How to sell seafood online on Tmall

Published on
September 8, 2016

The e-commerce sector in China has been booming over the past decade, as the age of the internet began to truly take hold. But whereas first it was electronics and other dry, easy deliverables for sale online, nowadays, seafood and perishables are slowly carving out a virtual aisle for themselves, too.

However, many seafood companies interested in breaking into the online market in Asia are still fairly unsure about how to proceed. How might an international seafood business eyeing China, for instance, use one of the region’s most renowned e-commerce platforms, Alibaba’s Tmall, to get their fish and shellfish in front of prospective consumers?

To this aim, Jack Connelly, who works in Business Development for Alibaba Group, specializing in Tmall’s latest fresh market venture Mr. Fresh, laid out the options available for Tmall seafood hopefuls during a panel on e-commerce at this year’s Seafood Expo Asia in Hong Kong.

1.) Open your own store - “The basic is opening a store, but this has a lot of cost associated with it – you have to have a Chinese company, you have to have a team that knows how to run the store, so there’s a lot of cost involved there,” said Connelly. “Opening your own store is the most expensive, but you have more brand control.”

2.) Find a TP - “A lot of companies hire a Tmall partner, called a TP, to run the store, so they don’t actually have to learn how to do that. It’s easier than running it yourself,” Connelly explained. “Hiring a TP is easier, but there’s less brand control.”

3.) Trial products via Mr. Fresh - “What Mr. Fresh does is provide an option that is low investment for these companies, for companies that are looking to enter the space, but don’t want to open a store yet because it’s too expensive,” said Connelly.

The Mr. Fresh team will trial SKUs or a couple of different products for a company, and then helps the business to make adjustments to better align them with “Chinese tastes, or packaging requirements, etc.” Eventually, by using such a service, seafood companies will be able to better position their products for the market in Asia and on Tmall, and then be able to start their own stores.

“Mr. Fresh is the gateway to opening your own store on Tmall because you don’t have to deal with the logistics, you don’t have to work through customer service at first. You can test out what products Chinese consumers want – you can take out all other aspects of doing business, and you can think about just this. Once this has been settled, once you know that a product has a regular base of customers who will accept it, then you can start considering those other things and look into opening your own store,” Connelly concluded.

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