If you see 11.11 and 6.18 and just think numbers or calendar dates, you could be missing out on a major opportunity to attract and grow sales among Chinese consumers. China’s shopping culture is anchored by a number of massive and increasingly star-studded annual shopping events that take place on specific dates and are organized by major brands. Many last several days, or even weeks. And, as with any sales event or shopping festival, these promotions have traditionally involved a combination of in-store shopping, gala launches and eCommerce. Of course, with pandemic store closures and restrictions, the festivals moved online in 2020 and have since become predominantly eCommerce events. In a bid to attract more customers, top brands amped up their livestreaming efforts – and saw their sales skyrocket by millions of dollars. One thing’s clear: livestreaming represents a golden opportunity for brands to reach and grow sales among Chinese consumers.
- 11.11 – Singles Day – also known as Alibaba’s “Double Eleven” festival, is the largest shopping party in the world. It’s global eCommerce platform Alibaba’s annual mega sale. GMV (Gross Merchandise Volume) for the entire event in 2019 reached US$38.4 billion. In 2020, when Alibaba made livestreaming a focal point of the event, GMV grew to $US74.1 billion. Brands that provided livestreaming content were rewarded with platform exposure and sales returns pinned to livestreaming efforts by top influencers were impressive. In fact, influencers brought in US$1 billion on the very first day of pre-sales.
- 6.18 – The 6.18 shopping event started fairly recently – in 1998 – but it’s already on part with Singles Day. Launched to commemorate the founding of China’s second largest eCommerce platform, JD.com, the 18-day festival is now celebrated across the eCommerce sector. This year’s JD event was particularly important for fueling the post-pandemic economic recovery in China, with sales amounting to US$31.53 billion. Livestreaming, too, has become a major part of 6.18, with hundreds of celebrities, and even 600 company CEOs, taking part this year on various social media and eCommerce video platforms.
Alibaba added livestreaming to their online marketplace in 2015 as a promotional supplement to that years 11.11 festival. Ever since, it’s been regarded as an attractive add-on for online marketing. However, the jaw-dropping returns from recent shopping festivals show it’s become more central to campaigns, becoming less of an add-on, but a must-have. Consider the numbers: Alibaba’s livestream commerce channel, Taobao Live, generated over US$60 billion in GMV in 2020 and that figure is rising yearly by 150%. The number of daily active users visiting Taobao Live grew by 661% from 2019 to 2020, as consumers flocked to online marketplaces to watch brands and influencers talk about new and favorite products during the pandemic. The livestreaming medium has proven so successful that nearly every Chinese social media and eCommerce platform has launched a livestreaming tool.
The gains are not due to livestreaming alone, but partly driven by the participation of KOLs, or Key Opinion Leaders, in the promotion of products – from makeup and beauty, to clothing and video games. Taobao Live, for instance, has a dedicated portal that matches brands with livestream hosts who interact and engage with consumers and make special offers and discounts available during live programming. Many KOLs have fan bases in the millions, which helps spur the popularity of livestreams, leading more consumers to tune in, and more brands to adopt it as a marketing strategy.
China’s internet user base is ever-growing and the attention of Chinese consumers is intensely focused on digital offerings, including eCommerce and social media platforms. Innovative, entertaining and engaging livestreaming across channels is increasingly what Chinese consumers expect from brands. 2019, China’s livestreaming market was valued at approximately 90 billion yuan in 2019 and is now estimated at 1 trillion yuan. Livestreaming is much more than an interesting option to spur sales among Chinese consumers. More than ever, it’s a necessary part of any eCommerce strategy that wants to draw and retain Chinese customers.
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