China’s eCommerce Festivals to Watch in 2018
Western brands are increasingly aware of Singles’ Day as a key route to market in China. This is for good reason, this year Singles’ Day saw RMB 168.3 billion ($25.3bn) in goods sold, showing some 41% growth year on year. (We’ve got all the details on Singles’ Day in our article Here)
In fact, Singles’ Day has been so successful that it has eclipsed some of the other important festivals for retail in China.
Whilst some of these aren’t as high profile as Singles’ Day and others are more traditional Chinese festivals that simply drive eCommerce sales, all are worth considering for your brand.
As we’ve touched on in the past the sheer size of Singles’ Day makes it very difficult for all but the largest brands, or budgets, to attract consumer attention. Because of its size, media and influencer prices go through the roof several weeks in advance of the event and a race to the bottom with discounting makes achieving significant ROI difficult.
With this in mind, brands should consider spending more time and budget on one of China’s many other eCommerce led or traditional festivals. With less competition for consumer attention and more opportunity for differentiation, they drive significantly more ROI.
Our Top 10 Chinese Festivals for Shopping & eCommerce
Valentine’s Day (14th February)
Western Valentine’s Day has become the most important and widely celebrated of three separate Valentine’s Day holidays in China. As in the West, it drives significant sales of flowers and gifts.
Chinese New Year & Golden Week (16th February 2018)
China’s equivalent of Christmas and New Year rolled into one, Chinese New Year – and the ‘Golden Week’ public holiday are well worth brand attention. In 2017, sales of $124bn in extra retail and online sales were recorded during Chinese New Year. In fact, shopping is so associated with Chinese New Year there is even a special name for goods purchased at the time – 年货 (nian huo – lit:’ (New) Year’s Goods’).
Women’s Day (8th March)
A festival with its origins as a Russian Communist celebration of Women might seem like the antithesis of commercialism.
But in recent years, Women’s Day has become a popular retail and eCommerce festival in China, with various companies rebranding it as Queen’s Day, Princess’ Day and other variations on this theme.
Despite criticism, these sales have become incredibly popular in China and for fashion & luxury brands, Women’s Day is definitely one to watch.
Rebranded as ‘Queen’s Day’ by Tmall, VIP.com’s front page and Jumei.com’s Women’s Day slogan, ‘We just want you to look good!’
Children’s Day (1st June)
Another international celebration that has now become co-opted by various eCommerce companies, brands that appeal to young people should certainly consider Children’s Day. In 2017 Alibaba alone recorded almost 7.4bn RMB (around £850m) in sales on Children’s Day.
6.18 (18th June and on for 18 days)
JD.com’s answer to Alibaba’s Singles’ Day, 6.18 is the second largest purely eCommerce-led festival in China. Running for 18 days (as opposed to 1 for Singles’ Day) from the 1st to the 18th June, in 2017 it drew $17bn in sales, growing 50% year on year.
Whilst an attractive option for brands, 6.18 is rapidly becoming so large and so popular that it presents many of the same problems as Singles’ Day – a race to the bottom with discounts and rising prices of media before the festival.
Chinese Valentine’s Day (a.k.a. 7.7 or Qixi Jie) 17th August
Chinese Valentine’s Day, also known as the ‘Evening of Sevens’ as it occurs on the 7th day of the 7th Chinese lunar month, is a traditional Chinese festival that has only recently become a retail event.
Celebrating the legend of a couple kept apart by the stars themselves, Qixi Jie has now split along similar lines to Singles’ Day. Couples now use the day as an excuse to treat each other, whilst many of China’s affectionately named ‘Single Dogs’ now use it as an excuse to treat themselves.
In 2017, fashion and luxury brands saw a ‘frenzy’ of activity around the day, with flash sales, romantic surprises and exclusive goods produced for the festival.
9.9 Wine & Spirits Festival (1-9th September)
Another Alibaba-led pure eCommerce festival, 9.9 is so named as the character for 9 in Chinese sounds fairly similar to the word for ‘alcohol’.
As you might expect then, this festival focuses purely on Wine & Spirits, from foreign imports to local wines and Baijiu, China’s favourite spirit.
However, despite a vast promotional effort from Alibaba, this festival fell flat in 2016, with brands from 56 countries failing to draw much consumer interest.
In future years expect to see significant growth here as Alibaba invests more and more in the festival.
Tmall.com’s homepage during the 9/9 Wine Festival
Mid-Autumn Festival (& Golden Week)
Another traditional Chinese festival, mid-Autumn Festival and the Golden Week holiday that it falls inside is also a public holiday in China. In recent years, it has become an opportunity for many luxury consumers to holiday internationally, raising sales across the world.
WeChat users checking in around the globe on their Golden Week Holidays
For this festival, brands should prepare for and welcome Chinese customers in their stores across the world with exclusive discounts and offers.
11.11 (Singles’ Day, 11th November)
Alibaba’s behemoth eCommerce Festival – worth taking part for the biggest brands only, worth mentioning for others.
You can find our full coverage of Singles’ Day here.
12.12 (‘Double 12’, 12th December)
If Singles’ Day is primarily about online sales, 12.12 is about online-to-offline sales, or O2O. Also pioneered by Alibaba, 12.12 drives sales in retail stores through significant discounting for Alipay users.
Click here for our full coverage of 12.12. As a significantly smaller event than Singles’ Day and one that brands’ retail presences outside of China can participate in and benefit from, 12.12 is well worth participating in for foreign brands.
More Niche but worth considering
White Valentine’s Day (14th March)
Exactly one month after Valentine’s Day, White Valentine’s Day is about giving back – where those that received gifts on the 14th February return the favour.
White Valentine’s Day is a great opportunity for brands to demonstrate that they really deeply understand Chinese consumers, with the raised engagement that this brings.
8.18 (1st-18th August)
Run by Chinese electronics retailer Suning, this new eCommerce and retail festival has only just started to pick up steam. Though online sales grew by 263% this year, this is from a rather low (comparative base) and Suning has declined to release sales figures. This is one for most brands to avoid.
Tellingly, Suning doesn’t mention any absolute numbers for its retail festival
12.8 (8th December)
Similar to 8.18, this festival is another etailer-led event, this time by VIP.com. As with 818 the limited nature of this event and limited cultural appeal makes this one for most brands to avoid, unless they are listing products on VIP.com
Still unsure as to which Chinese eCommerce events to take part in this year? We’ll be happy to help you decide.
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