Mark Tanner
28 October 2020 0 Comments

For a culmination of most of the big digital trends in China, look no further than Double-11 or Singles’ Day. Nothing quite illustrates China’s infatuation with all things online and the might of its consumer classes quite like the world’s biggest dedicated shopping festival. But much like with Christmas Day, where the festivities begin weeks ahead of December 25, consumers are bombarded with Singles’ Day promotions before November 11 – more so every year.

This year’s Singles’ Day – which could be better described as Singles’ Three-Weeks – now has two sales windows – November 1-3 and November 11, supported by weeks of pre-sales. The festivities kicked off last Wednesday with a livestreaming extravaganza that provides hints into how big this year’s event is likely to be.

When the team at China Skinny checked the livestream at 1.17am, there were 160 million people tuned into Austin Li’s live-streaming room and the 126 products he promoted that morning. Across in Viya’s livestream, 130 million were watching and buying the 149 products on offer. Livestreaming sales on Taobao Live surpassed last year’s first day sales in the first 10-minutes. Much like when die-hard sports fans peal themselves out of bed to watch their national team compete in a disparate time zone, crowds of die-hard Chinese shoppers are foregoing their slumber to clinch a deal weeks before Singles’ Day itself.

As we saw with’s 33.6% growth for its 6.18 festival in June this year, the 12th annual Singles’ Day is likely to smash records again as Chinese consumers continue to show the world that it will take a lot more than a global pandemic to dampen their enthusiasm for shopping. The longer format will help bolster numbers too. Here are the big areas to watch at this year’s festival:

New Releases
Singles’ Day has evolved from just finding a cheap deal, to becoming a popular time to discover new products. More than 250,000 brands will be taking advantage of the 800 million+ audience to launch 2 million new products – double last year’s number of product debuts. The diversity of products is also increasing including less traditional categories such as automobiles, apartments and home decoration plans. Sneaker fans will be eagerly waiting for Air Jordan’s new kicks. Nearly 200 luxury brands will be peddling their wares, including Dior, which is releasing a capsule collection exclusively for the shopping festival, much like it has for Qixi – Chinese Valentine’s Day.

Cross Border
One of this year’s rising stars has been cross border ecommerce. Chinese consumers have gone online for their fix of foreign goods as they have been unable to buy them while travelling or through the slowing daigou trade. To cater for this growth, Tmall Global will debut over 2,600 new brands from overseas. JD is introducing more than 500,000 imported goods from more than 100 countries and regions across the globe. Behind the scenes, Alibaba’s logistics arm, Cainiao, will operate 3,000 chartered flights and long-haul cargo ships to meet the rising demand for imported goods.

Although China’s livestreaming users grew just 0.4% last quarter, there is still plenty of wind in its sails, as we saw in the wee-hours last Wednesday. Livestreaming will be a pivotal channel for this years Double-11 Festival, riding on its enormous popularity since the outbreak. 400 company executives and 300 celebrities will step in front of the camera on Alibaba platforms, and not to be outdone, JD has promised livestreams from 300 celebrities and 500 company execs. DAMO Academy will use artificial intelligence to create its first virtual livestreaming host, while Fliggy will host travel-related livestreams as we’ve seen with the popular Trip (Ctrip) livestreams.

Since 2015, we’ve seen Singles’ Day build a real presence in the physical world. With the tech giants increasingly investing in and integrating technology into physical retail chains, this trend will only grow. Through Alibaba’s companies and partnerships, it has more than 2 million brick-and-mortar businesses that it hopes will participate in one way or another. Alipay’s offline theme this Singles’ Day is ‘Hyper-local’, as it offers city-specific vouchers and special promotions to consumers in over 100 Chinese cities. By searching for specific keywords on the Alipay app, consumers will be able to redeem local discounts from shops such as coffeehouses and neighbourhood grocery stores.

True to its Singles’ Day roots, and to cater for the price-sensitive older generations and consumers from lower tier cities who have come online since Covid – in addition to China’s affluent classes who still love a deal – there will be plenty of cheap goods to buy over the next couple of weeks. Taobao Deals, Alibaba’s platform for super-cheap goods which launched in March, is selling direct-from-factory items at surprisingly low prices in the app, some as low as ¥1 ($0.15), including shipping. There will also be 14 million ‘value-for-money products’ from more than 250,000 brands available on Tmall.

Over the past decade we have been watching Singles’ Day / Double-11 evolve and grow. This year is looking like it will be no different, even in light of Covid. Rather than just offering a lot of goods at heavily discounted prices, participating brands should look to smart and sustainable strategies to get a positive return from the event. Much like anything in China, it isn’t a case of just jumping on the wagon and hoping the shoppers will come to you. Five million sellers are expected to participate in the 21-day sale festival so brands need to be smart in their execution to stand out. Contact China Skinny to learn how we can assist.

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