feed content. Check out our guide on XiaoHongshu for more details.
Top e-commerce website in China: #5 VIP.com
Originally launched in 2008 as Vipshop, VIP.com has become China’s fifth-largest B2C e-commerce site. The website is the world’s biggest online discount retailer and offers great deals on luxury goods and high-end brands.
Much like Tmall and JD.com, VIP’s partner site VIP International (launched in 2014) connects Chinese consumers to international products — offering a direct route to market for overseas businesses.
Sell luxury products with a healthy margin? VIP could be the best China online shopping store for your brand.
Key VIP.com statistics and facts
- VIP.com was China’s first profitable e-commerce site
- In 2020, active daily customers increased by 36% to 43.4 million
- VIP.com has more than 320 million customers
- 80% of VIP.com purchases are by women
- VIP.com works with more than 13,000 brands
And, popular product categories on VIP.com are:
- Beauty products
- Skincare products
- Fashion products
- Nutrition & health products
- Mom & infant products
How international brands can get started on VIP.com
There is no direct application process to become a merchant on VIP.com. Instead, the platform usually contacts the brands it wants to work with.
That said, brands are encouraged to email firstname.lastname@example.org to express an interest in selling on the site. In the email, you should including the following information:
- Your company name
- Your position
- Company description
- Company website
- Product category
Finally, to sell on VIP.com, brands need to be widely recognized and in-demand.
Top e-commerce website in China: #6 Pinduoduo
Pinduoduo (which translates to ‘together, more savings, more fun’) is China’s fastest-growing e-commerce company with a twist.
Differing from its competitors, the Pinduoduo business model is based on ‘team buying’, where users can invite their friends to build a ‘shopping team’ to get a better price on a product. The bigger the shopping team, the lower price.
Moreover, Users can earn discounts (and even free products) by playing games and entering competitions on the platform.
In fact, this innovative and unique e-commerce model has made Pinduoduo one of the top e-commerce websites in China, thanks to viral success on Chinese social media.
Key Pinduoduo statistics and facts
- As of 2020, Pinduoduo has 643.4 million monthly active users
- In 2020, the platform’s revenue reached $2.1 billion
- 65% of all users are from third and lower-tier cities in China
- 70% of Pinduoduo users are female
- In 2020, Pinduoduo set the record for 100 million orders in a single day
- 5.1 million merchants sell on the platform
- Most customers are between 25-40 years old
And, popular product categories on Pinduoduo are:
- Fresh produce
- Household items
Pinduoduo is China’s largest online agricultural retailer, generating almost $20 billion of sales in the industry a year.
How international brands can get started on Pinduoduo
Setting up as a merchant on Pinduoduo is a relatively simple process.
First, you’ll need to:
- Register for a seller account
- Choose your store type
- Provide all business and financial information
- Sign a merchant agreement
- Pay a deposit between $1500-7600, depending on your industry
Next, you’ll have to raise your profile in China if you want to generate sales on Pinduoduo. That’s because the platform works best for brands that have a social media presence in China, as it promotes social and ‘viral’ buying.
To raise your profile in China, you should:
- Launch a Chinese version of your website
- Sign up for all social media channels
- Invest in online Chinese advertising
Click on the above links to learn more about increasing brand awareness in China.
Top e-commerce website in China: #7 Kaola
Alibaba-backed Kaola is the No.1 cross-border e-commerce platform in China. With warehouses across the globe, it offers arguably the easiest and most lucrative route to market for international brands looking to sell in China.
Key Kaola statistics and facts
- Kaola has a 27.1% market share of cross-border e-commerce in China
- Kaola has around 30 million users and is growing rapidly
- 80% of users are female, and more than 80% are 19-35 years old
- Kaola plans to procure $3 billion worth of goods from Europe, Japan and America
Next, the popular product categories on Kaola:
- Health & wellness
- Food & snacks
- Mom & baby
- Beauty cosmetics
- Personal care
- Sports & outdoors
Also, popular brands on Kaola include:
How international brands can get started on Kaola
To sell on Kaola, visit the company’s merchant website and fill out the form in the ‘global partner’ section. You can be a B2B supplier (selling directly to Kaola), set up your own shop-front on Kaola.com, or opt for a mixed set-up.
Additionally, there are a number of fees involved when selling on Kaola:
- A deposit of between $10-15,000, depending on your industry
- Commission fees between 2-10%, depending on your product types
- A yearly membership fee of $1000
Top e-commerce website in China: #8 Suning
Founded in 1990, Suning began as a brick-and-mortar electronics and home appliance store. Since then, it has gone on to become one of the top e-commerce websites in China. The website sells a wide range of products and retaining its reputation as an electronics retailer.
However, for international brands, Suning Global offers a direct route to Chinese consumers through its cross-border e-commerce model and integrated logistics network.
Key Suning statistics and facts
- Suning.com has around 407 million users
- In 2018, Suning generated over $35 million in sales
- Suning Global has approximately 300 foreign storefronts
- Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba owns 19.99% of Suning.com
Also, popular product categories on Suning are:
Overall, the most popular products on Suning are electrical appliances and maternity products.
That said, the following product categories are also successful:
- Personal care
How international brands can get started on Suning
Suning offers two merchant models for international brands:
- Entry model, where brands can sell to consumers directly on Suning.com
- Procurement model, where Suning will buy products from overseas brands
In either model, businesses must contact Suning directly to open an enterprise account and sign the necessary contracts. Also, they must pay a deposit of $1000 and a $5-10,000 service fee.
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