Full Guide to Selling with a Taobao Store (foreign merchants & small businesses)

Do you want to open your own Taobao store and sell products on the marketplace, but find that it is more complex than you thought? This article is for you! We’ll take one step at a time, getting started with the basics.

China’s largest online shopping website

Taobao is not a marketplace for cross-border e-commerce; however, The largest C2C e-commerce site in China offers low costs to start-up merchants who want access to the lucrative mainland consumer market, but overall, this marketplace is a great starting place for any merchant – big or small – attempting to sell to Chinese consumers at a low initial cost. This article will explore what you need to know about selling on Taobao.

Want to learn more about the eCommerce landscape in the middle kingdom? Check out our Chinese e-commerce guide, where we have compiled useful information about the most popular marketplaces, as well as tips to make it online in the middle kingdom.

I. What is Taobao?

Taobao is an online marketplace that operates according to the C2C mechanism, which means individuals and small business owners can sell their products online through their own “stores” on Taobao.

example of a store listing on Taobao

Taobao is one of the largest e-commerce websites and one of the top 10 most visited websites in the world (according to Alexa).

To put it simply, it’s china’s #1 marketplace for online purchases, as well as a product search and price comparison tool. Users also read reviews on the app to get an idea of a product’s quality.

It has far over 800 million monthly active users, more than 8 million stores, over 1 billion product listings, and accounts for nearly 60% of the total e-commerce sales on the mainland.

Taobao.com is mainly known for its domestically produced apparel, jewelry, and accessories, sold to the working and middle-class. It’s China’s go-to place for low to medium-end consumer goods of all kinds.

Our proposition is simple: we want to help small businesses grow by solving their problems through Internet technology. We fight for the little guy. Since our founding in 1999, we have helped millions of small businesses to achieve a brighter future.

Jack Ma

Taobao: the Chinese eBay?

Taobao is often compared to the American betting purchase website, but Taobao is an innovative app that is interconnected in the Alibaba eCommerce ecosystem and has its own social media and video streaming service… in short, it does deliver much more than just the eBay of China when it comes to online shopping. Taobao does not even have a betting feature.

Contact us and fill out the form to get a free consultation with one of our experts!

II. How are Taobao and Tmall different?

Taobao and Tmall are both owned by the Alibaba Group and highly intertwined, but they are different in terms of their target audiences.

Taobao is a consumer-to-consumer (C2C) eCommerce platform, while Tmall is a business-to-consumer (B2C) shopping platform. Taobao is more popular with small businesses and individual consumers, whereas Tmall is more popular with larger businesses.

Tmall is generally seen as the branded, more quality/luxurious sister site to Taobao.

  • On Tmall, consumers trust to find authentic branded items, and even cross-border products shipped directly from Hong Kong, Europe, the UK, Australia, or the USA.
  • Taobao, on the other hand, is more about domestic brands, made for the domestic market.
  • Tmall, with its Tmall Global platform, is also far more open to overseas and Hong Kong companies, compared to Taobao.com – which is purely domestic.
  • However, they both have the same payment option: Alipay, debit card, credit card
  • Tmall is accessible from Taobao, Taobao is not accessible from Tmall
  • Taobao has an integrated social media called Weitao as well as a live-streaming tool (that a Tmall seller can also use)
  • Taobao has its own search engine: eTao. A convenient tool for users to compare items throughout multiple online marketplaces when online shopping;
taobao vs tmall

If you want to get started in the country, then Taobao is the place to go. Taobao has relatively low start-up costs and with some initial input and effective marketing, sellers can achieve high sales volumes.

Alternatively, if your product requires a high degree of trust where customers want to be assured of quality and are willing to put a little extra money to buy items, Tmall may be the place to sell, but be prepared for significant start-up costs.

III. Is Cross-border Ecommerce an option on Taobao?

No, it is a 100% local app, and unlike Tmall does not offer a cross-border option. You’ll be unable to open a Taobao.com store as a non-Chinese company. Your first step to start selling on the app will be to set up a legal entity in China. (We can help you register your company – it looks far more complex than it is)

Minimum Requirements to set up a company :

  • Business license application
  • Office rental contract
  • Passport copies
  • Chinese bank account
  • Contact info and phone number

You will not be able to set up a postbox company, using a virtual office, to be able to sell on Taobao.

You need to actually rent an office, meaning that you must pay a deposit and a few months’ rent before you can even apply for the business license.

Furthermore, you will also need to open a bank account in Mainland China, that you later link to your Taobao.com store.

Most foreign-owned companies in China go to the following banks:

  • ICBC
  • Bank of China
  • China Merchants Bank

Setting up a company in China to sell on Taobao.com is, therefore, a major commitment – long before you see your first sale.

Most agencies charge around RMB 20,000 to 30,000 to help you register your business in China, and the application can easily take up to 6 months.

Besides, Chinese consumers who are looking for foreign products would generally prefer other platforms such as Tmall or JD… instead of Taobao.

Taobao is perceived as a domestic e-commerce site for domestically made products.

If you are a merchant or a trader, you can team up with local partners to test how your products sell in China market through Taobao as it doesn’t require a lot of initial investment as well as a rigorous application process like other platforms.

IV. Can I use a Hong Kong company to sell on Taobao.com?

While Hong Kong is part of China, it has its own legal system. Setting up a company in Hong Kong is very easy, and can be done without ever visiting the country.

However, Taobao.com requires that you set up a company in Mainland China to sell on it, which is on an entirely different level in terms of complexity and cost.

V. Payment made with Alipay

To sell on Taobao, you’ll need an Alipay account for merchants. This online wallet also belongs to the Alibaba group and is well integrated into all its eCommerce apps for checkout. Alipay is the preferred payment option for Chinese online shoppers on Taobao.

Alipay is commonly used by Chinese consumers (everyone has an Alipay account.), not only for online shopping but also to complete all kinds of transactions in daily life.

On Taobao, the buyers purchase products with Alipay. Then, Alipay waits until the products are well-received before completing the payment and sending money to the seller.

This system guarantees that the buyers get to receive products safe and sound after transactions.

VI. How to open a store on the Taobao app?

You can create a Taobao account through the Taobao users registration page and go to the Seller tab on your account page to apply to open a Taobao store or work with a Taobao agent

A Taobao agent will facilitate and expedite the whole store opening process. A Taobao agent will also help you negotiate advantageous commission fees, help you set up logistics, in-app and off-app promotions, and so on.

The 7 steps to open a Taobao store

  • Step 1. Set up a Taobao account and become a Seller
  • Step 2. Connect store to Alipay
  • Step 3. Complete identification authentication
  • Step 4. Create a store, connect plugins, and set up Ali Wang Wang (for Customer Service)
  • Step 5. Designing and setting up your Taobao store
  • Step 6. Upload products (referred to as “babies”) and optimized them for the app Search bar algorithm
  • Step 7. Promote and market Taobao store and products
  • Step 8. Engage with Taobao KOL and use Taobao Live
open a taobao store - registration process

If you don’t read Chinese, hire a Taobao Agent, you’ll save time

Unfortunately, if you do not understand or read Chinese, then opening a Taobao store can be complicated because it is only available in Chinese. You should work with Chinese partners to help you navigate through the setup process.

Another choice for you is to sell through a Chinese seller. There are a ton of small businessmen that would probably love to sell your products in their online shops. You will need to contact them one by one through the platform app to find compatible business partners.

VI. Promote your Brand and Taobao Store

  1. Stand out from the competition – With so many sellers on Taobao, it’s important to make your products and brand visible to potential buyers. Promoting your brand helps you to stand out and increase the chances of being seen by potential customers and of them to buy items from you.
  2. Build trust and credibility – In order for customers to be buying from you, they need to trust your brand. By promoting your brand, you can build trust and credibility with potential buyers. This will help convert leads into sales.

Reach out to Online Shoppers through Social Media

There are a lot of great Chinese social media platforms that you can use to promote your store. Weibo and WeChat are two of the most popular, and they offer a great contact point with your target audience and build brand awareness.

You can also try using platforms like Zhihu, which have a more educated and affluent user base. Whichever platform you choose, make sure to create engaging content that will capture your audience’s attention and encourage them to check out your store.


With 10+ years of experience and a professional team of more than 70 international as well as local talents, we have been and are helping brands to achieve their goals in China.

We help you join an eCommerce world leader – wherever you may be from – Australia, UK, USA, South America, and so on… we help you secure an audience and grow on the market!

We offer a full range of e-commerce services, including:

  2. REGISTRATION TAOBAO STORE (or purchase an old Store)

Learn more about our china e-commerce Solutions here and discover some of our case studies.

We also can help you with services such as:

  • China #1 e-commerce app: Tmall → we are a certified TP (Tmall Partner) and help you through the whole process of your Tmall Journey.
  • The Chinese Social e-commerce app Little Red Book is best suited for Beauty & Lifestyle Brands
  • Access Cross-border e-commerce
  • When it comes to social e-commerce, we also offer full WeChat solutions, from account registration to store design and promotion and so on.
  • Create a Website to share your values with shoppers and enable SEO/ SEM
  • Search engine optimization – reach out to online shoppers through the first page of Baidu

For brands that want to try out the Chinese market but are not quite ready to register as a physical entity in the country, we suggest you have a look at this post on China cross-border e-commerce where we introduce you to the most prominent platforms such as Tmall Global, JD Worldwide, VIP.com, Suning Global…


  • You will receive our case studies
  • A consultation 1h (free)
  • Latest Solutions, Services & Pricing (and it is not expensive Taobao)
  • Contact us here
Certified Tmall Partner - Gentlemen Marketing Agency - ecommerce solutions for china


  • I am an official distributor of the latest Singapore brand, Asentar. We are marketing innovative health n beauty products. The only supplement that human need

  • Sakura Wong

    Want to open store and selling product to China market. Products range various and consist of cosmetic too, please advise how to start up as Malaysia merchant.

    • Dolores Admin

      Hi Sakura,

      Thanks for your comment ?
      Please feel free to reach out to us here to schedule a phone call

  • We do Tailor made suits and shirts for men’s and womens contact us for details

    Our store is in hong kong and we are looking to sale in Chinese Market

  • Puccini

    Hello Yao, are you interested in antiques, such as silver, corals, jewels, porceilain (Meissen) from Germany France and Italy? I noticed a growing interest in China.

    • I have a shop on Taobao and WeChat. I am also looking for interesting western brands and products to sell. Do contact me via email.

  • I am looking for someone from Indonesia for Indome noodles..

  • Dear i am stacie from China gz office which reprsetive ELBA GREEN BRAZILION COFFEE brand in china market we would like to sell our product through internet of taobao and t-mall , so pls let me know your service cost and terms Any questions pls fell fee let me know , my contact

    • Hello Stacy,
      I can not find any information about your brand , what is your Chinese website? Chinese Name?

      • Dear Yao,

        Can I have ur email please?

      • Hi,

        We are exporting dired fruits such as apricot,fig,raisin.Also sugar free organic tu rkish delights.After import China we dont know hot to sell it so we are looking for cooperation seller at taobao JD etc.If you interested in please add my wechat:halilmtl

      • Puccini

        I liked a lot this very good article on Marketingtochina and I have further questions:
        Can a private person not resident in China sell ( C2C ) something on Taobao ?
        If not, how can I collaborate with someone resident in China?
        What is the role of a Daigous?
        Have a nice day.

  • Ruslan Furtas


    what are the options to sell cosmetics (own and 3rd party premium brands) on taobao from a warehouse in Europe?

  • Ruslan Furtas


    what are the options to sell cosmetics (own and 3rd party premium brands) on taobao from a warehouse in Europe?


  • Liang Qi Wei

    Hi I have local registered company are interested to participate the online marketing program via seller. Hope I can explore more information on how I can be associated into this organization . Looking forward to share more information from your good self company.

  • Very good article Marketingtochina.
    We have several taobao stores, and we are searching for good western Brands to resell.
    Let me know , and we can collaborate.

    • Yao, can u get in touch with me?
      I’m currently sourcing for partners and to work with to sell into China Market.
      My email : ibeauresources@gmail.com

    • Hi Yao,
      My name is Mary, I have a very successful Anti ageing cosmetic. It is my own brand for past 25years with Trade Mark. It has sold hugely on
      DRTV and Online platforms globally but not in China. I would be interested to collaborate to sell on maybe T mall or others.Please view my website.
      Kind Regards

    • Chanvin chan

      Hi Yao!

      What kind of healthcare products are you looking for ? I have a European and Japan formulated multifunctional superfood / supplement of premium quality. Please hit me up on WhatsApp! +6590142600

    • Hi! Yao
      My sister in Ireland has been looking for an importer to sell cosmetic, food & health supplements in China. Wonder if you are interested. If so, pls contact her

    • Puccini

      Hello Yao, are you interested in antiques, such as silver, corals, jewels, porceilain (Meissen) from Germany France and Italy? I noticed a growing interest in China.

    • Hello, thank you for your message.
      We are searching for good western brand (imported) with good branding.
      Fashion, cosmetics, food, maternity , healthcare

      • Please introduce first your brand, I usually make research before wasting both people times.
        Indicate me the brand name or website and I will contact you if necessary.

      • Hi Yao, we are Malaysian company, we made our own handmade soap and virgin coconut oil product such as body oil, massage oil, hair care product.
        For more info about our product You can visit our website

      • Paul Barbu

        Hi Yao We are in Australia based What type of products you are looking for?

      • Hi, Yao. I have cosmetic products and want to promote and sell to china market. Is a new premium cosmetic brand And I can ship to you from Malaysia. Let discuss this further, do contact me on my mobile phone by WhatsApp, ±60162067801

      • What Healthcare brands, iam based in Pakistan, you can contact me on 00923335527716 or same number whatsapp

    • wong raymond

      would you consider old philatelic items such as stamps, covers, etc that are of collectors interest in china? I am a trader in malaysia and i can’t open a Taobao account . I need a middleman. I can handle stocks from here. How does payment gets throigh to me?…let me know…i know there are many collectors in china wanting such items

    • Hi Yao,
      Would it be possible to sell online European degree courses, bachelor’s, Masters and Doctorates in English through Taobao?

    • Jonathan Thomas

      Hello, i want to buy a taobao shop. For selling services.

    • Steven cheAh


    • SteVen cheAh

      My name is Steven Cheah from Malaysia and interested to look for partner to sell our product, Hand Sanitizer, in China Tabao or Tmall etc. Hope you are interested. Thank you

    • Hi Yao, my name is Ching. I live in Australia. What kind of products are you looking to sell on your ecommerce shops? Cheers

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