It’s been three weeks since Singles’ Day smashed records with sales topping $116 billion just from Alibaba and JD. At China Skinny, we’ve been busy analysing the results and trends – many of which apply to year-round marketing strategies to reach and connect with Chinese consumers.
For a start, the customer profile of this year’s Singles’ Day was different from previous festivals. The shifts that we saw in online shopper demographics during the lockdown in late-January to March have remain largely unchanged, even with the worst of Covid now behind China. This has resulted in consumers from tier 3 and below cities and the silver surfers accounting for a larger share of shoppers.
With many ‘small-town’ and older consumers reluctant to shop online pre-Covid, they were hard for brands to reach through the fragmented networks of stores and markets. In many cases, shopping was a key social event, but they appear to have been charmed by the convenience, deals, entertainment and range of online shopping, and are now finding social connections through other activities.
Whilst these demographics are becoming more confident when shopping online, they are still a long way behind the experienced and sophisticated Millennials and Gen-Zs in big cities who have used ecommerce for years. Brands should take note of these two-speeds of customers and adapt to them accordingly. For example, older consumers will typically respond better to simpler messaging and offer structures, will need reassurance of delivery and other policies, and be reinforced by functions and benefits that meet their age-specific needs and concerns.
Another outtake from Singles’ Day was reinforcing how much of a drawcard entertainment is for shoppers. Tmall saw more than 500 million players – yes, you read right – to their cat game, helped by the lure of small prizes. Similarly livestreaming, which is as much about entertainment as shopping drew in the masses. Austin Li sold ¥3.4 billion ($520 million) worth of goods and Viya ¥2.9 billion ($440 million) just on the opening of 11.11 pre-sales on 20 October. The takeaway from that is whether selling online or in traditional retail, Chinese consumers respond well to being entertained.
Possibly be the biggest surprise about Singles’ Day is that discounts weren’t as big as you may think, with many consumers drawn in by new product launches or special edition goods than buying cheap. For example, taking data from our Dairy Tracker, the average discount for the Double-11 festival period for liquid milk on Tmall was 34% – lower than the average discount of 38% from January to October. Even more interesting, was that consumers weren’t actually drawn to brands with the biggest discounts; milk with less discounting sold better. The average discount based on the value sold was just 16.1%, meaning that many brands over-discounted. The results were similar in our Beauty Tracker and other categories that we analysed.
One of the positive findings from our Trackers was that foreign brands were particularly popular on Singles’ Day, despite all the talk of nationalism. Foreign-branded dairy products accounted for 42.2% of sales, versus the 26.4% sales average in January to October. Similarly in beauty, the top-8 brands were all foreign.
Many of the lessons don’t only apply to the Singles’ Day festival but to overarching China marketing strategies. Get in touch with China Skinny to learn more about optimising sub-strategies for different demographics, how to bring your shopping experience to life through entertainment, help to determine the optimal discounts, or explore our ever-evolving Trackers together with all the other facets of a successful marketing strategy in China.
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