Double Eleven 2022: What to Expect This Year

17 September 2022

Double Eleven, the most anticipated shopping carnival in China, is approaching, many brands have already been preparing for their marketing strategy. To help you as you prepare your brand for this once-in-a-year opportunity, we have outlined some of the most significant learnings from last year’s Double Eleven and trends to pay attention to for this year’s event.

In this article, you’ll learn: 

  1. What is the Double Eleven e-commerce festival in China?
  2. Which platforms participate in the Double Eleven shopping festival?
  3. Marketing trends from Double Eleven 2021
  4. Double Eleven 2022: Your Brand’s Guide to Success
  5. De-risking your influencer marketing investments during Double Eleven
  6. What to expect for Double Eleven 2022

What is the Double Eleven e-commerce festival in China?

Double Eleven is the largest shopping festival globally, far exceeding Black Friday and any other Western counterpart. Double Eleven normally centres about 11 November (hence “Double Eleven”, or 11.11). At its conception, Double Eleven was originally referred to as “Singles’ Day” from the four numbers in the date. From its beginnings in 2009, Double Eleven was launched by digital finance and e-commerce conglomerate Alibaba. During the first iteration of Double Eleven, only 27 brands participated. The results exceeded all expectations, however, when sales reached ¥52 million. It first started out as a 24-hour Black Friday-esque flash sale on 11 November; however, starting in November 2020, promotions began on 21 October and lasted until 12 November, transforming Double 11 into a marathon sales event.

This elongation was part of an effort to revitalise the economy following a sluggish year of economic chaos and uncertainty brought about by the coronavirus outbreak. In Q1 2020, China’s economy contracted 6.8%, marking the first contraction since the late 1970s. On the other hand, Double 11 sales have increased exponentially since the conception of the festival.

On 21 October 2020, live-streamers Viya and Li Jiaqi both held live-streams to mark the start of the festival, collectively generating ¥8 billion in sales within the first few hours. In total, 30+ live-streamers generated over ¥100 billion in sales during Double Eleven 2020. At its peak, there were 583,000 orders per second.

Which platforms participate in the Double Eleven shopping festival?

Although the Double Eleven shopping festival was pioneered by Alibaba/Taobao, it has now become a must for e-commerce platforms and brands across China as its popularity and sales figures continue to grow. In addition to traditional e-commerce platforms such as Tmall and JD.com, Pinduoduo has emerged in recent years. Furthermore, social commerce platforms such as Douyin, Kuaishou and Xiaohongshu have joined in the Double Eleven fun.

Tmall: Live-stream sales take the lead, while memberships and loyalty programmes improve engagement

Live-streaming can bring consumers more vivid and intuitive product introductions and more immersive shopping experiences, while also providing consumers with greater discounts. Naturally, Taobao live-streaming has become a favourite among Chinese consumers. In 2021, Li Jiaqi and Weiya sold ¥12.9 billion and ¥12.3 billion respectively on the first day of the Double Eleven pre-sale, far exceeding that of other live-streamers. Tmall has also optimised and upgraded the 88VIP membership system to provide more discounts for loyal customers on 11 November, helping to boost consumer loyalty.

With Li and Weiya out of the picture now, brands have been forced to get creative, hosting their own live-streams and collaborating with top-tier KOLs who are wading into the vacuum left by the former hotshot live-streamers. Live-streaming continues to be an important component of marketing campaigns for brands ranging from luxury to food and beverage.

JD.com: Leading the electronics and home appliances market through efficient, instantaneous retail

JD.com has long been a leader in electronics and home appliances e-commerce thanks to its superior quality assurance, customer service and authenticity guarantees. In the first four hours of pre-sales on 20 October, the top 10 categories on JD.com were all electronics and appliances, according to the company’s performance report. JD Home Appliances has launched a series of super value activities on 11 November, with different and colourful new ways to fully meet the shopping needs of consumers.

Furthermore, JD’s offline stores offer hourly pickup and instant delivery services from warehouses to stores within 3-5 kilometres of consumers. During Double 11 2021, it took only seven minutes for the first order on JD.com to arrive in the hands of a shopper. JD has also optimised its smart logistics system to improve logistics efficiency, enabling the platform to expand the number of cities where it offers same-day and next-day delivery to over 300, providing even more consumers with a lightning fast shopping experience unlike anything seen in the West.

Pinduoduo: Increasing discounts and accelerating cooperation with brands

During Double Eleven, Pinduoduo increased markdowns of some products from 10 to 20 per-cent to 50 to 60 per-cent. On the brand side, Pinduoduo also promoted the entry of more official brands stores, launching a feature show to provide positive coverage of the platform, enhancing its influence in the marketplace.

Douyin: Developing live-stream and short video-based e-commerce, attracting small and medium-sized brands

Douyin has rapidly developed its social commerce capabilities, assessing consumer demand through its pools of big data and efficiently matching supply with demand through its sophisticated AI-based content recommendation algorithm. Compared to Taobao, Douyin, a rising social commerce platform, is still in the process of rapid development. This leads it to provide better support for small and medium-sized e-commerce brands, and the data speaks for itself. According to data from Topklout.com, most of the Top 20 brands with the highest sales volume in each category on Douyin e-commerce do not have an official store on Taobao.

Kuaishou: Optimising and upgrading merchant services

Kuaishou collaborated with brands and service providers to adjust its launch strategy and products accordingly, and provided cash rewards and large amounts of traffic to merchants. According to Kuaishou data, service providers assist merchants to generate GMV that accounted for nearly 50% of total GMV. Meanwhile, Kuaishou’s rich brand choices and preferential price discounts also attract younger consumers and help foster customer loyalty. According to data from Kuaishou, the fastest growing group of buyers on 11 November 2021 was the 18 to 23 year old segment, with tens of millions of consumers participating three years in a row.

Xiaohongshu: Inspiring purchase decisions through knowledge and awareness, bringing transparency to product pricing

Xiaohongshu is the largest female-centric social commerce platform in China. For last year’s Double Eleven event, Xiaohongshu Mall gave out gift boxes of products from big-name brands and encouraged users to post notes about the unpacking. In addition, users could also see KOL recommendations in Xiaohongshu Mall, forming a loop between exposure, product seeding and consumption. Xiaohongshu also simplified its previously complex discounts and presale mechanism, opting to clearly show prices before and after discounts have been applied.

Marketing trends from Double Eleven 2021

These are some trends worth paying attention to from last year’s Double Eleven.

Heating up an already ultra-competitive playing field

Unlike what we’ve seen in previous iterations of Double Eleven, decentralisation was a major shift during Double Eleven 2021. Instead of only running promotions on 11 November, 2021 brought forth two rounds of pre-sales in October and early November, combined with a final sales climax on the evening of 10 November. At 20:00 on 20 October, all major official stores began running pre-orders for Double Eleven, four hours earlier than last year’s 22-day long Double Eleven, the longest in its history.

The elongation of Double Eleven is also the most significant change in the past two years, a move that not only accommodates more consumers by eliminating the need to stay up until midnight to enjoy high-quality goods at low prices, enabling consumers to make more consumption decisions in advance. According to Alibaba data analytics division Alimama, consumers in women’s fashion, beauty and skincare purchases began planning their Double Eleven shopping lists at the end of August in 2021, a notable advancement compared to years prior.

In order to cope with these changes, many brands have optimised their product seeding strategies and pushed campaigns earlier to September, competing against one another to remain fresh on the minds of consumers during the first round of pre-sales.

Taobao product seeding tools

According to official data from Alibaba, users spend more than one-third of their time reading product-related content on Taobao, a sign that the influence of product seeding is becoming more prominent even on e-commerce themselves. A third of Taobao orders were placed via product seeding content on the platform. In 2021, Taobao upgraded its product seeding tool, “Grass Planting Machine”, enhancing the browse functionality and launching a new Double Eleven hashtag.

Users searching for keywords who tap on Taobao’s Product Seeding portal can see product reviews, recommendations and shopping lists created by brands, Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) and Key Opinion Consumers (KOCs). The content includes pictures, videos and live-streams. Compared with product pages in brand e-commerce stores, product seeding content is more authentic and relevant to the keywords searched by users, and content angles are much more diverse. Furthermore, Taoabo’s integrated product seeding page contains direct links to place orders, improving shopping experiences and facilitating purchase activity. To incentivise product seeding content creation, consumers are invited to participate in sweepstakes in exchange for a genuine product review. Many brands have capitalised on this new trend, creating their own high quality product seeding content on Taobao through official channels, KOLs, KOCs and live-streams.

Double Eleven 2022: Your Brand’s Guide to Success

To maximise the success of your brand during this year’s Double Eleven shopping festival, we have compiled this guide outlining some influencer marketing best practices.

A Slowing Economy

This year, Double Eleven comes with some changes. In addition to maintaining the prolonged schedule, it comes at a time when market conditions and marketing resources are not where they were a year ago. Chinese consumers are cutting back on discretionary purchases and becoming more thrifty in a time when the country’s economic slowdown drags on, impacting the once-exponential growth of China’s e-commerce platforms.

To put the situation in perspective, Alibaba, owner of Taobao and Tmall, posted its first revenue decline in Q2 2022, while in the same quarter JD.com saw its growth grind to its slowest as a result of supply chain disruptions caused by China’s lockdowns and ongoing covid restrictions. While better performance was initially forecast by analysts to take place in the current quarter, this seems increasingly unlikely given the current state of the market.

Interestingly, during Q2 2022, discount goods platform Pinduoduo saw a 36% increase in revenue, likely as more consumers sought discounts and coupons to keep costs as low as possible.

As slowing wage increases, rising unemployment and inflation bombard China’s economy, growth during Q2 slid to its slowest pace in two years. Despite a rebound in retail sales after the Shanghai lockdown in the spring, the rate of growth is still far beyond pre-covid levels. For perspective, in the nearly two decades prior to the covid outbreak, retail sales on average showed an increase of 12% each month. In June and July 2022, retail sales grew by 3.1% and 2.7% respectively.

It’s not all bad news, as despite the outlook on consumer spending to remain depressed, e-commerce showed some positive results. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, despite a slight drop in April, sales of physical goods online grew 11% in Q2 2022. According to Fitch Ratings, it is estimated that e-commerce product sales will comprise 29% of China’s total retail sales in 2022, compared to 15% in the US. As a result, now more than ever it is crucial for brands to engage target consumers in unique, meaningful ways.

Live-streaming: Same Name, Different Strategy

Live-streaming is still very much an important marketing tool for brands. Despite the removal of former live-streaming heavy-hitters Viya, Cherie and most recently Austin Li from public view, live-streaming is still a crucial media for brands to engage with target consumers.

Brand-owned live-streaming is the new trend in a post-Austin Li era. When the three live-streaming stars vanished, they left a vacuum in the industry that many rushed to fill. Among them, top-tier KOLs have begun hosting their own live-streams. Furthermore, brand executives such as CEOs and directors also began to wade into live-streaming. Some notable examples include Luo Yonghao, CEO of Smartisan who live-streamed to an audience of 48 million, racking up $15 million in sales within 3 hours, and Dong Mingzhu, chairman of Gree Group, whose live-stream beat that record selling $98 million in 3 hours.

This is by far a new trend, but in a world without Austin Li and Viya, brands must adapt to make existing technologies work.

Cross-Platform Seeding

As the old saying goes, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Turns out, the same applies when conducting influencer marketing in China. One trend that has been quite clear so far this year is the distribution of KOLs and KOCs across platforms in recent brand campaigns.

The reason for this is simple. By spreading brand messaging across platforms, you will be able to reach a wider quantity and range of audiences. Furthermore, each platform has its unique strengths, and through cross-platform seeding, brands will be able to maximise the effectiveness of their campaign investments. For example, let’s take a look at some advantages offered by Xiaohongshu, Taobao Guangguang and Douyin.

From this comparison, we can see that by distributing influencer activations on Douyin and Xiaohongshu, brands can captivate consumer attention without coming across as overly commercial. At the same time, by having influencers on Xiaohongshu, they will be able to satisfy interest from consumers browsing over from Douyin seeking to learn more about the product. Moreover, cross- platform seeding enables brands to reach a broader range of audience, in a manner similar to a Venn diagram.

Marketing Technologies

With all the talk about the metaverse, the technology still has a long way to go before making significant changes to consumer behaviour. Nonetheless, the technology in its current stage offers an interesting view of how the future might change the way consumers interact with brands.

During last year’s Double Eleven, Tmall hosted a “Double Eleven Metaverse Art Exhibition” featuring NFTs from brands including Burberry, Coach and Longines. Going a step further, Burberry created an interactive digital deer donning a limited-edition scarf, created just for the sales event. Each purchase of the NFT was accompanied by the physical version of the scarf, with all 1,000 sold out within the first day of pre-sales.

Private Traffic

Private traffic is a powerful way to strengthen brand power through channels such as official accounts, WeChat groups and Wechat Moments. Compared to public traffic platforms, private traffic can direct users into the brand’s own platform and/or networks, rendering it exclusive to the brand. Brands are able to control the traffic themselves, and this traffic can be reused by brands at little to no cost. Private traffic enables brands to provide more personalised services and relationship management to customers. It focuses more on the long-term value of users and builds long-term relationships with them, so that the traffic can be more durable. Under private traffic, customer service is much more personified and intimate, helping brands establish emotional connections with users more effectively and improve customer loyalty.

De-risking your digital/influencer marketing investments during Double Eleven

According to data from Xiaohongshu, during Double Eleven 2021, the timeframe with the highest amount of user interactions was from 15-21 October, and the period with the highest number of posts was from 22-28 October, perfectly covering the week before and after the first pre-sale on 20 October.

With the elongation of Double Eleven, brands need to adjust their Double Eleven marketing strategies to arrange content delivery in advance instead of aiming at a single date to decide the timing of delivery as was the case in years past. Last year, intensive communication and product seeding operations were launched a week prior to pre-sales to generate as much attention from users as possible. On the whole, during the three important stages of Double Eleven (pre-sale, final payment and fulfilment), a handy timeline for brands is to arrange content for release 1 month in advance, coordinate preparatory campaigns 2 weeks before pre-sales, and release the hero product 1 week ahead.

Strategic engagement via social media topics and hashtags

In previous iterations of Double Eleven, brands and platforms released many high-engagement social media hashtags, such as #DoubleElevenStrategy and #DoubleElevenMust-BuyList. There are two main advantages of using hashtags like these: firstly, they help educate consumers on how to maximise the promotions and what products are worth stocking up on, channelling their attention to product seeding content by KOLs and KOCs.

On the other hand, we have seen in the past that Double Eleven must-buy lists are highly popular and are more likely to have an impact on consumer behaviour.

Despite the popularity of live-streaming, high-quality product seeding is still a must

Content is the most important component of an online community, whether it’s influencers that seek monetisation, or brands that aim for better product promotion. With the help of live-streaming, many up-and-coming brands are able to get a short sales boom in the middle of the promotion period, but when the heat cools off, many see sales drop as soon as the live-streaming ends. Relying on consumer impulse by leveraging the adrenaline rush of live-streaming flash sales can lead to difficulties in maintaining a lasting period of quality exposure. Brands still need to focus on “traditional” content formats such as detailed experience sharing, product evaluation and reviews to further enhance brand image and product reputation. Compared with getting a short burst of publicity, quality content can lead to more impactful and long-lasting engagements. Although Double Eleven is one of the highest peaks of live-streaming, quality video and article seeding content is still the mainstay of product promotion. Collaborating with KOLs and KOCs to produce quality seeding content can help brands achieve long-lasting impact and increase the possibility of repeat purchases.

What to expect for Double Eleven 2022

Domestic retail sales of consumer goods continued to decline in the first half of the year due to epidemic influences. From March to May, each month has experienced total social retail sales declines, with the decline reaching -11.1% in April. However, since key cities such as Beijing and Shanghai have gradually lifted the lockdown in May, along with several merchant support initiatives launched by major e-commerce platforms, the entire market is looking forward to the big promotion so that the overall consumer market can finally rebound. Combining the overall trend of this year’s 618 and last year’s Double 11, our expectations for this year’s Double 11 campaign are as follows.

According to the consumption trends of this year’s 618, consumers are gradually shifting from the usual patterns of “hoarding craze” towards “buying on demand”. Excessively hoarding cheap goods is no longer a main trend. Consumers have become more rational and have increasingly higher requirements for product quality. This year’s double 11 is expected to have more seeding contents that take “rational consumption” as the entry point, digging deeper into the ingredients, efficacy, core technology and other practical and credible information of the products, as “high-quality” being the main focus of the brand promotion.

This year’s Double 11 promotion is expected to follow the trends of the previous two years to start with pre-sales in advance, and Tmall and Taobao will still take the form of two rounds pre-sales. With the impact of the epidemic, online shopping began to spread towards a wider range of  people and living scenes. More and more consumers have developed the habit of online shopping for daily necessities on a regular basis, so that a longer period of promotion campaigns can better meet the daily needs of consumers. Brands also need to be prepared for the elongation and adjust their Double Eleven marketing strategies to arrange content delivery in advance.

Tmall, JD and other traditional e-commerce platforms have been actively upgrading their in-site content since 618, shifting from product recommendations to interesting/trending content recommendations, enriching seeding content through short videos, pictures and reviews. This year’s Double 11, it is expected that more brands will cooperate with content creators on e-commerce platforms to produce quality seeding content, and more KOLs and KOCs will also be involved in the seeding campaign on e-commerce platforms.

At a time when the epidemic is coming back and forth, marketing campaigns tend to pay more attention to emotional bonds. Last year, Tmall initiated the concept of “Double Eleven Wonderful Life Paradise” to deliver brand messages through the theme of “A wonderful Life is what we all yearn for”, which added a humanistic glow to the promotion. With many consumers that have experienced the lockdown during the first half of the year or currently experiencing the comebacks of the pandemic, product promotions for this year’s Double 11 are expected to focus more on themes such as “happiness”, “healing” and “better life” in order to establish stronger emotional bonds with consumers.

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About 评价达人 – PJdaren:

Since 2016, PJdaren has helped some of the world’s largest brands build trust, collect insights and drive sales in China by engaging Key Opinion Consumers (KOCs) and Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) through our state-of-the-art influencer marketing solutions.

Our full-service solutions connect brands with our over 4 million-strong KOC and KOL community. We facilitate targeted, authentic conversations and content, enabling brands to capture the market with measurable results.