China’s Double 11 shopping festival cooling is an opportunity for brands to re-think

Unlike previous years, there is no barrage of real-time reports and chest-thumping assertions of being even bigger and better than ever before.

Double 11 (November 11th) became famous as the world’s biggest online shopping day, dwarfing any such event anywhere in the world in terms of revenue. While it’s gone from a single day to a more extended shopping period, the final day sees consumers rushing to take advantage of promotions and deals before they disappear and hourly updates from Alibaba and JD on GMV and how they’re outperforming previous years.

This year, there was no real-time reporting on the numbers. No astonishing claims around the previous years day one sales being breached in the first minute. No hype, no hoopla. The figures that were eventually released did show an 8% growth for Alibaba and 28% for JD, though we should parse those carefully to make sure we’re comparing like periods.

Now, there could be several reasons for the general cooling of sentiment over 11.11, the lack of enthusiasm for reporting real-time statistics and the lower growth rates. From reasons as far-fetched as some people being apprehensive of COVID being spread on courier parcels during this period of intense delivery logistics, to a slight dampening of economic sentiment, to tech-giants in China being scrutinized to the point where they’re not comfortable being in the public eye.

It’s very likely that next year everything will bounce back and we’ll see the boisterous optimism of previous years. However, for the first time, we saw big brands being forced to engage in an ongoing series of promotions and discounts far later than they usually do. For the first time, there was a sense of sellers chasing buyers on the platforms rather than buyers chasing that elusive “now or never” deal. Perhaps that experience may make brands question, just a little bit, what they’re getting out of 11.11 and other shopping festivals.

From our perspective, one of the main purposes a promotional period serves is helping to drive new users. If you’re a brand with a large base of current users, does selling to them at deep discounts really help the brand? Especially if you’re discounting below an affordable level? Does it make sense to be in the hurly-burly of a crowded, noisy environment like 11.11?

While it makes sense for a lot of new brands, we believe there are many businesses who need to think about a counter-intuitive approach to the big shopping festivals. Maybe the first “cool” year in the history of 11.11 will spark such thinking.

At Searchlight, we help clients think about their China business and marketing – often coming up with counterintuitive, effective strategies based on deep experience in this marketing ecosystem. Reach out to us on if you’d like to learn more about what we do and how we work.

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