Virtual KOLs, digital RMB & guochao – the trends topping 618

618 (i.e. 18 June) is China’s largest mid-year shopping festival. Originally launched by 18 years ago to commemorate the company’s launch, it has since been adopted by all major e-commerce platforms and retailers. Similar to Taobao’s Singles’ Day, platforms offer considerable discounts and promotions to consumers. 

The festival usually runs between 1 and 20 June, but pre-sales for 618 began as early as 24 May this year. We picked out some trends which appeared during this year’s festival: digital RMB; virtual KOLs; cloud cat petting; and inclusion of ancient Chinese culture.

The application of digital RMB

Beijing, Shanghai, and Changsha are among the cities to take part in their second round of digital RMB pilots. Between 11 and 20 June, over 60 million RMB worth of digital red envelopes (currency packets) will be distributed. They can be used on the e-commerce platform during 618 by searching for “digital RMB” during payment.

Digital currency on JD e-commerce platform

Virtual livestreamers take a starring role

Virtual KOLs are becoming an increasingly popular choice among brands in China and popped up during several 618 promotions.

A number of cosmetics brands, including Innisfree, Baiqueling, Perfect Diary and Florasis, used virtual influencers during 618 Tmall livestreams on 5 June.  

Li-Ning rakes in the views with a cat gaokao campaign

Since last year, Chinese sports brand Li-Ning has been including a cat in some of its livestreams. Li-Ning has successfully appealed to the online popularity of cats, being the first large-scale brand to use one in a livestream.

‘Cloud cat petting’ (云养猫) is a popular trend among post-90s and post-00s and describes when feline-loving individuals watch a lot of cat-related content online as they are unable to own a pet themselves. The cat, called Dafu, has attracted many viewers who wouldn’t usually watch Li-Ning’s streams.

Recently, Li-Ning launched a new T-shirt featuring Dafu as the “god of exams”, targeting students who were taking the gaokao (China’s high-pressured National College Entrance Examination). 7 June was the first day of the gaokao, and also took place during the 618 shopping season, so Li-Ning chose to focus its Taobao livestream on wishing students good luck. The stream featured Dafu as well as the T-shirt designer who shared stories behind his design; 17,000 people tuned in.

Taobao’s guochao film is a big hit

Taobao Live launched a short film that featured famous livestreamers wearing traditional Chinese clothes and showing off the Chinese martial arts form of Kung Fu. Appealing to the guochao trend (Chinese culture expressed through style), the hashtag “Taobao Live Kung Fu film yyds” (#淘宝直播功夫大片yyds) hit 600 million views. “yyds” is a popular buzzword used to express amazement or appreciation. 

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