Double 11 2021: Shaping Up to be Another Record-Breaking Extravaganza

October 26, 2021

We’re just a little over two weeks away from the world’s largest sales event of the year, China’s Double 11, and with the explosion of e-commerce over the past 12 months, we’re expecting to see yet another record-breaking event.

The impact of China’s rapidly maturing e-commerce market and consumers’ growing adoption of digital mediums over the past year will be showcased in this year’s Double 11 sales event. Aware of the growing digital savviness of both brands and consumers, China’s e-commerce giants Alibaba and JD.com have already put various strategies in motion that will bring this year’s event to a whole new level. While we expect to see the evolution of some of last year’s trends, we’ve already noticed some emerging practices that will undoubtedly change the nature of the event for many years to come.

With pre-sales underway since October 20, here are 6 key trends that are already defining this year’s Double 11:

Lowering Barriers for Greater Participation

The tremendous success of Double 11 is thanks to the ever-growing participation of both brands and consumers year-over-year. Some of this can be attributed to the overall growing popularity of the event, but a large contributing factor is the active transformation of the festival by e-commerce platforms to better meet the needs of both brands and consumers.

While historically the shopping event was only available on Nov 11, pre-sales have become a crucial component of the festival in recent years. Following in the footsteps of last year’s success, this year features two main sales periods, with the first starting from Nov 1 to Nov 3 and the second starting on Nov 11. Pre-sales of the first sales window is already underway since October 20, allowing consumers to secure their orders and promotions by paying a deposit, with the balance to be paid on the official sales day. Not only does this offer more time to shop, but it also alleviates the stress of trying to secure desired products on one single day. These pre-sale periods have also given brands the time to ensure the logistics are in place for undisrupted shipping and upfront cash from deposits. This added security lowers the barriers to entry, encouraging more brands to participate.

With inclusiveness as a key theme to this year’s Double 11, both Tmall and JD.com launched their pre-sales 4 hours earlier at 8:00 PM, breaking away from previous years where sales were only available starting at midnight. With pre-sales available at a much more convenient time, this gives those with day jobs during the week a chance to participate, encouraging more consumers onto the platforms in the first couple of hours.

As a result of these transformations, Tmall has kicked off this year with a record 290,000 participating brands which are estimated to attract over 900 million consumers.

Enter the Metaverse

The global digital acceleration over the past 12 months resulted in an explosive emergence of new technologies and digital trends. Taking advantage of these technological developments, Tmall has harnessed the use of new technologies to create a highly interactive experience, nurturing new forms of engagement between brands and consumers.

With virtual influencers and NFT’s becoming more mainstream amongst digitally savvy consumers, Tmall launched the first-ever “Double 11 Metaverse Art Exhibition” within its mobile app to create a more immersive experience for consumers. The exhibition is hosted by the virtual idol, Ayayi and showcases 8 limited edition collections from leading brands in the form of NFTs. Consumers can simply admire the mastery of these digital art pieces or secure one of these Double 11 exclusive branded pieces by purchasing the NFT. With the virtual idol, Ayayi, hosting the event, brands can develop unique and compelling narratives with Ayayi to increase greater engagement and interactions with their customers.

Live Commerce will Continue to Reign

2020 solidified the undeniable power of live streaming, with sales generated from the format doubling 2019’s US$3 billion. The promising results from last year bolstered brands’ confidence in the channel, with significant investment put towards building more elaborate live streaming content, involving celebrities and KOLs, virtual parties and more to drive engagement and attract consumers. The most recent GMV data revealed that Tmall’s top 2 KOLs, Li Jiaqi and Wei Ya, have brought in 12 billion RMB and 8.2 billion RMB respectively, both achieving over 200% YoY growth.

The high revenue yielding format will inevitably become even more competitive as brands vie for valuable airtime to push their products. To stand out from the increasingly crowded live-streaming space, brands need to create high value offers exclusively for live streaming to capture the attention of consumers.

A New Arena for Luxury Brands

Despite Double 11 often featuring steep discounts and special offers, it has not deterred the participation of global luxury brands looking to take part in the lucrative event. It is estimated that over 100,000 new luxury products will be launched from brands like Cartier, Givenchy, Bvlgari, and Dior. In addition, Tmall has also confirmed the participation of luxury giants LVMH, Kering Group, Chanel and Hermès.

The growing competition amongst luxury brands has sparked a new wave of creative and exclusive Double 11 offers, designed to encourage consumers to shop without damaging brand image through discounts. One such value-adding tactic is the launch of Double 11 limited-edition products. This year, Cartier will release a new limited-edition holiday watch collection and Burberry has taken part in the “Double 11 Metaverse Art Exhibition” with the release of a limited-edition scarf, created just for Double 11.

E-Commerce Gets More Crowded

As Double 11 becomes more popular year after year, we’re seeing greater investments from other e-commerce platforms such as Pinduoduo, Suning.com,  Secoo, Vipshop, and Dewu, as well as social channels Douyin, Red and WeChat who are looking to strengthen their presence during the event.  While Tmall and JD.com continue to dominate this space, controlling 59% and 27% of market share respectively, the market is becoming increasingly more competitive as new platforms enter and invest more in enhancing consumer and merchant experience.

Depending on brand strategies and budget plans, brands can consider expanding their presence across various e-commerce platforms to reach new users, but it’s not recommended to be on more than one platform given the amount of promotional effort and logistical support required. Tmall and JD.com will remain the leading platforms with their mature structure, rich categories, and complete supply chain. However, we’ve noticed the emergence of various category dominance, with Tmall cornering the market for luxury goods and JD.com more popular for digital products and electronics. As such, brands need to do their research to determine which platform is most suited for product.

The Rise of Green E-Commerce

Double 11 has broken sales records year after year, but it also broke records for being one of the most environmentally detrimental events of the year. In 2020, an estimated 4 billion parcels were shipped, generating a tremendous amount of package waste that caused serious environmental concerns. In light of last year’s impact, Tmall has made significant strides to reduce the amount of environmental damage, with the goal to reduce carbon emissions by 26,000 tonnes and making this year the lowest-carbon Double 11.

Various green initiatives have been put in place to encourage greener consumption amongst consumers. For example, Tmall launched “green coupons” for the purchase of green products such as energy-efficient appliances. In addition, all Cainiao logistics centres have launched the “Green Recycling Box” scheme to encourage consumers to recycle their unwanted cardboard packages in exchange for eggs.

Double 11 has revolutionized the world of e-commerce, continuously redefining the limits of the digital medium year after year. Now in its thirteenth edition, the festival sets the stage for an era of e-commerce that brings the focus back onto the consumer, leveraging new technologies and consumer-focused commerce strategies to deliver exceptional experiences.

With the Double 11 still in its first week of pre-sales, we’ll be keeping a close eye on the event as it unfolds. Stay tuned as we gather more insights that can give you an edge in your preparation for 2022.

Christy Chen
Spencer Sun
Ming Guo
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