Two of the world’s biggest sales events – Black Friday and Cyber Monday – usually pale in comparison to Singles Day. Known as ‘Double 11’, the festival celebrates singlehood, an unofficial anti-Valentine’s Day holiday in China. In written form, 11.11 shows up as four one’s, or singles.
The Double 11 shopping festival has matured after 14 years of development. This year, platforms continues to make social contributions beyond their commercial value – rather than announcing sales results, participating parties highlighted accomplishments in areas such as helping farmers, green technology and environmental protection. Brands and platforms are now focusing on retaining users and improving their shopping experiences.
In view of this, Chinese online platforms are increasingly concerned with quality development and integration with the real economy in the face of economic pressure, major platforms such as Tmall and JD.com did not report the gross merchandise volume (GMV) for the Double 11 online festival in 2022.
Tian Yun, the former vice director of the Beijing Economic Operation Association, explained on Saturday that companies’ sales growth during the Double 11 festival shows China’s consumption continues to recover, despite the market sentiment and expectations remaining cautious amid the epidemic. Some 290,000 brands, one million small and medium-sized businesses, and livestreaming sellers all took part in this year’s Double 11 shopping festival. According to a report by Hangzhou Daily, more than 21 million products were showcased at the event.
Summing up the happenings and results of a few major Chinese e-commerce platforms, Retail in Asia looked into the impact of this year’s Double 11 Festival.
“E-commerce platforms connect with consumers on one end and merchants on the other. They have a natural advantage when it comes to driving green consumption and sustainable practices across the product life cycles and supply chains,” said Jin Min, a professor with the school of environment and natural resources at China’s Renmin University.
To encourage greener consumption, Alibaba offered additional discounts on items in the green vertical, as well as issued RMB100 million worth of “green vouchers” to incentivize sustainable purchases.
For each green purchase they make, shoppers can earn “energy points” on Alipay Ant Forest, the e-wallet’s tree-planting mini program. Consumers gained more than 1,000 tons in green energy points this 11.11, which means 58,838 real trees will be planted by Alipay and its NGO partners on their behalf in China’s most arid regions in need of afforestation.
By searching “delivery package recycling” on the Taobao and Cainiao apps, users could check the number of eco-friendly packages they’ve received since last year’s 11.11, as well as the number of times they used old cardboard boxes for shipping at Cainiao Post pick-up points. These actions are tallied into a final score for shoppers to see how much they’ve reduced their carbon footprint over the year.
Cainiao also used e-shipping labels to replace traditional paper sheets for over 1.2 billion parcels, while 15 million parcels shipped from its warehouses were delivered in their original boxes or using biodegradable, plastic-free packaging.
JD.com selected and labeled products based on certification, function, usage scenario and packaging materials. The labeled products included those certified by national and international standards, advocating for refill and less packaging, adopting sustainable materials, with zero waste, as well as low-carbon transportation products including BEVs, sustainable fashion and furnishing products, and energy efficient appliances.
The delivery boxes for products under the Green Impact Initiative were reusable, and could be transformed into DIY pet houses and storage boxes.
Low-tier cities on the rise
Lower-tier cities in China are the next big drivers of growth, Alibaba market data shows. When 11.11 sales opened on Nov. 1-3, spending in lower-tier cities and rural areas increased by nearly 25 year-over-year. The number of luxury goods buyers in smaller cities also grew by nearly 50.
Not to forget about the shoppers from nearly 400 different cities who placed orders on Tmall’s luxury platform either. In the first hour alone, nearly 1 million people browsed luxury products. The top 30 locations with the fastest growth in luxury spending were all lower-tier cities.
“When you think about new user penetration for most of 11.11’s lifetime of success, it was grown through Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities, individuals with higher disposable incomes,” said James Yang, partner at Bain & Co.
But today, megacities like Shanghai and Beijing offer less headroom to grow than China’s relatively untapped smaller cities.
“Last year, [11.11] saw a really big spike in lower-tier cities, including in Tier 3, 4 and 5 cities and rural areas, potentially because of post-Covid influence as well,” Yang added. “This year was another watershed moment.”
Consumption in mid- and lower-tier markets has grown healthily. Average basket size from new lower-tier market consumers increased 12 year-on-year. Consumers in these markets also buy electronics and home appliances more often. Transaction volume of home appliances in fifth- and sixth-tier cities increased 97 percent compared with last year. During the promotion, transaction volume of nearly 10,000 kinds of agricultural products surpassed RMB 100,000 yuan, with 23 percent of fresh produce realizing 100 percent growth rate in sales.
To round up the 11.11 campaigns this year, Ray Hu, partner at EY, concluded the event with a few key findings:
- Competition between platforms will become less intense. We have already seen more consumer traffic to platforms that provide access to other platform(s) to achieve mutual benefits. For example, KOLs from Douyin are now allowed to host in Taobao livestream channels; Wangyiyoupin is also doing promotion at Taobao platform.
- Brands expect multiple purchases from consumers over a longer period. Singles Day promotions are getting longer, compared to 38 days in 2021.
- Promotions and campaigns are simpler, focusing on purchase discounts. The idea behind this price-tag strategy is to encourage consumers to make quick purchasing decisions.