The Old, the New, and the Unexpected: The Evolution of China’s Double 11
Our teams weigh in on the future of China's Double 11 shopping event.
China’s Double 11 shopping event was in its 14th year in 2022. And while Double 11 maintained its importance as an essential moment on the Chinese e-commerce calendar, what’s clear, now more than ever, is that the festival is reaching a state of maturation. After all, it has been 14 years, and it’s no surprise to see an evolution happening.
While the mass-shopping event drove lots of attention and sales traction – as we expected, breaking last year’s record and surpassing 1 trillion RMB for the first time – there were some definitive shifts in how brands behaved this year, as well as changes to the nature of Double 11 itself. But more on that later…
First, what did we anticipate about Double 11 that did in fact play out this year?
Brands doubled down on livestreaming.
Livestream shopping has had an undeniable impact on Chinese e-commerce. According to Statista, the channel is expected to take nearly 25% share of total e-commerce sales in China by 2023. While livestreaming is practically a way of life for shoppers, KOLs, and brands, events like Double 11 amplify its reach, as brands run multiple livestreams with different KOLs across various platforms – and this year was no different.
More e-commerce players entered the fray.
While Double 11 is typically dominated by Alibaba’s Tmall and JD, we saw more e-commerce players make their way into Double 11 chatter. In particular, Bilibili launched a livestreaming option for the first time, likely in its bid to diversify its revenue streams. Douyin, aka China’s TikTok, saw a massive 630% YoY increase in GMV (gross merchandise value) during this year’s event.
Consumers were met by brands in the metaverse.
Like last year, brands also created engaging experiences in the metaverse through Double 11, as we saw more instances of digital influencers as well as digital products this year. While we’re still in the early days of metaverse, there continues to be appetite for it in China – and Double 11 continues to be a time when brands use bold experimentation to draw consumers in.
Tmall was still in the game.
While there was some diversification and new entrants, Tmall, without a doubt, still dominates Double 11. Brands launched 100,000+ new products on the platform this year, but at the same time, trends suggest that brands either changed or decreased their reliance on Tmall altogether– which sparks an interesting shift in the dynamic of e-commerce platforms versus brand-owned channels.
With the above reflecting the expected trends for Double 11, now, let’s dig into what we didn’t expect, as well as what might become lasting trends this year:
Both Tmall and JD didn’t publicly reveal their total GMV this year, and many are speculating this is because there was lower than expected performance.
Double 11 stretched across the world. Not only did Double 11 see more overseas e-commerce purchases from consumers in Europe, North Africa, and Latin America, but we also saw sales periods happening in other parts of the world to align with the Double 11 promotion timeline.
Several big brands – including luxury brands (who typically go big during Double 11) invested much less in the big e-commerce platforms, and instead, began placing greater emphasis on growing their brand-owned channels. Of course, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen luxe brands, in particular, emphasize their own high quality owned brand experiences to capture the imagination of luxury shoppers, but it was done so much more significantly on Double 11 this year than in previous years. To dig into this trend, we watched three luxury brands throughout the Double 11 sales period – here’s a snapshot of what we found:
- Italian luxury house, Moncler, launched their flagship Tmall store weeks before Double 11 on October 9th. They focused on their Tmall exclusive jacket, but there was limited promotion to drive sales there – most was done within the Tmall platform itself. During Double 11, Moncler launched their 70th anniversary campaign, Extraordinary Expedition, a global in-person immersive and online experience released on October 20th – a major moment for the brand. Within the exhibition, Moncler launched an NFT challenge in their WeChat Miniprogram.
So what? Moncler identified an opportunity to leverage the expected heightened buzz around Double 11 for their own massive brand moment – shifting the attention from the e-commerce platforms to their owned channels, and thus, increasing their chances to win over customers through these innovative, immersive experiences.
- While Prada previously used Tmall as a launchpad for their new collection, this year, the brand focused on a worldwide launch of their new winter/autumn collection across various channels. This year, they also offered no exclusive product or promotion on Tmall, and their ads on Weibo and WeChat during the Double 11 period drove traffic to their own website and WeChat miniprogram.
So,what? Pradatook the emphasis almost entirely off Tmall this year and focused exclusivelyon their own e-commerce.
- British luxury house, Burberry, was the most active on Tmall through Double 11 among the three brands we watched – they launched an exclusive Tmall collection. But they invested much less in Tmall than in 2021, when they created NFTs as part of Tmall’s Metaverse Art Exhibition. Additionally, Burberry focused on their new Burberry x Minecraft collection, designed for the modern explorer, driving traffic to their own channels from Weibo and Douyin.
So, what? Burberry invested significantly in their NFT activation on Tmall last year, whereas this year, they dove into a different kind of experiment with a new Minecraft collaboration, geared towards reaching affluent gaming and adventure enthusiasts, as well as traditional luxury buyers who were eager for a new spin on Burberry products.
With all the trends in mind for this year’s Double 11 event, what do future Double 11s look like? Our thoughts:
Double 11 is forever changed. A bold prediction, but we think one that will stick.
This is perhaps the first year that the traditional notion of Double 11 may be losing its luster. While the festival is still largely dominated by discount-heavy promotions, mostly adopted by Skincare, Beauty and FMCG brands, we’re seeing instances where certain industries, such as luxury retail, are beginning to mature and evolve. It certainly continues to create hype and increased purchase intent, but the hype isn’t necessarily all happening on the big e-commerce platforms, and it’s no longer just about the discounts. Instead, some brands are beginning to capture the shopping intent during this moment and are transforming the experience for consumers – getting consumers to engage across new mediums and owned channels and build their loyalty with their brands.
Double 11 will encourage more experimentation and innovation from brands.
Brands leveraging emerging experiences, formats, and channels (like metaverse, digital products, and – while certainly not new in China – livestreaming) to wow consumers during Double 11 will learn from these high-intent, high-engagement periods and apply them, not only throughout the year, but also in other markets. China and Chinese consumers often set the tone for digital advancement, and as consumers continue to latch onto these new experiences and as brands start to see brand loyalty and increased purchases as a result, they will apply these brand experiences elsewhere.
Omnichannel strategy will grow in importance.
It’s likely that brands diversifying away from the big e-commerce platforms isn’t exclusively a Double 11 trend – meaning this will likely start to happen more, overall. While there will always be a place for the Tmalls and JDs of the world, brands will start emphasizing true omnichannel strategy more, with increased investment in their owned channels, and more focus on nuanced strategies to fit each channel or platform with the right consumer experience.