How to sell on China

How To Sell on Step-by-Step Guide for New Marketers

China is the largest e-commerce market in the world, reaching a value of approximately $1.5 trillion in 2022. As this business segment grows, foreign companies are understandably trying to establish their presence on platforms like Tmall Global, JD Worldwide, and Pinduoduo.

However, did you know that selling on Kaola can help you reach Chinese consumers who are constantly seeking premium products? It’s the second-leading cross-border e-commerce platform, recording over $80.7 million in annual sales last year.

If you’re interested in conducting cross-border trade and selling directly within this platform, here’s a step-by-step guide specifically curated for you!


What is Kaola Alibaba?

Kaola is a cross-border import retail e-commerce platform launched in 2015. It was initially owned by one of China’s leading internet providers, NetEase. However, in 2019, the Alibaba Group (which also owns Tmall Global) acquired the company for $2 billion.

While it’s true that this e-commerce platform has an adequate demand for foreign high-quality products, it’s also known within the Chinese market for offering low prices. It provides an extensive range of baby and maternal care products, healthcare, and beauty and cosmetics categories, ensuring swift delivery. e-commerce platform China


You may not know, but the term “Kaola” actually refers to the animal koala bear because NetEase wants Chinese consumers to feel comfortable while using the app. Because of that, it’s not surprising that Kaola focuses on product authenticity and quality control.

As an online store website affiliated with major Chinese tech giants, it has the advantage of handling cross-border logistics and after-sales services through Alibaba’s resources. Thanks to this, Kaola enables foreign manufacturers to cater to consumers more extensively.

Since the acquisition, this e-commerce platform has been transitioning to a membership-based business model, aiming to be China’s version of Costco to Chinese consumers.


How does Selling in Kaola differ from Other Cross-border E-commerce Platforms?

●     Cross-border Logistics and Warehousing

Kaola has the most extensive bonded warehouses within the Chinese market, making it one of the most reliable cross-border e-commerce platforms locally. These logistical locations are scattered across the country in cities like Hangzhou, Zhengzhou, Ningbo, and Chongqing.

With these resources, international brands can count on a broader and faster scale of importation and Chinese customs clearance when they sell on Kaola. It reduces shipping times and costs, which are often issues for online operations relying on third-party logistics providers.


●     Wide-Range & Diverse User Base

As a leading platform within the Chinese e-commerce market, it’s not a surprise that Kaola garners over 30 million active users. With the rise of online shopping trends, this cross-border trading app is now more than capable of helping foreign manufacturers connect with consumers with high purchasing power.

Kaola also has a relatively young audience compared to other cross-border eCommerce platforms. Over 39.1% of the Chinese consumers on the app are aged 24 years or younger.  Meanwhile, the second-largest age group in the channel is users between 25 and 30 years old, covering 35.73% of the user base.


Distribution of users in China 2020 by age group

Distribution of users in China 2020 by age group (Source: Statista)


Unlike its competitors, this cross-border e-commerce platform has an overwhelming male user base of around 71.93%. Although the app’s female users only cover about 28% of Kaola’s overall population, foreign brands should note that their highest-selling categories are still beauty, maternity, and baby products. Gender Distribution Gender Distribution (Source: Similarweb)


●     Partnerships With Many International Brands

Since international brands can sell directly in this cross-border import retail e-commerce platform, you’ll see a lot of globally renowned companies operating within this channel. Some familiar names you’ll encounter in Kaola are P&G, Philips, Nescafe, and Huggies.

With numerous global brands already on Kaola, you can be sure that the Chinese consumers within the app are familiar with and not wary of imported goods. On top of that, it also means that the platform’s marketing capabilities are designed to suit foreign businesses attempting to enter China’s complex market.


Famous foreign brands on China


●     Online Forums & Communities

As one of the highly accessible shopping platforms in China, Kaola understands that social media is a massive part of how Chinese consumers decide what to buy online. Because of this, the app not only facilitates cross-border e-commerce sales but also hosts a forum-like section called种草社区 (Zhong Cao She Qu).

This feature lets Kaola users share experiences and seek product advice, drawing on past customer insights. The community covers various topics: fitness, tourism, food, lifestyle, books, fashion, and education.

Like other online social forums within the Chinese market, Zhong Cao She Qu is a valuable resource where consumers can read product reviews to inform their buying decisions.

In China, where peer-to-peer recommendations are highly valued, having such a community is crucial for Chinese e-commerce platforms. It helps boost sales and allows brands to build their online reputation and credibility.


●     Direct Procurement of Products

If you’re seeking a local business partner to distribute your products within the China market, getting a direct procurement from Kaola is a business opportunity you must look into.

Long before Alibaba Group acquired the platform, Kaola had been practicing directly procuring products from foreign manufacturers. Meanwhile, other popular e-commerce platforms often utilize a mix of direct procurement and third-party sellers.


Direct Procurement of Products on


As you may already know, Chinese consumers are wary of counterfeit goods. So, in a way, this procurement model from Kaola gives your brand more authenticity and credibility in the e-commerce market.


Profile of Chinese Consumers on

Understanding the profile of Chinese consumers on Kaola is crucial for brands and marketers aiming to engage with this audience effectively.


Here are key characteristics and trends among these consumers:

  • Consumers on Kaola are generally affluent and willing to spend more on high-quality products.
  • They strongly prefer international brands, often perceiving them as superior in quality and status.
  • Most of Kaola’s user base comprises young, tech-savvy individuals, predominantly millennials and Gen Z.
  • There’s a growing demand for health and wellness products among Kaola users.
  • They make purchases in the local e-commerce market with their families in mind, particularly in categories like baby products, maternal care, and household items.
  • The platform’s Chinese customers rely heavily on reviews, recommendations, and social proof.


Different E-commerce Store Types on Kaola

Like many platforms within the local e-commerce market, Kaola offers various store types to accommodate different business models and strategies. Understanding these categories is essential for brands looking to enter or optimize their presence in the Chinese market through this app.


The two primary store types on are:

●      3rd-Party Store (Pop or Flagship Store)

Establishing a pop-up store in Kaola is often for third-party sellers who wish to sell various brands, including their own. It’s like being a multi-brand retailer in the digital space.

Depending on the seller’s inventory and business model, these stores may offer various products across different categories.

Meanwhile, flagship storefronts are brand-specific and are often directly managed by the brand or an authorized distributor. They provide a more branded shopping experience, focusing solely on products from a single brand.


●      Sourcing Cooperation (Direct Procurement)

Under this model, Kaola directly purchases products from overseas manufacturers and suppliers. This approach is typically used for global brands the platform has identified as famous or in demand among Chinese consumers.

This approach is typically done in the e-commerce industry to ensure product authenticity and streamline the import process. Since Kaola is directly involved in the procurement, consumers are guaranteed to avoid counterfeit products within the platform.


Opening a Flagship Store and Selling on Kaola [Step-by-Step]

1.    Trademark Registration

Before entering the Chinese market, it’s crucial to register the business trademark with the Chinese Trademark Office. This step is a prerequisite for setting up your store on Kaola. You should also anticipate additional fees when acquiring this legal requirement.


Trademark Registration China


2.    Collaborate with a Local Agency

Managing a store on Kaola requires expertise in various areas like translation, customer service, handling returns, and product reputation. Some marketers may be unfamiliar with these local processes, especially those from an international company.

Because of this, partnering with an agency that understands the nuances of international businesses and the Chinese market is vital for success.

Our team can guide you through the Kaola application process, ensuring a smooth and stress-free experience. Feel free to contact us for more information and support.


3.    Applying as a Merchant on Kaola

As mentioned, entering the China market through Kaola gives you two options. Your brand can either partner with the platform and have them procure your products directly or open a third-party virtual storefront within the app.


Applying as a Merchant on Kaola


Here are the procedures you’ll have to follow:

●      Procurement Route

To apply as a supplier, visit Kaola’s merchant registration page and select “Proprietary Supplier.” You’ll need to provide typical company and brand information, including contact person, email, telephone number, etc.

You must also provide crucial details like business models, client lists, product categories, sales figures, and legal documents.


●      Opening a Third-Party Store

Brands can open their own POP or flagship storefront on Kaola, selling directly to consumers. This option typically suits well-known brands. To explore this, visit the merchant registration page and choose “Cross-border trade” under “POP merchant.”

The registration process requires information similar to the procurement route and additional documents like financial reports.


How Much Does it Cost to Sell on Kaola?

As an online marketplace hosting your product catalogs and online transactions, Kaola requires a yearly membership fee of $1000. This payment grants you access to the platform’s marketing and advertising tools that will significantly help build a presence in the local market.

On top of that, the platform will also take a 2% to 10% commission fee on every sale, depending on the product’s category.

For brands that intend to establish a virtual storefront on Kaola, the deposit ranges from $10,000 to $15,000. If you compare this fee with other platforms like Tmall Global, you’ll notice it’s significantly lower.


Best Marketing Practices When You Start Selling on Kaola

1.    Search Engine Optimization

Kaola’s built-in search bar is a feature meant to help consumers find what they want to buy. So, as a new brand, it’s crucial to optimize your product listings with relevant keywords to reach the right audience and establish solid visibility in your niche.

The platform also allows consumers to filter the searches, so it would be best to label your offerings accordingly. You must use the product categories to help your audience find your brand faster.

On top of that, it’ll also help if your Kaola store is highly visible on popular search engine platforms like Baidu. This platform handles over 6 billion queries daily and caters to 663 million monthly active users.

Seeing those numbers, tailoring your SEO strategy for this platform will not only generate traffic for your brand but can also increase sales.

Besides that, ranking high on Baidu will make curious, savvy online shoppers recognize your brand as credible and trustworthy. This positive image can then translate to customer loyalty and increased recognition.


2.    Build Brand Credibility Through Social Media

Social media has always been a massive part of every Chinese consumer’s purchasing decision. In fact, according to a study by Harvard Business Review, it is said that they are more likely to buy a product if they see it being promoted on popular social channels.

For global brands trying to direct social media users to the Kaola store, the key is to blend international appeal with local relevance. Platforms with high engagement rates, like Douyin, WeChat, and Weibo, are crucial for this strategy’s success.



Foreign marketers can create engaging content highlighting their international identity while catering to Chinese cultural preferences. It could include sharing high-quality images and informative videos, or they can start leveraging popular hashtags related to the brand or product category.


3.    Utilize the Platform’s Advertising Tools

Advertising is one of many tools new marketers can use in Kaola to boost their brand visibility and sales. Through this feature, you can re-engage customers who have shown interest in your products but haven’t made a purchase through dynamic retargeting.

It can tailor personalized ads for each user, making it a highly effective strategy for boosting sales gradually.

You can also opt to launch display ads and product listing ads. These tools are designed to increase your brand’s visibility by showcasing your ads across the website, drawing the attention of potential customers.

However, the advertisement feature that sets Kaola apart from its competitors is its ability to cross-sell and up-sell. The platform’s algorithm suggests complementary items alongside a customer’s current selection, often encouraging additional purchases. This approach has been known to increase the average order value by up to 18%.


4.    Work with Key Opinion Leaders

On top of promoting in popular social media channels, collaborating with KOLs is a proven and tested strategy to deliver good results. Since these influencers will represent your brand during the campaign, you must choose a KOL whose image and audience align with your brand values and target demographic.

For instance, if you’re selling beauty products, collaborate with KOLs known for their expertise in skincare and cosmetics.



What are the Challenges of Selling on Kaola?

Selling on Kaola, like any cross-border e-commerce platform, presents specific challenges like understanding and complying with China’s import regulations. You should also ensure that your products meet all legal standards and requirements, which vary widely depending on the item’s category.

Besides that, adapting to local tastes, preferences, and cultural nuances is also essential. The products and marketing strategies you launch on other global markets may not be particularly successful for Chinese consumers.

And since Kaola works with many famous brands, you may face stiff competition from local and international companies. Remember that standing out in this crowded marketplace requires a strong value proposition and brand differentiation.


Your Trusted Cross-Border E-Commerce Partner In The Chinese Market!

Selling on a local platform like Kaola can be a daunting challenge for a new, foreign brand to conquer. As we’ve explored in our step-by-step guide, success on this e-commerce channel requires more than just listing your products; it demands a strategic approach tailored to the unique needs of the Chinese market.

Don’t let the complexities of this market hold you back! Our team is here to guide you through every twist and turn, transforming your brand’s potential into a resounding success.


Sekkei Digital Group Services


Whether for setting up a Kaola store, crafting compelling paid advertising campaigns, or harnessing the power of SEO and social media, we have the digital solutions you need. Contact us today, and let’s work together!


contact us SDG



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