Retail’s global phenomenon: Alibaba’s 11.11 Global Shopping Festival

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David Lloyd, General Manager UK, Netherlands and Nordics, Alibaba, on Retail’s global phenomenon, Alibaba's 11.11 Global Shopping FestivalDavid Lloyd, General Manager UK, Netherlands and Nordics, Alibaba, rounds up the news from Retail’s global phenomenon, Alibaba’s 11.11 Global Shopping Festival.

To hear more from David, register for Tamebay Live which takes place on the 25th-27th January 2022, where David will be discussing his reflections on 11.11 Global Shopping Festival in more detail and offering key takeaways for those businesses that will look to export to China, based on key findings from this year’s 11.11 Festival

Retail’s global phenomenon

11.11, the world’s largest Global Shopping Festival, wrapped up in November and generated RMB540.3 billion (US$84.54 billion) in gross merchandise volume during its 11-day campaign.

Now in its 13th year, 11.11 has evolved from a sales opportunity to become a global phenomenon, and is considered one of the most innovative retail events in the world.

This year, a record 290,000 brands participated, 65% of which are small and medium sized businesses, manufacturers from industrial belts and new brands. More than 1.3 million new products were offered by over 29,000 overseas brands that participated via Tmall Global this year, with some 2,800 overseas brands joining the festival for the first time. In the luxury sector alone, more than 200 brands participated in 11.11, offering over 100,000 new products.

China’s consumer market has long represented a valuable opportunity for brands in all categories from around the world, and with good reason: China contributes around half of all e-commerce activity across the globe and consumers look to international brands for innovative, heritage and quirky products.

While there are some recent signs of growth slowing down, we remain very optimistic about the long-term potential of China’s consumer market. According to an estimate by Morgan Stanley, China’s consumption is set to double in a decade. This provides significant long-term potential for brands considering the Chinese market, and 11.11 offers the perfect moment to test and learn.

So, what is 11.11 Global Shopping Festival?

11.11 originated as Singles Day in China with November 11 supposedly chosen because the four 1s in 11.11 represented singles. The day has long been known as the popular alternative to Valentine’s Day, when people started buying themselves gifts and holding parties with other single friends to try and meet someone new.

In 2009, Alibaba transformed 11.11 into a shopping festival which aimed to raise awareness of online shopping in China while giving a sales boost to independent brands selling on Tmall — China’s largest B2C website — between National Day and Chinese New Year. Its first event featured just 27 brands who ran promotions on its Taobao and Tmall websites.

How has it evolved?

At its core, the 11.11 Global Shopping Festival is all about leveraging Alibaba’s platform to create value for consumers, brands and society.

This year’s Festival marked a new chapter for 11.11, with an emphasis on sustainability and inclusivity.

Sustainable attraction

Tmall – China’s largest B2C website – featured 500,000 products with official Green Product Certification from more than 2,000 merchants as part of a newly-created, dedicated eco-friendly vertical.

Tmall also promoted “green” lifestyles this 11.11 by featuring a dedicated vertical to showcase energy-efficient and low-impact products. It also issued more than RMB100 million (€13,5 million/ US$ 15,7 million) in “green” vouchers to incentivize shopping decisions that contribute to an environmentally-friendly lifestyle.

Beyond introducing initiatives on its platform, Alibaba installed more than 60,000 package collection and recycling stations across China and 10,000 Cainiao Post Stations in 20 cities where users could recycle parcel packaging. The logistics service also leveraged its self-developed sorting algorithm to match products with the right parcel size; so far, the tool has processed more than 510 million cardboard boxes and cut packing waste by 15%.

As customers are increasingly showing tendencies towards ‘greener’ shopping behaviour, 11.11 needed to ensure this was front of mind throughout the Festival. One way in which this was done was through second-hand luxury product stores on Tmall Global. This year, the second-hand luxury product stores in the first seven days of 11.11 doubled the entire GMV generated during the 618 Mid-Year Shopping Festival, showing a growing consumer interest in second-hand luxury goods.

Inclusive for everyone

Alibaba encouraged consumers to share their purchases made through the company’s “Goods for Good” program with each other. The program allowed merchants to pledge a portion of their sales to a charity of their choice. This year, sellers who meet a donation threshold were awarded special standing and added to a daily ranking showing the 100 most generous merchants, making them more visible to shoppers during the festival.

This 11.11 also introduced the “One Shoe Program”, an initiative by which consumers bought one shoe for half the price of a pair from participating brands’ Tmall flagship stores. The program sought to provide a more inclusive shopping experience for people with disabilities. Seven big-name brands took part in the program, including Sketchers, Reebok and ECCO.

Alibaba made its Taobao App more user-friendly for elderly shoppers: piloted ahead of China’s 11.11 Global Shopping Festival, Taobao’s “senior mode” features larger text and icons, simplified navigation and voice-assisted technology. It also allows senior citizens to search for products using voice commands. The homepage highlights games thar are popular with older consumers, including the Baba Farm program, where users tend virtual crops to unlock discounts for agricultural produce.

Every day during 11.11, 1.1 million users on average navigated 11.11 offers using the “senior mode” option, with the top three most popular items among this consumer group being smartphones, down jackets and woollen coats.

What do UK brands need to know?

11.11 holds an abundance of opportunity for British brands, with Chinese consumers holding UK products in extremely high regard. In fact, the UK is consistently in the top ten countries exporting to China, with YOY growth in this year’s 11.11 reaching nearly 13%; and this year more than 1,500 British brands participated in 11.11 Global Shopping Festival. Brands ranged from already-popular companies like Dyson, Burberry, The Body Shop and Sweaty Betty to SMEs such as Hawkins & Brimble and Teapigs.

For the first time this year, Alibaba brought 11.11 Go Global Pitch Fest – an initiative that aims to help brands expand their business globally by fast-tracking them into the China market – to the UK & Ireland. The 11 finalists were launched in China ahead of 11.11 via Tmall Overseas Fulfilment, which offers brands greater inventory flexibility and reduces operational and logistical hurdles in launching in China. Finalists also received bespoke marketing advice and were involved in a dedicated livestreaming session ahead of 11.11. Finalists included brands from the health, wellness, beauty, baby and maternity categories, along with food and beverage – all of which are high-growth categories in China.

For international brands, Alibaba offers a full-service retail solution in which Tmall Global takes care of all retail operations for brands as they explore the China market. It’s important that international brands localise their marketing for the China market and think about innovating their product portfolios to lock into Chinese consumer trends.

While 11.11 has come to an end for this year, the Festival has cemented its presence as an innovative, international retail event that provides exciting opportunities that both business and customer can take control of. And for British brands and retailers, tapping into this rapidly evolving and customer-centric market will put them on the global stage in a spotlight that is only getting brighter.

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