The 2022 Singles Day (Nov. 11) was the world’s biggest online shopping festival of the year.
In 2021, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba hit a Singles Day sale record of $84.54 billion in gross merchandise value on its e-commerce platforms Tmall and Taobao.
As Alibaba and JD.com’s 2022 Singles Day came to an end on Nov. 12, we saw some important differences in this year’s Singles Day sales and marketing.
If international brands and retailers have gotten used to preparing for Singles Day in a certain way, China has already moved on.
There are four new changes you must know about 2022 Singles Day and looking ahead to 2023.
1. Livestreaming e-commerce matures and grows
Taobao Live, the livestreaming unit of e-commerce giant Alibaba, recorded sales of RMB 20 billion ($2.85 billion) during the 2021 Singles Day. We forecasted that e-commerce livestreaming would play an even more significant role this year. While many merchants have noticed the importance of Taobao Live’s ability to drive traffic and its sales impact, they must pay close attention to the newest changes to stay competitive.
In the first hour of the first sales window (Oct. 31 to Nov. 3), the number of views recorded by Taobao Live increased by 684% compared with the first hour of the first purchasing period last year.
Taobao embraces new influencers to join its livestream ecosystem. Over 500,000 new hosts joined Taobao Live over the past 12 months, including key opinion leaders (KOLs) who used to launch livestreams exclusively on Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok.
Another trend is luxury brands’ attitude toward livestreaming has changed. On Nov. 7, dozens of luxury houses and upscale fashion brands teamed up with top-tier livestreaming influencer Austin Li to host a livestreaming session on Alibaba’s Taobao Live platform. From social media platform Little Red Book, we noticed a popular discussion on Austin Li and luxury brands teaming up for a livestreaming event.
Luxury players often have a complex relationship with e-commerce:it’s an important channel for brands to engage millennials, but it’s also rife with discounting and fake products, which affect brand positioning and trust. Maintaining a luxury experience while your products are being sold on an e-commerce platform next to beef jerky can be tough.
2. Emerging categories present huge opportunities
In the past few years, beauty, fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), electronic devices and apparel faced particularly high demand. This year, we observed the following four consumer product categories boomed: toys, pet care, jewelry (especially gold) and outdoor.
Pet ownership is on the rise in China, where people are feeding their furry friends only the finest quality products. Tmall data shows that daily needs for health and nutrition products for cats and dogs, as well as pet services, have seen significant growth.
Toys were bestsellers this Singles Day, and not just toys exclusively designed for children and teenagers. A particular phenomenon in the toy industry is that adults have also been buying more toys. More and more young consumers are buying model toys, such as model airplanes. We have not seen this in previous years.
China’s passion for outdoor activities is getting intense. Specific demands for outdoor segments, including camping, skateboarding and fishing, earned a 100% increase in the first hour of the first official sales window on Tmall.
These four categories, in general, are not must-have items, but they stand out among this year’s Double 11. These results are also consistent with current consumption trends: consumers are younger and consumer demand to improve their quality of life is increasing.
3. Customer loyalty matters more than GMV
This year, Alibaba and JD.com both stayed low-key in terms of disclosing the precise numbers of their total gross merchandise value (GMV) during the Singles Day period. Alibaba said Taobao Tmall reached the same performance scale as last year, while JD.com commented that they set a new record.
Reasonably, it is difficult to expect high GMV growth in 2022. For one, consumption is changing in the post-pandemic era and it is now more rational. On the other hand, as the internet dividend peak has gone, the number of new-registered users dropped significantly.
But that doesn’t mean Singles Day has lost its shine in China’s e-commerce market.
In the past, GMV numbers were the industry’s biggest focus on Double 11. But, for the platform and merchants, a transformation has already been quietly underway.
Alibaba and other major platforms announced transaction data, all of which coincide to highlight brands’ breakthroughs.
On Nov. 1, Tmall saw 82 brands exceed the RMB 100 million ($14 million US) threshold in member transactions. More than 50% of the turnover of 2,700 well-known brands came from members, which became a new engine for brands’ steady growth on Tmall Double 11.
At 8 p.m. on Nov. 7, JD.com launched PLUS DAY. In the first four hours of this sales campaign, the turnover of JD PLUS members accounted for more than 60% of the volume of transactions, with more than 5 million PLUS members making purchases.
Figuring out how to lead consumption trends, and how to increase members and users by taking advantage of the shopping festival opportunities to achieve long-term growth have been the key pain points that the industry has been paying attention to this year.
4. More players fight for market share
While shopping holidays have long been dominated by big players (during last year’s Singles’ Day, Alibaba and JD combined accounted for 92.15% of total sales), the proportion of their sales fell slightly from the year before. This year it’s expected that more diverse players will split the pie.
Omnichannel is a growing reality in China, and the 2022 Singles Day reflected that trend very clearly. For emerging platforms, Singles Day is a critical stage for them to show off and it presents huge opportunities for brands and retailers to drive sales.
Compared with the 2.9% growth rate of mainstream e-commerce platforms Taobao and JD, the total transaction volume of livestreaming e-commerce, represented by Douyin, Diantao, and Kuaishou, reached RMB 181.4 billion ($26 billion) during Singles Day this year, up 146.1% YoY.
As Singles Day extends in duration, retailers and brands should consider it a “shopping season” instead of a “shopping day.” Marketing strategies now require more flexible plans with a set of different approaches.
Singles Day is no longer a shopping festival for traditional e-commerce giants like Tmall, Taobao, and JD.com. Other platforms like Kuaishou, Douyin and WeChat mini-programs are now participating in the shopping festivals, too. Brands and retailers could pay more attention to the opportunities on different platforms and consider whether they need to develop their marketing strategy for multiple platforms to fuel growth.
Franklin Chu is managing director U.S. for Azoya International, a provider of turnkey cross-border e-commerce solutions to assist retailers looking to expand into China through a cost-effective and lower risk method. To date, over 35 retailers in 11 countries are partnering with Azoya to expand into China with ease, including French fashion retailer La Redoute, Australia’s largest pharmacy group, Sigma, as well as Feelunique, the largest online beauty retailer in Europe.
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