With almost one billion online shoppers, China is the biggest and fastest growing e-commerce market in the world.
And one of the driving forces in this market is China shopping festivals — huge retail events where brands cut prices in honour of Chinese culture, tradition, and plain old consumerism.
But what are the biggest shopping festivals in China, and how can international brands use them to increase their sales in 2021 and beyond?
In this article, we’ll be breaking down each of the top China shopping festivals, delving into the numbers, and reflecting on how you can tap into them for success.
Then let’s get started.
Top China shopping festivals
From Singles Day to Qixi, here are 13 China shopping festivals all international brands need to know about.
Double 11 Shopping festival
Also known as Singles Day, the Double 11 shopping festival (held on November 11th each year) is the king of all global retail events, with Alibaba and JD generating $155 billion in sales during the festival period from November 1st-11th 2020.
Participating international brands included:
As was the case in 2019, beauty items remained the most popular products, generating more than $1.5 billion in GMV. The first to exceed RMB 1 billion ($154.3 million) in sales was Estée Lauder’s Tmall flagship store, which promoted discounted products with the help of celebrity endorsements.
Another luxury brand that performed well during Double 11 was Cartier, who hosted its first live-stream event on Taobao, showcasing a $28.3 million necklace to an audience of almost 800,000 people.
Marking the annual meeting of the cowherd and weaver girl in Chinese mythology, Qixi Festival is China’s answer to Valentine’s Day. In 2021, the festival will be celebrated on August 14th, as the seventh day of the seventh month of the Chinese lunisolar calendar.
Just like in the west, China’s ‘Valentine’s Day’ is a huge retail event, with sales jumping by up to 120% for some brands, according to data from China Daily.
One international brand that celebrates Qixi best is Saint Laurent.
In July 2020, the French fashion house launched their ‘NameYourLove’ campaign, which encouraged shoppers to personalize the brand’s signature pink hoodie with their (or their partner’s) own name.
On Weibo, the ‘NameYourLove’ hashtag generated over 210 million views and 3.26 million engagements, thanks to a clever KOL and celebrity endorsement strategy that guaranteed instant exposure.
Other international brands who have celebrated Qixi include:
- Dolce & Gabbana
- Michael Kors
520 Shopping Festival (aka “I Love You” Day)
In Mandarin, the pronunciation of ‘520’ sounds similar to ‘I love you’ — hence why 520 day, celebrated on May 20th, is often considered a second, unofficial Valentine’s Day in China, after Qixi.
Overtime, 520 has slowly evolved into one of the top China shopping festivals, particularly for luxury goods brands in the fashion and jewelry sectors.
Take Prada’s 2020 520 campaign, ‘Mathematics of Love’, for example:
Across a number of promotional videos and photos, it showed us how different numbers associated with love (like the number of attempts it takes to pick the perfect gift) always adds up to 520.
Featuring Chinese popstar, Cai Xu Kun, the campaign attracted more than 180 million views on Weibo, thanks to the hashtag ‘#prada520’.
Other international brands who have participated in the 520 shopping festival include:
- Michael Kors
International Women’s Day
International Women’s Day, celebrated on March 8th, has evolved into a lucrative shopping festival for female-focused brands in China.
In 2020, Tmall (one of China’s largest e-commerce sites) encouraged female empowerment with its ‘Own Yourself, Love Yourself’ campaign, which generated more than 600 million hashtag views on Weibo and over 2.12 million discussions.
Other brands who celebrated International Women’s Day 2020 in China included:
- Calvin Klein
618 Shopping Festival
China’s 618 Shopping Festival on June 18th is one of the biggest retail events in the world, generating a huge $2.38 trillion in 2020, from over 26 billion transactions — up 42%, year on year.
The biggest e-commerce sites during 618 in 2020 were Tmall, which generated more than $98 billion in sales, and JD.com, whose sales reached almost $38 billion.
Hundreds of international brands took part in 618 on these sites, including:
To combat the impact of COVID-19, home furniture brand Ikea made good use of Tmall’s virtual 3D shopping feature, which was made available in the run up to 618.
This is a great example of how brands, no matter what the circumstances, can still find new ways to engage and appeal to consumers — particularly during China shopping festivals, where 2020 has proved that demand will always be high.
818 Shopping Festival
The 818 ‘Fever’ Shopping Festival was originally launched by China’s top electronics marketplace, Suning.com, in celebration of its anniversary on August 18th.
Since then, it has gone on to become a very popular shopping festival in China, celebrated by all major e-commerce sites, including Tmall and JD.com.
In 2019, the overall sales volume of home appliances on Suning.com during 818 exceeded $154 million in just 1 minute and 28 seconds.
Outside of the home appliances category, L’Oreal led the way with a live stream on Suning.com that achieved a click-through rate of 21% and a conversion rate of up to 88%.
12.12 Shopping Festival
The 12.12 or Double 12 Shopping Festival on November 12th was launched by Alibaba in 2010 for customers who were still hungry for deals after Singles Day. It’s a great festival for attracting Christmas shoppers, although sales are not as impressive as on Double 11.
That said, JD.com reported a 10% year-on-year growth in live stream sales during 12.12 2020, and beauty sales on Pinduoduo increased by a huge 310%.
Leading the way was French beauty brand Lancôme, which sold out in seconds. Dyson, Nintendo Switch and a variety of food products also performed well.
Spring Festival (aka Chinese New Year)
Spring Festival, also known as Nian Huo, celebrates China’s Lunar New Year, which in 2021, falls on February 12th.
Two international brands that celebrated Spring Festival best in 2020 were Gucci and Disney, who teamed up to launch an exclusive Disney collection in honor of the year of the rat — or (Mickey) mouse!
The collection was promoted by Chinese KOLs and celebrities, generating sales across social media throughout the Chinese New Year period.
9.9 Wine Festival
Launched in 2016, Tmall’s 9.9 Wine Festival sees nine days of deals from September 9th on wine, Chinese Baijiu, and other kinds of alcohol — in reference to the similar pronunciation of ‘wine’ and ‘nine’ in Mandarin.
The first festival generated over $290 million in alcohol sales, and it has continued ever since.
International wine brands that have taken part in the 9.9 shopping festival include Lafite, GIV, Penfold, Santa Rita, and Mondavi.
National Day/Golden Week
Golden Week begins on October 1st with National Day, and runs until October 7th in commemoration of the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. It is the longest public holiday in China, and generates huge business for international brands.
In 2020, total sales on Tmall for overseas brands rose by almost 80% year-on-year, despite the impact of coronavirus. International cross-border e-commerce platform Kaola also reported a huge increase in sales, thanks to discounts in duty-free stores.
Luxury brands in particular perform well during this period, with Cartier reporting an estimated 60% increase in sales in 2020.
Givenchy’s National Day t-shirt release also achieved great success with Chinese consumers online, attracting over 332,000 page views on WeChat alone.
Mid-autumn Festival in China falls on the fifteenth day of the eighth Chinese lunar month. In 2021, the festival will be celebrated on September 21st, marking the end of the autumn harvest.
For food and beverage brands, in particular, this festival offers a great opportunity to increase sales.
In 2020, JD.com’s sales of mooncakes (a Chinese delicacy), for example, soared by 135% year-on-year — a trend Starbucks capitalized on by launching their own premium mooncakes online via WeChat, Weibo and Tmall.
In addition to mooncakes, JD reported that fruit baskets, dairy products, assorted nuts, liquor and cosmetics also performed well during the Mid-autumn Festival.
Falling on February 26th in 2021, Lantern Festival marks the final day of Chinese New Year celebrations. It stands apart from the rest of Spring Festival, as most of the increase in sales is concentrated in the food sector.
Data from suning.com shows that sales of rice balls, as just one example, can increase by up to 2500% during the festival, thanks to a huge increase in seasonal demand.
Sales of lanterns during the period can also increase by up to 469% — perhaps less surprisingly!
Dragon Boat Festival
The Dragon Boat Festival is one of China’s most unique celebrations, marking the life and death of the famous Chinese scholar, Qu Yuan. The festival occurs on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese lunisolar calendar, falling on June 14th in 2021.
In 2017, the festival was among the top five holidays in China for online spending, with the sale of cellphones accounting for almost 50% of all expenditure in the period.
Last year, in 2020, it was festive food that took the top spot, with sales of Chinese delicacies like zongzi surging by 473%, according to data from Alibaba.
Chinese e-commerce giants JD.com and Pinduoduo also reported a 150% year-on-year increase in the sales of fruit, beef and lamb.
What’s more, transactions via China UnionPay reached a staggering $134.5 billion during the holiday.
How can international brands increase sales via China shopping festivals?
Knowing about the top China shopping festivals is one thing — but making them work for you is a whole new ballgame. Here are four top tips to bear in mind, when gearing up for a shopping festival campaign in China:
Sell on Chinese e-commerce platforms
As you’ve probably gathered from today’s article, the majority of sales during China shopping festivals occur online. In fact, many of the festivals only exist because of online e-commerce platforms — like Singles Day.
That’s why selling on Chinese e-commerce platforms is the best way to increase sales during the country’s most popular shopping festivals.
From Tmall Global to Kaola, there are a wide range of cross-border e-commerce platforms in China for international brands to pick from.
Read our guide for a complete breakdown of your options, and which sites might suit you best.
Advertise your shopping festival discounts
Once you’ve launched your brand on a Chinese e-commerce site, it’s time to attract some traffic to it — and to do that, you’ll need to run adverts on several marketing channels in China.
These adverts should be framed specifically around whatever shopping festival you are targeting, and should link directly to discounted products you are selling in celebration of it.
They should also be launched at least a month prior to the festival itself, so you can successfully optimize and scale your campaign in advance.
Download AdChina.io today to start advertising on each of the biggest marketing channels in China, without all the hassle.
Create a KOL marketing strategy
The majority of brands in China use KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders or ‘Chinese influencers’) to reach consumers via social media, particularly those that are targeting young people.
During China shopping festivals, KOLs can help brands stand out from the crowd with viral hashtags and content that not only generate sales, but also increase brand awareness among a very lucrative demographic.
Give a well-positioned KOL an exclusive discount, and you’re sure to see an increase in sales — especially during Singles Day, which is heavily driven by social media and KOL live-streaming.
Just remember to work with a KOL that is relevant to your ideal consumer, and has a proven track record of generating sales. Check out our guide on KOL marketing for more top tips on how to build a KOL strategy that converts.
Target the right shopping festival
When picking a Chinese shopping festival to launch a new campaign, it’s important to choose a festival that’s right for your brand, product and target market.
Because, although each shopping festival in China offers great opportunities, those opportunities are usually better suited to some product types than others.
Singles Day, for example, is ideal for self-care products and luxury goods, while food brands will perform better on Lantern Festival and Spring Festival.
The bottom line here is that you want to align yourself to a festival that brings with it high demand for the kind of products you sell — only then will you unlock maximum success.
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