Cindy Gu
Nov 6, 2019

11.11: Experts decipher the major changes for 2019

Live KOL broadcasts, data-driven understanding of consumers, customisation and product upgrades represent the major changes in this year's Double 11 event.

11.11: Experts decipher the major changes for 2019

With less than a week to go before Tmall Global's 2019 Double 11 Carnival Night, what are the new characteristics of this year's 11.11 event? And what does it mean in terms of brand marketing? Campaign China explored the subject with a number of China marketing experts.

Promoting merchandise through KOL live broadcasts

“This year's Double 11 takes place when the growth of China's consumption market is slowing down, the increase in new mobile internet users is sluggish, and the market is increasingly competing over existing demand," said Jerman Zhang, managing director of GroupM China Ecommerce. Due to inadequate users and traffic, mainstream e-commerce platforms are putting more emphasis on the following areas compared to last year: traffic management in the entire ecosystem, new product types and new products, data-driven consumer management, targeting markets in tier-3 cities and below, social media, and KOLs.

"Using approaches such as KOLs and live broadcasts extensively” is one of the most significant changes made by brands in response to the latest trends, Zhang said.

Nerissa Wang, chief editor of Taobao Ranking List, agrees. Taobao Ranking List is the official ranking of Taobao's content ecosystem (Taobaolive). “Based on the data from the Taobao Ranking List, the number of participating merchants and the number of live broadcasts delivered by the merchants themselves have doubled compared to the same time last year," Wang said.

"The most significant change we observed in this year's Double 11 is that an increasing number of brands have started using Taobaolive, the new content-marketing channel," she added. According to her observations, although Taobaolive has been growing two to three-fold since its setup in 2016, this year it has really taken off. Nonetheless, Wang added, "it is very challenging to find an appropriate anchor and the best ROI. It involves learning, and trial and error".

Kevin Guan, AdMaster growth partner, mentioned that to brands, the importance of KOLs has increased significantly in this year's Double 11 marketing activities. By using different approaches such as selling products through live broadcasts, co-branding products and so on, KOLs can also inject new life into a brand's sales transformation. “How to properly select and make use of KOLs means higher demands on the brand," Guan said. "Scientific and streamlined management of KOLs is crucial."

Likewise, the digital business team in Kantar's consulting division predicts that this year will witness an explosive growth in station broadcasts. Different product types and brands are actively organizing station broadcasts, leading to the emergence of products and offers created specifically for live broadcasts. "The number of orders brought about by live broadcasts is expected to multiply, and hence, the effectiveness of these broadcasts will significantly affect brands' performance in this year's Double 11," Kantar predicted.

In addition to using KOL live broadcasts to boost sales, major platforms are also putting more emphasis on incorporating social-media traffic in this year's Double 11, according to Jeff Ma, senior strategy director with consulting firm EBP. Short-video platforms like TikTok and Kwai also leverage the Double 11 shopping spree to enhance their own attributes to stimulate product interest, boost sales, and even sell products, he added.

Consumer insights

Lingye Yang, chief product architect with Alimama, interpreted changes in this year's Double 11 from the perspective of consumer behaviour. "Every year, the Tmall Double 11 marketing event is actually a battle over consumers' decision-making," Yang said. “This year, since it is increasingly difficult to 'guesstimate' consumers, this battle will become harder to fight.”

The difficulty stems from the fact that consumers' decision-making process has become "disorderly," Yang explained. Alimama has proposed what it calls a "new marketing" approach, and this year's Tmall Double 11 event will witness the full implementation of it. Yang said the core of the new marketing approach is smart consumer management. More than ever, brands and merchants will be bringing big data and the force of artificial intelligence to bear in reaching consumers.

"This year, there will be more focus on consumer management, and member and fan marketing,” said GroupM's Zhang. The game is now about engaging consumers in every step of their consumer journey, from awareness to loyalty, empowered by data, a bit like CRM in the ecommerce world, Zhang said.

Likewise, Kantar's consulting division commented that "member management" is one of the highlights of this year's Double 11. Measures such as directing traffic to different stores and precision in recruiting new members will speed up brands' membership accumulation and the delivery of members-only preferential offers. There will also be increased emphasis on better managing brands' existing members. "This invaluable consumer data will represent a key force in driving a brand's future growth," Kantar mentioned.

Customization and product upgrades

As in past years, new products and gift sets specific to Double 11 will be a fixture, Zhang said. However, whereas last year, these measures were limited to the top brands only, this year the tactic has spread to a greater number of brands. The market is bursting with customized gift sets and customized products, according to Kantar. 

Kantar added that product customization driven by the characteristics of specific consumer clusters has become a trend. "Leveraging the Double 11 traffic to launch this type of new product can help a brand achieve operational precision, and these new products with in-depth customization have invigorated the product category market,” Kantar said.

On the other hand, EBP's Ma said major platforms such as Tmall and JD.COM have put more effort into areas such as product story and content marketing. Ma believes that product upgrades reflect how e-commerce platforms strive to maintain growth when traffic-based profits are declining: that is, how to add value to products through product innovation and marketing methods.

AdMaster's Guan also believes that the game is no longer simply about discount-driven desire. "Enticing users who were not spending anything before to spend, or making those with purchasing power spend more, requires a precise understanding of consumers," he said. "And based on this understanding, reaching customers and striving for optimization is a very important change."

Bryce Whitwam, CEO of MRM McCann China, believes that the biggest change in this year's Double 11 is the setting up of separate dates for different product categories, so that individual brands can attract more attention and traffic. Another obvious change is the use of installment payments, especially for luxury products, he said.

Expand focus beyond a single day

Nevertheless, despite the many changes in the Double 11 game this year, many marketing experts agreed that large platforms such as Tmall and JD.COM have maintained the same pace and core approaches as last year.

At the same time, even though some marketing experts said that brand participation has increased this year, some also allowed that Double 11 is gradually losing its relevance compared to previous years.

"The brands are forced to cut their prices drastically, and hence, they often choose to sell off their old inventories instead of launching new products," one source said, suggesting that customers should shift their transactions to the remaining 364 days of the year.

Alimama's Yang has a different way of looking at the importance of 11 November. "It is worth noting that to merchants, the Tmall Double 11 Event is equivalent to the Olympics," Yang said. "Work doesn't commence on 11 November. Instead, it involves an overall rehearsal based on routine work including merchandising, marketing, logistics and customer service." Likewise, Double 11 marketing does not happen on that day only. It involves continual solidification of the user mentality throughout the year based on overall customer management, and at the same time, enhancing the effort to change consumers' decisions as Double 11 draws near.

Campaign China

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