News is out that Alibaba are to launch Tmall in Europe, aiming to connect local brands to local sellers.
This would be a massive shift in focus for the marketplace – to date, Tmall has served the Chinese consumers with UK and European brands investing to sell in China. Alibaba has been the route to European consumers for Alibaba, but that has largely been for Chinese merchants to sell to UK and European consumers.
We’ve been waiting a couple of decades for Alibaba to seriously target the European audience, rather than concentrate on European brands selling to China or (generally low cost) Chinese brands selling to Europe. This is exciting news for brands and could rebalance the distribution of power in European marketplaces, taking away market share from the current incumbents.
So you will see something called Tmall which we have in China, become Tmall in Europe, which means we will serve local brands and local consumers in the local market– Michael Evans, president, Alibaba via CNBC
Tmall in Europe with local brands selling to European consumers will be a game changer, and Alibaba are already running a pilot project in Spain. Spain is also the testing ground for their new Miravia Marketplace. It’s no surprise that the big ecommerce markets (UK and Germany) weren’t the first choice for piloting these new marketplace platforms – Spain comes after the US and Brazil as one of the territories AliExpress has sells the most to.
Alibaba currently has a relatively small market share in Europe compared to Amazon and eBay, but a Tmall platform serving local consumers packed full of Western brands could change all that. The Chinese market is way ahead of the West in terms of everything European consumers are only just starting to adopt – chat shopping, entertainment shopping, live streaming… Alibaba are experts in all these fields and just need to tone down the presentation which appears unnecessarily gaudy and busy for Western tastes.
It will also be worth watching for other Alibaba business units setting up operations in Europe – particularly logistics as Fulfilment by Alibaba is the next logical step.
Building a conduit for Western brands to sell to Western consumers with Tmall in Europe also bypasses many of the new regulatory hurdles ecommerce is facing. Taxation (Sales Tax/VAT) and Eco taxes (EPR) are becoming increasingly burdensome, but if a German Brand sells to a German consumer or a UK brand sells to a UK consumer, most of the regulation vanishes and the B2C sale becomes routine.