Looking to start on one of China’s largest online marketplaces with your cross-border eCommerce business? Then you probably are willing to spend and invest some capital in your new venture. TMO Group has experience with helping external parties get started. Want to know more about online marketplace fees? Then keep on reading!
**This article has been updated for 2020**
Of course your China cross-border eCommerce strategy should not only focus on fees and budgets. The first thing to consider is of course which marketplace is the right one. Largely, the market can be divided into: shop fronts on online malls, hypermarkets, vertical specialty marketplaces, and flash sale websites.
Although all of these channels allow you to sell your products in China without the necessity to obtain a Chinese business license, the success of your company is dependent on numerous factors. We have another article coming up that further delves into a few different marketplaces.
Another part of your strategy is the way to handle different sales channels to your advantage. We can broadly define two business development strategies.
- Fast Growth Strategy (high costs, higher growth)
- Organic Growth Strategy (lower costs, slower growth)
Eventually the aim is to develop an omni-channel sales strategy where you sell products both off- and online. Omni-channel eCommerce software solutions allow for the creation of a connection between existing information systems and a unified eCommerce platform.
Want to know more about sales channels and entry strategies? Then take a look at some of our other China eCommerce articles. We have covered market entry in 2020, as well as how to get started on Tmall and its rival JD.com. Also, it may be worth your while to check out our in-depth China eCommerce Market Guide, or the free Starter version.
Online Marketplace Fees
Below, we look at setup fees for 4 of the most popular Chinese online marketplaces: Tmall, Tmall Global, JD.com and Kaola.
Establishing a presence on Tmall in principle incurs 3 types of fees: deposit, annual software service fee, and a commission.
Merchants who operate a store on Tmall must pay a deposit. The deposit is mainly used to ensure that merchants operate in accordance with the Tmall Service Agreement and Tmall rules. Furthermore, Tmall and the customer will be reimbursed accordingly for any rules violations in accordance with the aforementioned agreement and relevant rules.
Deposits tend to fall into three price points: 50,000, 100,000, 150,000 RMB. However, some specific categories can be as high as 300,000 (e.g. health and medicine), and others as low as 10,000 RMB (e.g. sports and fitness).
Full details on the different deposits charged for different stores: 2020 Tmall Store Operation Deposit Standards (in Chinese)
2. Annual Software Service Fee
When you open a store, you must directly pay an annual fee for operating on Tmall. Its amount is based on the highest fee tier in the category you are operating within. When the fee is incurred, a standardized discount will be calculated based on the largest category’s sales turnover during the relevant months.
This fee is generally either 30,000 or 60,000 RMB. For specific products, however, the costs can be much higher – going as high as 1.2 million RMB in the case of some sub-categories of new or used car stores.
3. Software Service Fee (Commission)
Some categories of merchant on Tmall need to pay a software service fee (referred to as “rate”) according to a certain percentage of their sales (excluding shipping costs). This fee is typically either charged at 2% and 5%. However, for some edge cases this can vary between 0.5% to 10%.
Details on the annual software service fee and the commission fee can be found here: 2020 Tmall Annual Software Service Fee List (in Chinese)
Costs for entering Tmall Mall include the same kind of fees as Tmall: deposit, annual technical service fee and real-time deducted technical service fee (commission).
1. Security Deposit
To operate on Tmall Global, paying a deposit is mandatory. Again, this is mainly to ensure you adhere to Tmall Global’s rules. Additionally, you will have to reimburse customers and Tmall Global if any violations occur.
The default security deposit is 150,000 RMB. Galaxy Franchise Store owners receive a discount and only need to pay a security deposit of 50,000 RMB, while merchants selling products in two or more countries must pay a higher fee of 300,000 RMB. Additionally, stores operating in some specific categories must pay a different, specific amount for their security deposit (e.g. 800,000 RMB for those selling bird’s nest health supplements).
2. Annual Technical Service Fee
Similar to Tmall, merchants must also pay an annual fee for operating on Tmall Global. There are two tiers: 30,000 and 60,000 RMB. The annual amount is based on ‘premium’ categories, which can be checked at the link below.
3. Real-time Technical Service Fee (Commission)
Merchants in Tmall Global need to pay a technical service fee according to a certain percentage of their sales (referred to as “rate”). Mostly concentrated in two tiers, 2% and 5%, some specific categories have their own rates, going as low as 0.5%, but none higher than 5%.
Check Tmall Global’s various security deposit requirements, annual technical service fees, and technical service fee rates in the 2020 Tmall Global Fee Standards Overview (in English and Chinese).
Fees for entering Jingdong’s platform JD.com include deposits, platform usage fees (monthly) and technical service fees (commissions). Among these, the deposit and platform usage fees have clearly stated amounts. The technical service fees are charged in the form of rates. Read on further below to see the specific levy standards.
Generally, you will need to pay a deposit of 30,000 or 50,000 RMB. However, some categories require a larger deposit, such as 100,000 for some luxury products, wine, milk powder, etc.
2. Platform Usage Fee (Monthly)
This is a fixed rate of 1,000 RMB per month. A few categories charge a discounted rate of 500 or even charge no platform usage fee at all, such as ticket services and hotel reservations.
3. Technical Service Fee (Commission)
Differences in commission fees on JD.com are quite obvious. The fee is generally around 5-8% but can go as low as 2% or as high as 10%, depending on the store category. There are also specific exemptions. To learn more about these, check the specific categories at the link below.
Full details: 2020 JD.com POP Fee Standards Overview (in Chinese)
Please be aware that the technical service fee is incurred for 2 of the different models on JD.com’s POP (POP standing for Plan of Open Platform, and here referring to JD.com itself). This includes the SOP (Sales on POP) and FBP (Fulfilment by POP) models. The SOP fee is equal to or greater than the FBP. Below we briefly outline the differences between these 2 models.
SOP: JD.com gives the merchant an independent backend (control over product uploads, descriptions, prices etc.), similar to the Taobao model. Sellers must dispatch products within 12 hours of order generation. The merchant holds sole responsibility for this part of the service. Merchants do not need to issue a VAT invoice to JD.com, but they need to give each customer a receipt.
FBP: this model also includes an independent backend with control over your store. Merchants in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu and Wuhan, can additionally make use of JD.com’s own warehousing services. JD.com can handle everything from storage to customer service. Services that are supported for JD.com’s own self-operated store are available to merchants (such as same-day delivery (211限时达), personal pickup, cash on delivery, POS card payments etc.), which results in a very good customer experience. Merchants must have general tax payer qualifications and need to issue a VAT invoice to JD.com. (Note: not an ordinary invoice)
Jingdong Worldwide’s fees are higher than other platforms and use USD as a standard. Like its Chinese parent, the costs include a deposit, platform usage fee (monthly) and a technical service fee (commission). Jingdong’s latest fee policy is the 2017 version which they currently use in 2018.
Most merchants will fall into the 15,000 USD deposit tier. Any store that handles world-renowned luxury brands such as Chanel and Dior will need to pay a deposit of 30,000 USD instead. A few categories go as low as 10,000 USD, such as music, film and television.
2. Platform Usage Fee (Monthly)
This is 1,000 USD per month for all merchants.
3. Technical Service Fee (Commission)
Generally in the 2% to 5% range, though can go as low as 0.5% (for example, gold jewelry) and as high as 10% (for example, Chinese and Western medicine).
Full details: 2020 Jingdong Global POP Fee Standards List (in Chinese)
Kaola’s fee policy have been undergoing changes in recent years. This didn’t change after Alibaba purchased Kaola in 2019. At the moment, Kaola doesn’t publicize its marketplace fees through official channels. Based on our industry experience, for the most part there are three main fees that need paying: an initial deposit, a technical service fee (commission), and an annual membership fee.
This mostly varies between 10,000 and 100,000.
2. Technical Service Fee (Commission)
Commission tends to vary between 5% to 7%.
3. Annual Membership Fee
This may vary by product category, but the standard is reported to be around 1,000 USD a year.
More information on setting up your store on Kaola can be found by checking out the Investment Program on Kaola’s official website.
China Marketplace Store Setup
Did the information above make you want to open a store yourself? Are you looking to get the most out of your China cross-border eCommerce strategy? Want to branch out into a successful multi-channel strategy? TMO Group can help you with these things. We know advantages and benefits of China’s online marketplaces, so take a look at the platforms that we support or reach out to us for more information.