618 festival commences as platforms axe presale

On 19 May, the second-largest shopping festival of the year commenced, 1 month before the actual 618 event. Picking up from Double 11 last year, platforms are continuing several trends from the previous year. Most of them involve simplifying the once-convoluted promotion process, giving straightforward discounts for shoppers, as well as supporting merchants through simplified promotion and subsidisation.

The first one is, of course, the demise of presales. Presales and deposits used to be a way for platforms to expedite sales and for shoppers to get further discounts. However, the complex rules and reports of long waits and inflated prices through loopholes have made it less popular in recent years. By eliminating presale, consumers can get what they want directly, further simplifying the process.

Another trend is that platforms are connecting and collaborating. Taobao Tmall Group is connecting with Douyin to track the customer journey from “seeding” on the short-form video app and making transactions on the e-commerce platform. In other news, JD Pay by JD.com has become compatible with WeChat Pay, Tencent’s popular payment service, making this the first time two third-party payment systems can use compatible QR codes for transactions. With JD Pay’s 500 million users and WeChat Pay’s 1 billion, this has become the largest-scale connection between platforms.

Another trend is Xiaohongshu’s (RED) incorporation of merchant-led livestreams. Xiaohongshu ended presale as early as last year and pioneered its “buyer e-commerce” model for both 618 festival and Double 11 in 2023. With buyer-streamers such as Teresa Cheung and Dong Jie, Xiaohongshu has established itself as an early adoptee of narrative and lifestyle-led social commerce. This year, the lifestyle platform is also adding merchant-led livestreaming to the mix, following the success of the model last year.

Other trends include Douyin trialling its AI shopping assistant, following Alibaba’s Taobao Wenwen last year. With rational consumption and the need of value-for-money, platforms are doubling down on “good prices” that actually resonate with consumers today. Straightforward discounts also ensure consumers get the best deal. As 618 festival commences, it is worth watching how the platforms’ strategies work with the consumer mood in 2024.


Join our newsletter