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As Farfetch Taking Up Share on Tmall Search, How Can Brands Fend Off?

By Wilson Zhao | August 13, 2021 | 0 Comments

Earlier this year, online luxury retail platform Farfetch launched on Tmall, starting a new chapter in the China market. With this new partnership, Alibaba can expand its luxury brand portfolios to reach new heights overnight, bringing in some of the most sought-after independent luxury brands (i.e. Ambush, Off-White) that are popular among millennials and gen-z. 

Since Farfetch exited at the end of 2020, they received joint funding from Alibaba, Richemont, and Kerring group, accelerating the pace to expand in the China market. 

In March, Farfetch recruited celebrities Song Zhuer and Fei Qiming to promote the Tmall launch. In April, they partnered with Tmall Luxury and Tmall Live Chic to launch a 3-day “Tmall Fashion Trend” festival, highlighting 50K of seasonal trending items and offering a 15%-off discount on some products. Designers Virgil Abloh and Yoon Ahn were invited to hand-pick trending products for Tmall customers from their owned labels Off-White and Ambush. 

Tmall Brand Search Discoverability

A series of activations and close partnerships with Tmall resulted in significant gains in Tmall search discoverability. In luxury brand search results, Farfetch’s share of shelf grew aggressively to 23% in April, just a month after the official launch. In June, they were still able to keep it to around 22%, only second to the official brand stores.

Farfecth’s increasing search discoverability presents an imperative challenge for luxury brands operating on Tmall. Their brand search share of shelf dropped from 41% to 29% in the first half of 2021. 

Farfetch Product Ad

Apart from increasing organic discoverability, Farfecth also bids on competitive terms with paid product ads. For example, in the image below, Farfetch’s product showed up as the top search result (below brand zone) for “Ralph Lauren ” and “Ralph Lauren Polo Shirt ” search terms. 

By using product ads, Farfetch can optimize its product titling automatically to match search keywords. In the search result of ‘Ralph Lauren Polo Shirt’, the keyword ‘polo shirt’ is placed to the front of Farfetch’s product title, while it is placed to the back when searching ‘Ralph Lauren’.

Brand Zoon & Product Ad

To fend off, luxury brands on Tmall must strategically invest in paid brand zones and product ads to avoid an expensive bidding war. Brand zone is a premium brand section above the fold on the search page to help brands drive visibility and traffic against other sellers. 

Investing in brand zone has now become a table stake for luxury brands on Tmall because it can effectively secure the top search visibility against product ads from competitors (see Ralph Lauren case). 

Also, brands can deploy product ads to further strengthen their discoverability on brand search results (see Tommy Hilfiger case). Nevertheless, no matter for brand zone or product ad, brands should always keep consumer searching behaviors in mind, and invest in brand nickname terms as well as branded product terms especially hero product keywords.


A number of western brands are given a Chinese nickname by their fans in China (i.e. Christian Louboutin’s 萝卜丁 little radish). Therefore, when brands are optimizing their SEO effort, it is important to include these nickname terms in their product titles because they are what consumers will put in the search bar. 

Lacoste is one of the top performers in brand term search discoverability on Tmall. They include the nickname ‘鳄鱼’ in their product titles and invests in product ads to secure the top visibility of nickname search against Farfetch and other sellers. 

Content-rich Product Page

A content-rich product page can benefit SEO and drive higher traffic as well as conversion. As Tmall prioritizes video content in the search, brands should diversify and ramp up their content offering on product pages. Moreover, producing localized content can also set you apart from the competition.

Lacoste creatively leverages store associates to produce UGC-style content on the polo shirt product page. Consumers can benefit from various outfit styling tips and find an associate of similar height as opposed to the model size. 

Farfetch’s new chapter in China just started. Brands should be on the lookout for their partnership with Tmall and develop a strategy to fend off in brand search and other broader areas.

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