China’s Double 11 E-commerce Festival – What are some of the differences for this year’s edition?

Double 11, also known as “Singles’ Day” originated as a shopping festival first initiated by Alibaba in 2009. Since then, it has become the world’s largest e-commerce event, and a period of extreme competition for brands, social media, and e-commerce platforms. Let’s check out some of the adjustments made by e-commerce and social media platforms before the launch of this year 2021 edition of the festival.

Taobao’s Product Seeding machine (逛逛种草机)

“What should I buy during double 11?” is probably the question Chinese consumers ask themselves the most in this period of the year. From October 1st and until October 20th, the date at which Double 11 pre-sales phase start, a new content marketing tool has been implemented inside the Taobao APP, called Guangguang seeding machine (逛逛种草机) to help consumers answer that question. Guangguang is an already existing content channel where merchants, influencers, and consumers can publish short blog posts to recommend products. So, what difference does the new functionality bring to this channel then?

First, Chinese influencer content is more emphasized on the home page, and we have access to 3 types of trend ranking: by Topics, by Brands, and by influencers. The content is more focused on short videos and live-streaming, matching the current marketing trend of entertainment marketing.

Secondly, the experience is made more interactive for users with tasks to complete, like reading 15 posts or sharing a link to a friend, which will give you access to a lottery up to four times per day. A lottery that can reward coupons up to 49’999 CNY (~7760 USD) of purchasing power to happily empty your shopping cart.

Finally, a public benefit message is also associated with the activity, converting the “seeding energy” into support to the Asian Elephant population.

This new tool will help consumers to discover new products to add to their watchlist in preparation for the coming discount, by providing them with easier access to Chinese stars and influencers’ recommendations without having to leave the platform.

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Taobao’s Senior-friendly mode(长辈模式APP):

Before this year edition of Double 11 festival, Taobao released an update of its APP on October 12th that include the new “Senior-friendly mode” (长辈模式). The mode simplifies the interface by removing many functions and contents less relevant to senior consumers while increasing the size of characters and making the voice search function easier to access.

This is a welcome move from the Chinese senior population that cited their difficulties to purchase online as one of their biggest concern.

Apart from impacting the display of information, the senior mode will also affect the product recommendations made by the application to better match the needs of senior consumers. We will have to wait and observe how this change impacts the consumption habits of the senior population and if it will lead to increased market opportunities, but for now, some obstacles remain in the purchasing process. They are still some part of the app that is not impacted by the resizing, such as written content on product’s page, but multiple solutions are already being beta tested by Alibaba’s team to solve the remaining issues.

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JD.com’s one-hour delivery service (小时购)

JD.com, the second-biggest Chinese e-commerce marketplace announced on October 12th a new purchasing/delivery model for its platform, called “小时购”, which means that products with this tag on their store’s page can be purchased and received by the customer in the following hour.

Speed of delivery is an important factor for Chinese consumers’ satisfaction, where the standard delivery time is already expected to be less than 4 days. JD.com is using its already strong and integrated logistic infrastructure to gain a competitive advantage over its competitor. This will be made possible with the collaboration of Dadakuaisong (达达快送), a Chinese delivery service, and the use of local store’s inventory in the proximity of the customers, from which goods will be collected and then delivered.

The model is not new in China, with many platforms having similar services but they were mostly centered on purchasing from supermarkets, fruit stores, and other specific types of stores. Here JD.com is expanding the model by integrating local shops as local “warehouses”. This new model will be especially impactful for smaller or remote cities that don’t have sufficient or local warehousing facilities. Concerning the profitability of this model, data is already supporting the fact that quicker delivery leads to more sales and growth. And the timing of launching this model just before double 11 is relevant, since the stress that the festival put every year on the delivery industry is enormous, and package can often take two weeks to reach their buyer, which can be two to three times the average time.

In the coming five years, this model is expected to become the new norm for the delivery time, which will prove challenging for cross-border brands that lack local presence and distribution channels, as their delivery speed will be considered slow.

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Douyin’s Double 11 strategy (抖音好物节玩法):

Douyin (Chinese version of the APP TikTok) published its platform strategy for this Double 11 festival. The strategy revolves around supporting merchant sales through six programs that will bring rewards to best performers and best content. The overall strategy aims to reward quality of content over quantity, with gradual incentive programs linked to metrics like viewership, time spent on content, and sales generated, leading to financial reward and reduced cost for participants that reach the platform’s established targets.

The program is not open to anyone though, influencers and merchants wishing to participate need to first meet some requirements that are mostly related to viewership and the quality of content for influencers, while merchants are evaluated on their sales volumes and quality of service.

With this strategy, Douyin is trying to seduce top brands to invest more into its platform by offering them exclusive exposure and reduced marketing costs, while strengthening its integrated e-commerce capability.

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Of course, those are only few of the many things happening prior to the festival. What about you? What do you think will have a great impact on this year Double 11 edition?