It’s not even June yet, but the competition to win at the 618 Shopping Festival is already in full swing. The mid-year sales promotion was created by JD.com back in 2004 to mark its June 18 anniversary, but has since been picked up by rival retailers and expanded into several weeks of splashy campaigns. As we noted in our last newsletter, this year’s 618 Festival has taken on additional importance as an indicator of China’s broader consumer recovery and the nation’s prospects for reversing the economic contraction seen in the first quarter of 2020.
E-commerce livestreaming received a major boost from the coronavirus, and continues to build on the momentum. Alibaba’s platforms are going for star power, tapping into the recent trend of using celebrities and corporate bosses to draw viewers.
For the Tmall 618 campaign, more than 300 performers will take to Taobao Live for what’s being billed as the largest celebrity broadcast in history, including Kris Wu, Liu Tao, Zhu Yilong and Ouyang Nana, and the platform is promising at least ten celebrity broadcasts per day through June 20.
In addition, Taobao Live will feature broadcasts with more than 600 top brand executives to promote 618 sales, with a lineup that includes representatives from Huawei, Lenovo, L’Oréal, and Suning Tesco. Alibaba reports that more than 1,200 brands have started livestreaming on the platform since February, and there have been roughly 450,000 broadcasts during this period.
To compete with Alibaba’s powerful Taobao Live platform, which has access to more than 700 million consumers, JD.com announced a long-term strategic partnership with short video platform Kuaishou to pool resources to create a “short video e-commerce livestreaming ecosystem.” (Both JD.com and Kuaishou are backed by Tencent.)
Kuaishou users will be able to purchase products from JD that they see on the video platform without leaving its app, and both sides aim to collaborate on brand marketing, combining JD’s insights into consumer shopping behavior with Kuaishou’s data on short video and livestreaming. JD Retail CEO Lei Xu said the deal “will provide Chinese consumers with a high-quality experience in richer shopping scenarios.”
It’s a win for both sides. Though JD already has a livestreaming platform, it will gain better access to Kuaishou’s audience of more than 300 million daily active users, a large share of which hails from China’s lower-tier cities and rural areas (the so-called “submerged market”) that are key drivers of consumer growth. Meanwhile, Kuaishou will be able to further burnish its image by association with JD’s reputation as a trusted source of quality products, distancing itself from past scandals over counterfeit goods.
JD is also planning to bring bosses and celebrities to the 618 livestream party, though on a smaller scale than Tmall, and is working with other platforms such as Douyin and Bilibili to expand its reach even further.