How to Combat Counterfeiters on Chinese Marketplaces

Portfolio Marketing Manager

Establishing your brand in an effort to combat counterfeiters on the ever growing and incredibly popular Chinese marketplace Alibaba can seem like a daunting task.  Alibaba has grown so popular that it now ships over 12 million packages a day, compared the 3 million shipped by Amazon.  Additionally, on Cyber Monday, a popular day for online shopping during the holiday season, Amazon processed 37 million orders. In comparison on Singles Day, an annual holiday in China, Alibaba processed 278 million orders.

Adding to the challenge is the variety of selling channels that live under the Alibaba umbrella, including Aliexpress, Taobao and Tmall.  It's important to understand the differences between each platform:

Alibaba:

Alibaba is the parent company of Tmall, Aliexpress and Taobao. Alibaba.com sells hundreds of millions of products in over 40 different major categories, including consumer electronics, machinery and apparel. Buyers for these products are located in 190+ countries and regions, and exchange hundreds of thousands of messages with suppliers on the platform each day.

Tmall:

Tmall is a Business-to-Consumer (B2C) marketplace originally introduced in 2008 as Taobao Mall.  It was rebranded in 2010 as Tmall to help differentiate itself from Taobao.  Tmall helps authorized distributors and brand owners establish an online presence for their products.

  • Tmall is a Chinese language website that targets consumers in China. It is difficult for customers outside the region to purchase goods
  • Every store must pay a deposit of at least $45,000 a year – a financial hurdle that helps prevent potential bad actors
  • Each Tmall store is assigned a specialist to help resolve difficulties with counterfeit goods
  • Since Tmall is specifically designed for authentic sellers and distributors, the likelihood of encountering counterfeit product is much lower than on Taobao.
  • According to Alibaba, Tmall stores that carry counterfeit goods will be closed
  • Tmall allows brands to distribute legitimate product directly to the consumers who want to buy authentic goods.
  • Customers trust that by buying from Tmall, they will purchase legitimate product, making it a great opportunity to reach buyers in a challenging market.
  • Having a Tmall store will make sure your products are shown on the first page when customers use certain keyword searches.

Aliexpress:

Aliexpress was established in 2010 as a Business-to-Business (B2B) marketplace made up of smaller businesses looking to sell internationally. It is available in European as well as Chinese language versions. Here are a few things to consider when evaluating Aliexpress

  • Aliexpress is used by consumers who are not located in the region but want to purchase from Alibaba. For example, Aliexpress is the most visited e-commerce site in Russia, one of the larger online consumer markets in the world.
  • However, with the cost of joining Tmall deterring some counterfeiters, the likelihood of finding counterfeit product increases on Aliexpress
  • Since Aliexpress is a B2B marketplace, it is a great channel for manufacturers and large deals with long-term partners can result.
  • Because of the threat of counterfeit products, Aliexpress offers safeguards for consumers, including full refunds if a customer does not receive an order and up to two times the amount paid (minus shipping) if the item turns out to be counterfeit.
  • From a Brand Protection perspective, it is extremely important to have coverage on Aliexpress as there are counterfeit products that consumers can locate.

Taobao:

Taobao is a Chinese language Consumer-to-Consumer (C2C) marketplace launched in 2010.  It provides small businesses and individuals the ability to open an online store targeted at Chinese speaking regions.  Taobao ranks 12th  in the globe in traffic and 3rd overall in China.  Taobao also derives 96% of its traffic from China. With Taobao’s focus on C2C it’s important to consider the following:

  • The trust in Taobao is very low when compared with Tmall. Chinese consumers know that Taobao is a wide open marketplace with individuals able to buy and sell whatever items they wish; this often includes counterfeit products.
  • Tmall was created to help regain consumer confidence in buying legitimate product, as well as establish a means to reach and sell to customers looking for an authentic experience. This contrasts to the atmosphere on Taobao.
  • All this means that monitoring and enforcing on Taobao is critical to your overall Brand Protection strategy.

Developing a good understanding of the nuances and purpose of each of these three marketplaces helps make sure that brands are making the most informed decision when deciding to sell on Alibaba.

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Alison Simpson
With more than 13 years’ experience in the domain industry, Alison has managed all aspects of Corporate Domain Managem... More