Over the last few years, Double 11 (November 11th), also known as Single’s Day, has started to be one of the most popular shopping festivals in Norway. But did you know it actually originated from China and has continuously been the grandest online shopping festival in China since it was created by Alibaba in 2009?
The volume of sales during the online shopping festivals accounts for a large part of their annual sales for many brands. For those international brands that have an ambition to get a share of the Chinese market, participating in those online activities provides excellent opportunities to raise brand awareness and drive sales.
In order to give you a better overview about the landscape of the Chinese e-commerce festivals, we have summarized some major and influential ones in China during the past years. The introduction will follow a chronological order from this June.
June: Children’s Day
Children’s Day is normally cerebrated on the first of June. As it is a festival dedicated to the kids, parents and grandparents love to prepare gifts for them, which vary from new clothes, health supplements, educational toys to school related products etc. Health and education are the highest concern among the kids’ families. It is important for the kids-related brands to seize the chance and join campaigns during the festival. Promotions usually start from the end of May and last through the first week of June.
Key take-aways: kids related products, health, education
June: 618 Shopping Festival
618 Shopping Festival, launched in 2004 by JD.com, is China’s second largest e-commerce festival, similar to Alibaba’s 11.11 Global Shopping Festival. ‘618’ is the date June the 18th, which has the meaning for more wealth in Chinese. JD.com is the second largest B2C e-commerce platform in China after Alibaba’s Tmall. Even though the festival was initiated by JD.com, it has attracted retailers from across the e-commerce industry nowadays. The festival usually starts at the beginning of June and lasts 18 days.
Key take-aways: mid-year promotion, second biggest online shopping festival
★November: Double 11
Double 11, originally created by a group of Chinese college students to celebrate their singledom, is now unquestionably the most popular e-commerce shopping festival in China and is often referred to Black Friday in the west as its counterpart. Even though almost all the major e-commerce platforms join this shopping festival, sales through Tmall accounts more than half of the total transactions.
In 2019, Alibaba reported sales activity with a total amount CNY268.4 billion (USD38.4 billion), surpassing the sales of CNY213.5 billion (USD30.5 billion) in 2018 by nearly 26%. As a comparison, that’s more than 2.5 times the U.S. sales during Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined in 2018.
As Double 11 is a comprehensive and grand shopping festival, we can see the brand categories that join this shopping festival are of great diversity. Besides, it should be noted that many brands start preparing a campaign a few months in advance, in order to manage the huge transaction flow during Double 11. Last but not the least, it is also necessary to make sure the delivery system is ready beforehand.
Key take-aways: most popular shopping festival, highest amount of sales
December: Double 12
Double 12, aka. December 12th festival is also a popular online shopping festival in end of a year. As an end-of-season sales promotion primarily hosted by JD.com and Alibaba, it gives the merchants an excellent opportunity to clear inventory left after Double 11. The consideration is also given to those consumers that could not get to buy what they wished for during Double 11, due to the out of stock of the products. For this group of consumers, most of them would wait for Double 12 to meet their shopping demand.
Key take-aways: end-of-season sale
Unlike how Christmas is celebrated in the west, it is perceived more like a shopping festival in China that has far less to do with family reunion. Consumers like to buy luxury goods to themselves or those they love as gifts during Christmas. So, it is an opportunity for those brands that target the high-end consumer groups in China to boost more sales during Christmas.
Key take-aways: high-end consumers, gifts, luxury brands
February: Spring Festival
As is well known to the western world, Spring Festival, also called Chinese Lunar New Year, is one of the most important festivals for the Chinese people. It is time for family members to reunion and enjoy quality time together. In the Chinese culture, people always buy gifts when they travel home to their parents or visit the relatives during the festival. And Chinese people especially love to buy health care products to their parents, which is recognized as the top gift to the parents in China.
Additionally, it is the tradition that people buy themselves new clothes and new furniture to embrace the new year. As such, it is common that many brands, ranging from clothing, cosmetics, jewellery to snacks etc, make big campaigns and generate more sales before the festival. It should be noted that the delivery system usually close one week before the New Year’s Eve, so retailers should mark the last day of their promotion.
Key take-aways: family reunion, health care products, luxury products
March: Women’s Day
The name of the festival reveals how it is connected to the e-commerce festival. Brands that are related to women such as clothes, accessories, cosmetics, skin cares, health products, normally seize the chance and have some campaigns targeting women consumers. Even though Women’s Day is on 8th March, it has recently started to be celebrated from 7th March, a day which is called Nv Shen Jie (Goddess’ Day). It should be highlighted that the women group stands as the main consuming force in the e-commerce industry in China, so it is without doubt a wise decision to have promotion for the day.
Key take-aways: women related, clothes, cosmetics, health products
Several other shopping festivals
There are some other big days throughout the year as well, including Qing Ming Festival (Tomb Sweeping Day) in April, Chinese Valentine’s days such as 520 in May and Qi Xi in August, as well as Mid-Autumn Festival in October this year. Compared to other big online shopping festivals, they tend to be in smaller scales and more offline activities.
Comparison with online shopping festivals in Norway
There are many annual shopping festivals in Norway as well, mostly arranged regional-wise like the big promotion days on Bogstadsveien and Karl Johans gate in Oslo. Meanwhile online shopping festivals such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday are also popular among the Norwegian merchants. Compared to the e-commerce festivals in China, we can see there are fewer national online shopping festivals in Norway.
At this digital age, merchants and the consumers influence each other in a very dynamic way and in a huge market like China, how, when and what to catch the attention of the consumers are always evolving. According to a research conducted by IIMEDIA about this e-commerce fever in China, most of the Chinese consumers consider shopping online when the products have promotions. In other words, price is still the main driving force. However, shopping festivals are not just for discounts or promotions, they usually have their meanings and can leave memories.
For foreign brands entering the Chinese market, an overview and understanding about the Chinese e-commerce environment is very crucial, for example for healthcare brands, Spring Festival and Women’s Day are two important festivals to consider.