Tmall Global leads as the most popular marketing for cross-border shopping in China
Western brands are recommended to build their official presence on marketplaces and social channels in China to gain shoppers’ trust
Media OutReach – 22 June 2022 – Global ecommerce accelerator
Pattern has polled 1,000 Chinese shoppers who shopped on the largest cross-border marketplace Tmall Global in the past 12 months. The polling is set to understand these cross-border shoppers’ online buyer behaviour, and how their buying decisions for Western brands and products were influenced in different stages throughout the buyer’s journey. The findings are included in Pattern’s
China Cross-border Shopper Report 2022.
Overall, 67% of respondents said they would spend more online shopping in the next 12 months. This polling was conducted at a time when parts of China faced lockdowns to curb the COVID-19 outbreak in the country. The result shows that China’s cross-border shoppers have proved remarkably resilient and are generally optimistic about their life in future. 73% of our respondents are considered higher income groups (annual household income around US$45,000 or above), and 92% of them live in China’s Tier 1 and new Tier 1 cities; such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chengdu and Hangzhou.
The research shows that Tmall Global was approved by 85% of respondents as their favourite cross-border buying channel, and led other online marketplaces, shopping agents and foreign brands’ direct-to-customer websites in all the 12 product categories we surveyed. Supplemented by its diverse on-platform marketing tools, Tmall Global is recommended as a good starting point for Western brands to test the water of their products in the Chinese market.
Other key findings reported in the report include:
Brands’ official presence is trusted – A majority of respondents said Western brands gained their trust from information on the brands’ storefronts on marketplaces (70% of the respondents) and the storefronts’ score, like the DSC score on Tmall (69%). We also observed that most shoppers searched reviews of Western products on brands’ official accounts on social media (74%) and storefronts (70%), and 59% of them did this on brands’ websites.
Shoppers want more than price – When buying from Tmall Global, 69% of the respondents gave priority to guaranteed authenticity, followed by better product quality (63%), better customer services (57%), and better prices than elsewhere (50%). Regarding their reasons to buy Western goods or from Western brands, the top choice is product quality (60%), closely followed by a sense of uniqueness and a match of their style or values (both 59%), and then value for money (57%). These results show that China’s cross-border shoppers have more considerations in mind than product price when deciding to buy.
Social channels are influential – Off-platform marketing has been an indispensable part of brands’ ecommerce strategy in China, particularly for cross-border ecommerce players. Douyin (a.k.a TikTok), Xiaohongshu (a.k.a. Little Red Book) and WeChat top in this polling, with 55% to 61% of respondents agreeing that their buying decisions were influenced by these channels. Their large user bases make these channels optimal for social selling and building brand awareness, but they also differ in functionality for marketing that brands should be aware of. And even with the right tools, brands should provide localised, relevant, and more targeted content to resonate with their audiences.
Pattern’s Asia General Manager Arthur Cheung adds: “China has a huge market that most consumer brands across the globe don’t want to overlook. However, the country has developed an ecommerce ecosystem significantly different from the west, for example, the high integration of off-platform marketing into ecommerce. To win in the Chinese market, Western brands need to work out their unique proposition, find the right selling platforms and marketing channels, and deliver localised and resonating content to engage with Chinese cross-border shoppers.”
A full copy of the research can be downloaded from