16 January 2017

Tmall Global report highlights what interested Chinese consumers in 2016

Tmall Global and CBNData (第一财经商业数据中心) have published the Annual Report on Tmall Global Data 2016, with insights on China’s import consumption. Tmall Global allows businesses outside of China to reach Chinese consumers while fulfilling the orders outside of the country. The data shows the robust nature of e-commerce in the country, the increasing customer base and product interest, as well as specific trends for the year driven by macro and micro events.

Highlights of the report include:
  • Cross-border e-commerce has entered a new stage of development thanks to favourable policies announced by the Chinese government and global trade organisations. 
  • The online sales value of imported goods maintained a growth rate of more than 30% in 2016, while online penetration of China’s total domestic import consumption continued to rise. This included a wider range of product categories becoming available, and a shift in consumer behaviour from price-conscious to more quality-aware.

In 2016 Tmall Global nearly doubled the number of categories of goods on its platform to more than 3,700. These goods were from 63 countries and regions worldwide. Tmall Global helped more than 14,500 foreign brands to reach customers, of which more than 80% were making their debut in China on the platform.

Beauty products were the most popular category, followed by food and mother & baby products. The largest spend on Tmall Global came from Shanghai, Beijing, Hangzhou, Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

The top five countries (and favourite product categories) selling cross-border to China in 2016 on Tmall Global are:


~ Beauty products and serums
~ Diapers, strollers and baby products
~ Personal care products


~ Health foods and supplements
~ Baby formula and snacks
~ Bags and luggage


~ Beauty products and serums
~ Cosmetics and perfume
~ Women’s apparel


~ Milk powder, dietary supplements and snacks
~ Kitchenware
~ Health and nutrition supplements


~ Health and nutrition supplements
~ Milk powder, dietary supplements and snacks
~ Coffee, oatmeal and instant beverages

There was a notable increase in the number of young buyers, defined as those born after 1988. This segment accounted for more than 50% of the customers added in the year, showing a healthy future for purchasing power.

Tmall Global users are increasingly from lower-tier cities as well. Over 31% of new customers in 2016 were from third and fourth-tier cities in China, compared to about 24% in the existing customer base. This reflects the growing market reach of Tmall Global, as well as a rising living standard in the less developed cities.

The report showed that a change in personal or family circumstances, the aspiration to experience new things and quality consciousness were the three driving factors behind the booming import consumption. The majority of customers being driven by these trends were new parents, those born after 1990 and people who previously had bought from overseas online platforms.

Interestingly, the report also revealed some unexpected boosts in the sales of some very specific categories. The vote for Brexit and subsequent drop in the value of the British pound brought about a spike in sale of products from the UK, while the screening of a popular Korean TV drama drove the sales of a particular shade of YSL lipstick* that the lead actress wore. A deterioration in air quality boosted the sales of air purifiers.


Read the report (Chinese)

*The K-drama My Love From Another Star featured Jeonn Ji Hyun playing Song Yi, wearing YSL Rouge Pur Couture in Rosy Coral. The shade reportedly sold out around the world.