Carol Huang
Jun 23, 2020

Takeaways from this year's 6.18 shopping festival in China

Online streaming, aiming for long-term interaction and better application of big data have been areas of focus for brands during the first major post-COVID shopping festival.

Takeaways from this year's 6.18 shopping festival in China

This year's 6.18 shopping festival has been about adapting to the new norm.

Encouragingly, consumer demand proved just as robust as in prior years. JD.com, the original creator of the June 18 sale event, said total orders from June 1 through 18 reached RMB269.2 billion (US$38 billion), 33% higher than the figure last year. Alibaba said its competing platform, Tmall, received total orders from May 25 through June 20 of RMB698.2 billion (US$98.7 billion).

"A trend we see this year is brands are looking for long-term growth instead of fast gain," said Cyril Drouin, chief ecommerce officer for Greater China at Publicis Groupe. "As you know, Tmall's Flagship Store 2.0 concept has been introduced last year right after the June 18 promotion. This update offers brands the ability to provide a customizable shopper experience with new technologies, and to keep consumers for a longer time."

Over the past months, especially during the first quarter of 2020, Drouin has seen numerous beauty and lifestyle brands actively aiming for long-term growth and putting it into practice. Brands are now using better store experiences and customer relationship management to attract different tiers of customers with different offerings and content, Drouin said.

JD.com said sales of beauty products achieved five-times growth in the first hour of the promotion sales. International cosmetic brands saw daily sales quadruple this year on JD.com. Beneficiaries included Sulwhasoo, Clarins, Shiseido, SK-II, Lancome and Biotherm.

The same thing happened on Alibaba's Tmall. The company said it sold 490,000 lipsticks in one hour on June 18. Total beauty product gross merchandise volume reached RMB500 million (US$70.6 million) on its platform in 22 minutes after kickoff.

To draw attention, brands are thinking of new ways to interact with customers as much as possible. Tmall, for example, has taken a page from Ikea by releasing a 3D shopping tool that allows customers to see how furniture items will fit into their homes. Already 100 brands are the feature on Tmall, including Ikea. E-commerce platforms also issued coupons and hosted online shows to keep customers in the loop.

"We also see a lot of limited edition launched during this year's June 18," Siyuan Aw, the chief strategic officer of BBH China, told Campaign Asia-Pacific. "With new creativity in the interaction, we see the efficiency of communication increased two to three times this year."

Another feature we can't ignore this year is the massive application of livestreaming. "Today, brands and platforms are making a pragmatic choice to shift their investment to activating their conversation online," said Drouin. "For example, automotive brands launched their new models online and got more engagement with their users."

"We've seen more disruptors in this year's June 18," EBP CEO Frank Xu told Campaign Asia-Pacific. "Some brands are increasing or shifting their budgets to livestreaming platforms such as Douyin. And these new live-streaming platforms want their long-term development on ecommerce."

But when more and more livestreaming channels to choose claiming the ability to drive huge sales, brands need to choose wisely and avoid channels that inflate their numbers.

Brands need a systematic way to analyse the effect of livestreaming. Xu suggested brands should think about the key performance indicators before partnering with internet celebrities to start livestreaming.

More brands are using big data to monitor the effects of their campaigns. "It is a smarter move for brands to launch customised campaigns for certain audiences," Aw said. "For agencies, it is also an opportunity with challenges." Agencies need more analysis of user behaviour to understand patterns. Based on the current analysis, more data about customer will bring more interaction and sales growth.

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