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Alibaba, Aliexpress, Taobao, Tmall? What are the differences?

Alibaba, Aliexpress and Taobao all belong to Alibaba Group, founded by Jack Ma. However, they present major differences which do not make them competitors, for instance:

  • Taobao and Tmall focus mostly on the Chinese domestic market (they are therefore available only in Chinese language), while Alibaba and Aliexpress target international customers buying mostly Chinese products from anywhere in the world (both are therefore available in English language).
  • Alibaba is a B2B platform aiming at wholesale or large-volume transactions between businesses; Aliexpress is a B2C platform where there is generally no requirement in terms of minimum order.
  • Payments on Alibaba and Aliexpress are generally easier (e.g. concluded through PayPal), while payments made on Taobao and Tmall are more complicated for users not based in China.
  • Sellers on Taobao and Tmall must be companies legally registered in China, while sellers on Alibaba and Alipay can be based in any country.
  • Tmall also has a dedicated section for international brands selling to China via CBEC (Tmall Global), which does not require sellers to be legally registered in China as they can freely open flagship stores on the platform.

If you sell imported goods via CBEC, the only option available is Tmall Global (although it is perfectly integrated and accessible from users from the Taobao and Tmall apps). Goods imported into China via general trade can also be sold on Taobao and Tmall, in addition to traditional channels such as offline stores.