Staff Writer
May 9, 2023

Behind Alibaba’s Taobao Maker Festival: Engaging Gen Z consumers and setting the trend for China’s retail sector

Taobao’s flagship festival makes a triumphant return with exhibitions across 10 cities showcasing the shopping trends of China’s Gen Z consumers.

Behind Alibaba’s Taobao Maker Festival: Engaging Gen Z consumers and setting the trend for China’s retail sector
Gen Zs in China are reshaping the country’s retail landscape as they scout for novel products and fresh experiences. These sophisticated young consumers, accounting for roughly 16.5% of China’s population,1 comprise one of the biggest spending groups that will form a hugely powerful and influential market for years to come. 
To better engage the next generation of consumers and celebrate youth creativity, Alibaba introduced Taobao Maker Festival in 2016, which has evolved into a signature annual event featuring the innovation and entrepreneurship of the younger generation. 
As Taobao approaches its 20-year anniversary this year, Taobao Maker Festival made a big comeback with the theme of “Uncovering Infinite Lifestyle Possibilities on Taobao,” running exhibitions across 10 bustling cities in China. The festival, which showcases unique and trendy products from creative merchants, also offered free access to the public for the first time, reaching the largest audience in its history. This year’s festival features three distinctive themed exhibitions across cities including Hangzhou, Shenzhen and Chongqing, each highlighting a different aspect of the Taobao platform: “Wonder,” “Technology” and “Trends,” which attracted millions of participants on the first day of the event. It also proved appealing to Gen Z consumers by enabling them to connect with like-minded people, exchange novel ideas and enjoy the energetic and imaginative lifestyles available on Taobao. 
Identifying evolving lifestyle trends among Gen Zs 
Like all generations, Gen Zs have unique ideas and experiences that affect their buying patterns. A 2020 survey from McKinsey indicated that more than half of China’s Gen Z consumers would prefer brands offering customised products or tailored services.2 Thus, for marketers, a personalised approach is essential to resonating with Gen Zs. 
Taobao Maker Festival is committed to capturing the top trends of the next generation of consumers by showcasing young makers along with trendy products every year. This also offers a glimpse into China’s Gen Z consumers and their passions. From skateboards for pets to 3D-printed food, this year’s festival also features four rapidly growing consumption trends: interest, pleasure, health and family.
As tech-savvy and socially-conscious Gen Zs become trendsetters in today’s business world, niche categories that represent fresh lifestyles are gaining traction. Individuals driven by their niche interests embark on their entrepreneurial venture on Taobao to attract like-minded consumers. Take for example this year’s participating merchant, Starry Ink. The brand was founded by a group of pen and ink enthusiasts in their 20s to develop eco-friendly coloured inks. It has brought together a group of Gen Z consumers who are passionate about calligraphy and become the driving force for this young brand to expand rapidly to overseas markets including Japan, the United States and Southeast Asia. 
Many young people are enthusiastically pursuing a distinctive way of life that can bring happiness to people around them, showing appreciation for unique consumer products such as healing candle art paintings and exquisitely designed pet skateboards. Merchants and shoppers also start to rediscover the beauty of family life, from home entertainment to recording fun moments.
Meanwhile, the shift in eating habits across all generations, especially among younger consumers continues to promote the application of technology in food production. To cite an example, healthy food made with high-quality ingredients and high-tech methods is emerging as the new favourite among young people. The smart food manufacturing brand, Moodles, which produces 3D-printed food with high protein, low carbohydrate and precise nutrition, is one of the “maker stores” showcasing their products during this year’s festival.
Immersive and interactive experience to appeal to young consumers
With abundant information accessible at their fingertips, Gen Z consumers are more digitally sophisticated and have higher expectations for retailers. According to a survey by Forbes,3 Gen Z shoppers are constantly seeking out disruptive brands and consumer-centric experiences. The majority regard the products they buy as a reflection of their personality, values, and beliefs.
Taobao Maker Festival is the perfect venue for young people to get immersed in innovative experiences, connect with like-minded peers, and embark on a journey to discover the lifestyles they treasure. With a growing number of Gen Z merchants participating, the festival also offers a platform for young entrepreneurs and consumers to exchange ideas and build a vibrant community together. 
Apart from offline interactions, most merchants also engage with consumers online and in real time through Taobao’s built-in livestream commerce channel Taobao Live, allowing audiences to participate in the exhibition and experience the products wherever they are.
What sets Taobao Maker Festival apart from other shopping festivals is that it isn’t designed for promotions. Instead, its aim is to establish a stage for young makers and creative merchants to demonstrate the originality and authenticity of their brands, and appeal to young consumers. 
By putting a greater focus on creating personalised, immersive and interactive experiences through relevant and highly engaging formats, Taobao has been shifting from a transaction-focused marketplace to a consumer destination for discovery, especially for the younger generation.
[2] China’s Gen Z are coming of age: Here’s what marketers need to know. Nov 2020.
[3] 3 Things You Need To Know About Gen Z And Brand Loyalty. Aug 2022. 


Campaign Asia

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