6.18 – China’s second “shopping day”

As perhaps many people are already aware, 11.11 (November 11) was launched as a shopping extravaganza by Alibaba’s TMall – initially named “Singles Day” although now it’s become pretty universal. Jing Dong (JD) launched their own special shopping day on June 18 which was their founder’s birthday and over the years it’s become China’s second largest shopping day.

Neither festival has remained exclusive to any platform – all the e-commerce, social commerce, group buying and even offline retail channels now have special pricing and promotions for these two days.

Also, neither “day” is now strictly just one day. 618 starts from June 1 when people can start putting things in their shopping carts and 11.11 also stretches effectively over nearly two weeks. (This year 618 started from May 24 so it’ll soon be a 3 month affair!)

To put things in perspective, 11.11.2020 showed a GMV of nearly 500 billion RMB for Alibaba’s TMall and 272 billion RMB for JD. For the same year, 618 showed 269 billion RMB of GMV for JD so the two days are almost identical in GMV terms for JD.

618 for 2021 has just concluded and apparently JD clocked in at 344 billion RMB, so about 26% growth over the previous year.

Two trends that are interesting to watch here are the gradual lengthening of the promotional period (whether by allowing people to start marking their “wish-lists” earlier and earlier or by having different phases of promotions) and the convergence of the sales numbers across these two key shopping festivals.

The bigger question of course, is how long these kinds of highly promotional festivals will continue and how widespread the participation of brands will continue to be. Brands must surely be struggling to continue to sell at deeply discounted prices over longer periods and more occasions every year. These were great ways for the platforms to establish themselves with consumers but as they get bigger, many established brands are questioning the value of participating in these festivals and thinking of ways of getting around the rules and systems of the big e-commerce platforms that create them.

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