eCommerce has become a normal part of life almost everywhere on the globe. Its average penetration (share of sales made online) in 2021 was about 20% worldwide, and it is expected to slowly but steadily grow by 1 percentage point annually.
This information is a great backdrop to show where China is: in the middle kingdom the share of eCommerce has reached 46% – a whole 10 percentage point ahead of the nearest runner up (which happens to be the United Kingdom).
By far most of the Chinese eCommerce transactions, about 80%, are happening in eCommerce marketplaces: platforms that provide merchants with simple tools to create and manage their shops and customers – with convenient and safe shopping experience. In this article we will have a look at this fascinating landscape and list the top 15 Chinese eCommerce websites. Most of the websites in this list are marketplaces, with a few examples of brand eCommerce websites. We’ll look at the history and unique features of all of them.
Note about the data: in this article we used Alexa Rating to benchmark these platforms. Unfortunately, Alexa Ranking is not the best tool when it comes to in-China performance, besides, Alexa discontinues its service in 2022. So in addition, we used SImilarWeb data: while absolute numbers have to be taken with a grain of salt, relative size should be quite accurate. One thing to keep in mind is that Similar Web only measures website performance, traffic from apps and mini programs is not accounted for.
1. Taobao (淘宝)
Estimated monthly traffic: 300 mln
Alexa rating (China): 7
Taobao is hands down the biggest C2C platform in China. Founded in 2003 and battle-hardened by the competition with eBay, TaoBao became the biggest national marketplace in 2005. It was TaoBao that introduced AliPay – one of two major payment systems in China. TaoBao re-imagines “Singles Day” into the biggest shopping festival in China (and in the world).
Huge growth did come with a price: up until a few years ago TaoBao was a “Wild West” of Chinese eCommerce – with abundance of counterfeit goods, questionable quality, and even fraud. TaoBao recognized the problem and over the years introduced a number of measures to successfully curb the majority of dubious activity.
2. Pinduoduo (拼多多)
Estimated monthly traffic: 280 mln
Alexa rating (China): 251
Pinduoduo is a new kid on eCommerce block – company was founded as recently as 2015. During its short history it already became the fastest growing company in the world – growing at some point with an unbelievable 50% yearly rate and quickly catching up with Alibaba’s and JD’s user base volume.
PinDuoDuo is a bustling playground for numerous eCommerce innovations, such as: team purchases, social commerce programs, C2M business model (consumers can directly influence manufacturers and products it offers). PinDuoDuo also is the biggest marketplace for agricultural produce, connecting Chinese farmers and urban consumers.
As Pingduoduo entered the space near the top of the Chinese eCommerce market, its competition with Taobao and JD intensified, and growth rate slowed. In the upcoming years we will witness the result of this monumental standoff.
3. JD (京东)
Estimated monthly traffic: 170 mln
Alexa rating (China): 13
Another big contender on the Chinese market is JD.com. JD has been around for almost thirty years, starting as a computer equipment seller. The SARS epidemic of 2003 forced the company to take significant losses and shift their business model to online – something that would define their current success.
Gradually expanding into CD, DVD, electronic appliances and finally into a wide range of goods, JD became one of the biggest retail platforms it is today.
JD is keen on exploring new technologies, including autonomous, AI driven vehicles and drones. While most of the innovations are still in development, JD already owns the biggest drone delivery infrastructure in the world.
4. TMall (天猫)
Estimated monthly traffic: 100 mln
Alexa rating (China): 15
TMall is a B2C-oriented marketplace that spun off TaoBao in 2011 and quickly became one of the biggest marketplaces in China and in the world. For a long time, according to Alex, TMall was the most popular site in China and the third most popular in the world.
TMall takes the issue of fraudulent goods particularly seriously. To achieve this, TMall established relatively high entry deposit and annual fees, with stores with high ratings eligible for partial refunds.
TMall’s branch called TMall Global is dedicated to foreign brands that want to establish their presence in China. It is now the biggest Chinese cross-border marketplace. You can . read about the entry process in our recent article
5. Xiaohongshu (小红书)
Estimated monthly traffic: 50 mln
Alexa rating (China): 63
Unlike other platforms, Xiaohongshu (Little red book) started as a community of reviewers, where people could leave their review of travel, restaurants, events – and shopping. Shopping reviews served as a very advantageous starting point for a fashion, beauty and lifestyle marketplace, Xiaohongshu is today.
Xiaohongshu is 100% app-based. Desktop version of their website is essentially just a link to their app download page.
6. 1688 (Alibaba, 阿里巴巴)
Estimated monthly traffic: 30 mln
Alexa rating (China): 16
1688 (when said in Chinese, these numbers sound similar to Alibaba) is a platform, service domestic B2B sales. Most of the merchants on the platform are factories and manufacturers, selling their product in bulk. 1688 is the largest wholesale platform in China.
Technically, one does not have to be a big enterprise to buy in 1688 – it is used by small businesses and even individual buyers who are looking for good deals and are ready to buy in a relatively larger amount.
7. Dianping (大众点评)
Estimated monthly traffic: 12 mln
Alexa rating (China): 214
Technically not an eCommerce marketplace, Dianping still plays an immense role in the Chinese online ecosystem as the biggest review website. Every service that can be reviewed – from restaurants and spas to pet shops and wedding services (although food is by far the most popular topic).
8. Amazon China (亚马逊中国)
Estimated monthly traffic: 9 mln
Alexa rating (China): 145
Amazon’s history of trying to enter the Chinese market goes back as far as 2004, when the Chinese branch was established. Fast forward 15 years – the international giant announced its withdrawal from the Chinese domestic market.
Amazon still keeps its presence in China with regard to the cross-border market, electronic books, logistical and cloud hosting services (AWS).
9. Suning (苏宁)
Estimated monthly traffic: 8 mln
Alexa rating (China): 496
Suning started as a chain of domestic appliances stores, but ended up expanding its offer to all sorts of everyday items – from babycare products to books.
Suning has one of the stronger logistical systems in China with 10.000 physical stores, and 100.000 employed truck drivers. It also operates the country’s biggest state-of-the-art warehouse served by fully automated unmanned robots.
10. Meituan (美团)
Estimated monthly traffic: 7 mln
Alexa rating (China): 242
Meituan started as a group buy site that was founded in 2010. After a series of successful consolidations with other services, Meituan became the biggest deal-of-the-day group buy company in China, accounting for about 60% of the market.
Company diversifies its offers into all kinds of services: from hotel and ticket bookings to bike rentals. It also places a huge importance on customer service, and a convenient refund policy.
Meituan merged with Dianping in September 2020, securing its position on the top even more. Company was renamed to Meituan Dianping.
11. Vipshop (唯品会)
Estimated monthly traffic: 7 mln
Alexa rating (China): 726
Vip.com (previously vipshop.com) started operating in 2008 and based its success on the model “Deep discounts – limited time offers – Quality guarantee”. Up until a few years ago, it was getting closer to the top of Chinese eCommerce, getting to the third place after TMall and JD.
12. Dangdang (当当)
Estimated monthly traffic: 4 mln
Alexa rating (China): 246
Similar to JD, Dangdang started its path to success with selling electronics and digital goods. Later it moved to include other categories – from snacks to apparel.
13. VMall (华为商城)
Estimated monthly traffic: 3 mln
Alexa rating (China): 650
VMall is an example of an eCommerce platform developed and operated by one brand – in this case, Huawei. Obviously, it is focused on Huawei products – mobile phones, laptops etc, but also partners with smaller, less prominent brands, who do not compete with Huawei directly, but can enrich the catalog.
14. Xiaomiyoupin (小米有品)
Estimated monthly traffic: 3 mln
Alexa rating (China): 977
Similar to Vmall, here’s an example from another popular Chinese electronics manufacturer: XiaoMi. It relies on the wide range of products in the XiaoMi ecosystem to create a shopping space for the users that can cater to their needs and promote the brand.
Similar to Vmall, Xiaomi store allows a small selection of brands to sell on their products – to show that Xiaomiyoupin can satisfy all lifestyle needs, not only those related to the electronics.
15. NetEase YanXuan (网易严选)
Estimated monthly traffic: 1 mln
Chinese game development giant, NetEase is famous for diversifying from computer games into all sorts of online-related industries – from news and music to online learning and eCommerce. NetEase YanXuan, launched in 2016, provides customers with inexpensive, but stylish lifestyle items – furniture, appliances, clothes.
With this we conclude our list of top 15 prominent Chinese eCommerce marketplaces eCommerce websites. The Chinese landscape is very dynamic. Even if the list of players is more or less settled, the battle for the few several lines is not over – something that was obvious with the amazing rise of Pinduoduo almost to the very top. We will update this list regularly to keep you up to date with the latest developments in this exciting ecosystem.
If you are interested in becoming a part of this ecosystem and entering the Chinese market – we’d be happy to share our experience to make your future story a resounding success. Feel free to start a conversation on the page of our website. Contact Us