The annual Singles’ Day shopping festival, aka Double 11, initiated by e-commerce giant Alibaba in 2009, has long been one of the biggest retail events in China. This year, whereas, due to a slowing economy and weakening consumer demand, there were concerns about whether it would receive heavy participation and surpass last year’s sales.
However, recent statistics revealed that over 1,000 overseas brands on Tmall Global did succeed in achieving year-on-year GMV growth of more than 100%.
Data from Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com showed that on the first day of presales for the major online sales event, global brands on the platform received orders worth 178% more compared to 2021.
In fact, this year’s Double 11 witnessed a growing demand for certain product categories such as mobile phones, sports & outdoors, pet products, collectible toys, and jewellery.
Scouring to find the best discount deals
One notable difference, however, was that Chinese buyers seemed to be fatigued by multiple shopping events. With several new channels and platforms to shop from (such as short-video platforms that focus on e-commerce), it’s becoming more difficult to capture the attention of shoppers.
There has also been a change in consumer behaviour as people are shopping throughout the year instead of saving for large, one-time purchases during big annual shopping extravaganzas.
As a result, consumers are keen on getting the best discount deals and prices. It has been one of the key drivers for purchases at this year’s Double 11. Having stocked up throughout the year, they are only interested in buying more if they get significantly better discount deals.
As per AdChina.io’s tool for conducting keyword research, some of the significant searches around the Double 11 festival were to do with sale prices, and they wanted to know if this year’s was cheaper. There was a whopping 57K monthly searches on Baidu for ‘Is Double 11 really cheaper than usual’.
To capitalise on customers’ interest in discount deals, businesses like Alibaba offered an extended window for customers to claim a “lowest-price guarantee,” while offering free shipping for returns.
Another difference with this year’s Singles’ Day was that Chinese consumers clutched their wallets tighter than usual and sought out relatively economical home brands over pricier premium labels.
Since 31 October 2022, more than 2,000 items generated sales exceeding 10 million RMB ($1.4 million) each on the Tmall marketplace. More than half of these items were from Chinese brands as per the data from Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.
As per Douyin’s 2022 Double 11 report, domestic goods accounted for more than 90% of the top 100 best-selling products. Among the bestsellers were Chinese home appliance products from Haier, Midea, and sportswear from Anta. However, international names such as Apple, L’Oréal, and Nike also made the bestsellers list.
In terms of product categories, the most interest was in mobile phones, specifically iPhones. There were over 500 monthly searches for ‘IPhone 13 Double 11’, around 200 monthly searches for ‘Will the price of Double 11 Apple 13 be reduced’, and 4,000 monthly searches for ‘How much discount can I get when buying mobile phones on Double 11’.
The search trends were in line with overall sales numbers for mobile phones. The turnover of Apple, Xiaomi, Huawei and Honor mobile phones exceeded 100 million RMB in just one second of the official launch of JD.com’s annual shopping spree.
The trends also revealed a high interest in improving the quality of life at home due to recent lockdowns with Chinese consumers growing increasingly willing to pay for appliances with specific functions. For instance, the sales of televisions with gaming functions and high-end floor washers peaked during the Double 11 festival.
The shift toward metaverse
China has always been the world’s window to the latest digital innovations and this year’s Double 11 saw the rise of virtual idols and virtual shopping malls.
‘Double 11 Live Broadcasts’ have always been popular (with over 3,000 monthly searches on Baidu). Additionally, more than 300 million people tuned into Taobao Live on 24 October to watch virtual and real-life hosts showcase products.
However, there was a significant rise in virtual influencers and a decline in the presence of some notable real influencers. With over 13,866 monthly searches for ‘virtual idols’, as per AdChina.io, more and more brands have adopted them to reach out to younger audiences.
While previously, Double 11 sales broadcasts were led by Alibaba’s key influencers Li Jiaqi and Viya, known respectively as China’s King and Queen of livestreaming sales, this year, their presence was absent.
Instead, Alibaba’s hyper-realistic digital influencers, Ayayi (by Chinese electronics giant Haier) and Noah (American fashion house Tommy Hilfiger), helped buyers shop live.
Alibaba also launched a virtual shopping mall for Double 11 where shoppers could browse over 700 products through the eyes of customisable avatars. They could try on accessories virtually and have a 3D view of furniture. These virtual shopping features provide brands with the opportunity for a significant digital upgrade.
Overall, despite speculations around this year’s Double 11 not being a huge success for Alibaba, it’s clear that the shopping event is still very relevant to a big segment of Chinese shoppers.
These consumers still actively look forward to Double 11 discount deals, and both foreign and domestic brands plan their marketing strategies around targeting them during the shopping spree, and there are new digital innovations happening in this space to enhance their shopping experience.
Based on the current trends, Double 11 2023 could look very different from 2022 both in terms of sales and the way users shop online. However, it will continue to be a massive opportunity for businesses to reach their most valuable customers and test their digital marketing strategy in the Chinese market.