Tencent got everyone talking on Tuesday when it opened the 腾讯旗舰店 (Tencent Flagship Store) on the Alibaba owned Tmall (in Chinese). However, in less than 24 hours, the flagship store was found unavailable on the Tmall site. The flagship store’s only product—Tencent’s new Tingting smart speaker—was also made unavailable. In response, Tmall claimed that it is the shop owner’s decision, not Tmall’s, to launch or remove the products, according to local media reports (in Chinese).
At the time of publishing, the Tencent flagship store was still not available, and showing an error message: “The shop you are looking for either does not exist or there has been an issue with the status of the shop.” Moments before it disappeared from Tmall, the flagship store had garnered more than 3600 followers.
Tencent’s move to open a new flagship store on Tmall coincides with the timing of China’s mid-year 618 shopping festival, which was created by Tmall’s biggest rival—JD.com. The 618 sale promotion and discount offers are usually widely campaigned across Chinese e-commerce sites throughout the month of June.
Leveraging Tmall’s sales channel and traffic during the shopping festival and promote its new smart speaker Tingting might be what Tencent had in mind. Popular speculation suggests that JD.com might have played a role. Tencent is not only a long-time partner of JD.com but also a major investor. In fact, Tencent’s messaging app WeChat just made new updates that allow users to shop at JD.com simply by entering keywords into the search box. Tencent and JD.com’s strong ties may have forced Tencent to pick sides.