Close this search box.

Top Reasons Brands Fail on Tmall & How to Succeed in China

Published on: May 22, 2024

Why Global Brands Fail on Tmall & How to Succeed in China

So, you’ve thrown your hat into the ring of China’s vast online marketplace, Tmall, thinking your health and beauty products would fly off the virtual shelves faster than an Aston Martin V8. But instead, your sales are as flat as a pancake. What’s going on?

Here’s the harsh truth: if you’re a global brand in the health and wellness or beauty sector and you’re floundering on Tmall, you’re doing something wrong. Very wrong.

Before you start blaming the economy or the planets being misaligned, let’s unpack why your Tmall strategy might be missing the mark. Spoiler alert: the issue isn’t the market or the platform — it’s you. Your approach needs a serious overhaul.

But don’t worry, there’s a silver lining. Let’s dive into the common mistakes and see how we can get you back on track.


Understanding Tmall, the E-commerce Giant

First off, let’s talk about Tmall.

This is Alibaba’s pride and joy, a colossal e-commerce platform that’s a must for any brand wanting to make a splash in China. Tmall is the go-to platform for millions of Chinese consumers hungry for health and beauty products. It’s like a shopping mall on steroids, offering everything from global luxury brands to local favourites. Then there is Tmall Global, its sibling, which lets global brands sell their products without the need for a local Chinese business license.

Yet, despite its enormous potential, many global brands still find themselves sinking.  The reason? A classic case of not knowing the rules of the game they’ve entered. To strike gold in China, nailing the product-market fit is non-negotiable.

For global health and beauty brands, Tmall is the Shangri-La of e-commerce. Get it right, and you’re laughing all the way to the bank. Fumble, and you blend into the vast digital abyss as just another indistinct entity.

Consider the triumphs of brands like Nike, New Roots Herbal, and iS Clinical — they’ve got it down pat. Their roaring success isn’t just luck. It’s a masterclass in playing the Tmall cards right.

Why Global Brands Fail on Tmall & How to Succeed in China - tmall storefront
Tmall storefronts

Importance of Chinese Market Understanding

Chinese consumers are a discerning bunch. You can’t just parachute in with your standard fare and expect a warm welcome. They demand products that cater to their unique tastes, preferences, and cultural nuances. If you’re not tailoring your offerings to these tastes, then you’re about as useful as a bulletproof tea towel.

Localising for China is key. You can’t just translate your marketing materials and call it a day. The Chinese market demands content that feels homegrown. Colours, symbols, even your choice of words — it all matters. If your marketing reeks of foreignness, it’s doomed to sink.

Then there are the promotional tactics, or lack thereof. Ever heard of Singles’ Day? It makes Black Friday look like a quaint little yard sale. Not capitalising on China’s colossal shopping festivals is like throwing money out the window.

China's E-commerce Calendar 2024: Key Festivals & Holidays - Singles' Day
Singles' Day Promotional Campaigns on Tmall

And never underestimate the sway of influencers in China.

A smart partnership can shoot your brand into the stars, but a misjudged collaboration can crash it back to earth. Remember the fallout from Li Jiaqi livestream scandal in late 2023? Florasis — an upstart cosmetics brand closely linked to Li — saw its sales plummet across multiple channels after his insensitive and out-of-touch comments during the livestream. It’s a delicate dance, and many brands stumble.

Lastly, competition. It’s fierce.

Local brands know their audience inside out and can pivot on a dime. Marching in assuming your international clout will win over hearts is a surefire way to end up eating their dust. Underestimate them at your peril.

The Pitfalls of Poor Strategy & Logistics

Although there are many ways things can go wrong, the cardinal sin is allowing decision-makers outside of China to dictate your business and strategy within China. Without firsthand experience in managing operations on Tmall, achieving anything but mediocre results is a fantasy.

Getting your strategy and structure right is crucial before you even think about entering China. Proper preparation is your best defence against future headaches.

Take pricing, for instance. It’s not as simple as sticking on a tag and calling it a day. Price too high, and you’re seen as out of touch. Too low, and you scream low quality. It’s a delicate balance that many international brands fail to achieve. While Chinese digital consumers do love a bargain, excessive discounting without a solid pricing and branding strategy can severely erode your brand’s value and stature.

China Discounting Dilemma: Balancing Brand Value & Revenue Growth
Since 2021, H&M’s market share in China has plummeted due to poor brand communication, delayed digital commerce investments, and excessive discounts.

Logistics and distribution are another battlefield.

Delays, returns, and complaints can tarnish your brand’s image quicker than you can say “refund.” Imagine ordering a product, only to have it arrive a month late or damaged. That’s the reality for many customers in China dealing with poorly managed international brands. Mess up your logistics, and you’re effectively out of the race before it even begins.

Chinese customers expect instant gratification — same-day delivery, direct interactions with brands, and flawless customer service from point of purchase to delivery. Anything less is a surefire way to earn a bad reputation. More importantly, your customer service must be prompt and available 24/7. A mere 15-second delay can send your potential customers to your competitors.

But the ultimate strategic blunder? Over-relying on third-party distributors

This often turns into a costly game of telephone: your brand’s message gets diluted, your market response time drags, and you find yourself disconnected from your own venture. Moreover, granting exclusives to distributors without safeguard clauses can lead to losing control over your product.

WPIC as Your Tmall Overhaul Partner

And this is where WPIC Marketing + Technologies steps into the spotlight — an award-winning Tmall partner equipped with full-service solutions to help reverse your fortunes. Think of us as your pit crew, ready to get your racing car back on the track in record time.

WPIC wins award at the 2023 Tmall Global New Seller Summit
We were awarded the title of ‘Tmall Global’s Supernova Recruitment Partner of 2023’ at the annual Alibaba’s Tmall Global New Seller Summit.

First off, market research. At WPIC, we’re not just about data — we’re about the right data. We dive deep into consumer behaviour to offer you actionable insights that are bang on target. No throwing darts in the dark — our strategies are precision-guided by solid analytics.

Next, localised digital marketing. We don’t just translate; we transform your content to resonate with the local audience. Your brand will speak the language of Chinese consumers, both literally and culturally. We’re about forging connections, not just broadcasting messages.

Viral promotional tactics? Consider it handled. 

Take Versa Gripps, for instance. We helped them team up with Chinese UFC fighters before UFC 300. Our post on Douyin (Chinese TikTok) garnered over 3 million views and 25,000 comments in just a few days.

WPIC ensures you leverage every key events in the Chinese e-commerce calendar and partner with influencers who align with your brand values. From Qixi Festival to Singles’ Day, we’ve got your back.

WPIC's warehousing facilities, encompassing 180,000 sq ft. of Free Trade Zone (FTZ) and domestic storage space.

And let’s not forget logistics and distribution.

WPIC streamlines your entire supply chain, managing delays and returns with the expertise only years in the field can offer. We keep your brand message clear and your response times lightning-fast, ensuring a seamless experience from the first click to the final delivery.

Ready for a turnaround?

WPIC offer more than just solutions. We offer customised strategies designed to meet your unique challenges and objectives. Think of us as your personal navigator through the complex maze of Tmall and Chinese e-commerce. We don’t just point you in the right direction; we walk alongside you every step of the way.

Reach out to us today and and let’s start this journey together.

Get content like this in your inbox.

More trending articles

Award - Tmall 5 Star Partner
Award - Tmall Global 2021 TP100 Silver
Award - CCBC 2022 Gold