I recently attended the House of Fraser partner engagement event at Wembley stadium, an event held once a year by the brand with the goal of bringing together stakeholders, partners and suppliers.
The focus for this year’s event was, for obvious reasons, China and the company’s expansion into this highly competitive market. One of the platforms discussed during the day was TMall, so I decided to do a bit of digging and find out more about this huge e-commerce platform.

TMall is a B2C e-commerce platform, an online shopping centre created by the Alibaba Group, the platform was launched in 2008 and was originally known as Taobao Mall. The website then re-launched in 2010 with a modest US$30M advertising campaign to raise brand awareness amongst consumers. In 2011, the Alibaba group suffered a major restructure and TMall became an official, independent business under the group.
Judging by what can be found online, it is evident that the company has not got off to a great start after suffered two waves of online uproar in 2011, caused by increased fees to online vendors with the intention of weeding out poor quality merchants and fake products.

The size and power of TMall is, however, undeniable. A few impressive stats: the platform features more than 70,000 international and Chinese brands and has more than 180 million buyers! In 2013 TMall owned 51.3% of the Chinese B2C online market and, according to Alexa Internet, TMall is the 6th most visited site in China.

So, why is TMall so successful, and why are brands such as Amazon, Apple and ASOS creating stores within someone else’s domain rather than their own?

The sheer size and power of this platform, in a highly complex market such as China, make it an extremely attractive piece of online retail estate. In addition, creating a store within TMall’s domain can offer the following:

  1. Immediate brand awareness is one of TMall’s key selling points. It was reported that 80% of Chinese shoppers will use TMall at some point during their consumer journey, either searching for or buying products through the website
  2. Guarantee of genuine products is, without a doubt, another massive selling point of this very clever business. TMall sellers have to pay a hefty deposit that they lose if they are caught selling counterfeit products online
  3. Guaranteed traffic from the moment you set up shop, supported by an average of 4.2M daily unique users, according to WebStats:
    – TMall is the only platform that allows you to sell products online in China without having a company in the country
  4. Joining TMall is relatively easy as the platform already exists and only requires a bit of customisation in order to set up your own store. The platform also offers a wide range of e-marketing solutions, from banner promotion to SEM and email marketing.

The Alibaba group, more recently, has gone public and is trading in the New York stock exchange, establishing itself as the biggest ecommerce company in the world. The company’s initial public offering broke the record as the world’s biggest at $25Billion, surpassing the previous global record set by the Agricultural Bank of China in 2010.

Tmall is not perfect by any means, and a lot has to be said about the company’s high fee policy and price focused strategy which puts a lot of luxury brands off. However, the sheer size of this platform that is attracting Western giants such as Amazon and Apple is definitely one to keep an eye on.