Singles’ Day is not just the biggest online shopping day in China, but it has become the world’s largest ecommerce sales event. As Chinese consumers prepare for the annual shopping event, Mintel’s Trends Analyst for Asia Pacific, Philix Liu, speculates on this year’s projected success.  

After weeks of hype and expectation among media and consumers, the big day is finally here! Different from last year and the year before, this time around the big day kicks off a few hours earlier with a bang – nationwide televised programs to celebrate Singles’ Day Sale by JD.com and Alibaba.

Originating back in 2009 when Alibaba first launched the idea to create one day of massive promotions and discounts on November 11th – also known as “Singles’ Day” or “Double Eleven” – it begs the question, did the company ever expect that one day it would become such a nationwide shopping phenomenon? Regardless, neither Alibaba or JD.com feels content with November 11th being merely a big sales event. The companies want to turn it into something bigger, more entertaining, more memorable, and – of course –  drive more sales.

By inviting the hottest celebrities and integrating the most watched TV programming into the nationwide televised events on November 10th, JD.com and Alibaba aim to add a new layer of narrative to Double Eleven, which is largely perceived as a discount shopping day by consumers. The companies aim to elevate the day to more than a simple day for shopping into a lasting ritual that is full of events and shared stories.

People often compare Double Eleven to Black Friday in the US as they both offer great deals for consumers and both are fabricated and hyped up by brands for commercial value. However, unlike Black Friday, Double Eleven is missing the cultural value, or simply lacking a relevant and lasting story behind it. In other words, Double Eleven needs a “Thanksgiving” motivation.

44% of Chinese consumers have participated in “shaking a smartphone” to get vouchers when watching live

The nationwide televised program can also create great brand awareness and attract new consumers from the lower tier cities and rural countryside, considering the programs are broadcast via reputable state TV CCTV and popular online video streaming sites such as Tencent. The online retailing saturation is still relatively low in lower tier cities in China as 45% of Chinese consumers from lower tier cities have not used O2O services due to lack of availability according to Mintel research.

The televised festive programs could also be a great sales opportunity for two platforms. Mintel finds that 53% of Chinese consumers use more than one digital product at the same time (eg using a smartphone while watching TV) and 44% have participated in “shaking a smartphone” to get vouchers when watching live programs. That means the sale could kick off hours before midnight on 11/11, and potentially generate sales through interactive activities such as scoring limited deals by scanning QR codes on TV or shaking phones to enter sweepstakes during the broadcast.

It is interesting to note that JD decided to start their program 30 minutes earlier than Alibaba’s. Mintel believes that it is a good tactical strategy to engage the viewers’ attention early on, continuing to engage them throughout the program with a good and suspenseful singing competition (The Voice of China), and prevent viewers from changing channels to Alibaba’s and ultimately lead up to the final hour approaching the midnight big sale moment.

All in all, we will let the numbers tell the story once the dust has settled on November 12, and we will see who wins the trophy for this year’s Double Eleven.

Philix Liu is a Trends Analyst for the APAC region and is based in Shanghai. His area of focus includes innovation, creative marketing campaigns, new design and other trends related content. He also helps inspire brands and agencies on-site to innovate in the APAC region.

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