Despite breaking sales records yet again, there’s a hint that Chinese consumers grew weary of navigating all the Singles’ Day deals.
With sales reaching a record $30.69 billion in 24 hours, Alibaba’s Singles’ Day easily took the title of World’s Biggest Shopping Festival, one that allowed Chinese consumers to conveniently shop for virtually anything with a tap of their phones. But behind the festival’s impressive sales figures are the nagging issues of complicated UX experiences and “infotoxicaton” on most sales platforms.
Recent social media trends have testified to Chinese consumers’ increasing inability to deal with choice overload. On November 11, the top trending term #can I copy your shopping list# on Weibo exposed consumers’ difficulty finding the quality products they want despite the immense quantity of products available. The next day, on November 12, the top trending term #taobao refund just crashed# showed the ugly hangover that commonly comes from impulsive shopping, and later, on November 14, the trending topic #life is a horror story after double 11# revealed the financial stress Chinese consumers face during the holiday season.
Because of this choice overload, a curated shopping trend is blossoming on China’s mainstream e-commerce and social media channels—and even on niche online marketplaces. Initiatives created to simplify the shopping experience popped up during this year’s Singles’ Day that help consumers navigate the extreme amounts of market noise. Here’s an analysis of this trend:
The Mainstream E-commerce Approach
Early in 2017, Tmall launched the multi-channel initiative “Tmall Double 11 Picks” to offer product recommendations through media content. “One second to place an order, N hours of choosing products” was the tag line from the initiative’s 2017 campaign, which sums up the holiday shopping experience for many Singles’ Day shoppers. The initiative expanded this year into a two-month-long talent show to discover online shopping experts. Tmall featured the winners in a campaign video to showcase their expertise in choosing the best jeans, earphones, lipstick, etc.
JD.com turned the e-commerce holiday into an 11-day shopping event called “Good Stuff from the World Festival (京东全球好物节).” To distance itself from Alibaba’s overwhelming platform, JD.com chose the Chinese character “挑 (select)” as its Double 11 keyword, with a core message of “Select good stuff, go to JD,” emphasizing the platform’s edited, curated marketplace to win over quality-minded consumers.
The Peer-to-Peer Social Approach
Peer-to-peer recommendations on social media are perceived as more authentic than those from the major e-tailers. On the social e-commerce app Little Red Book, there are more than 241,000 entries under the hashtag #Double11WorthyList (#双十一必买清单#). A typical entry includes screenshots of the user’s shopping cart, and step-by-step instructions on calculating the final net price.
The shopping event’s multiple discount rules, social rewards, and pop-up cash prizes makes it difficult for consumers to know a product’s final price. Faced with this problem, many fashion key opinion leaders (KOLs) published shopping guides throughout October, turning from social media stars to math whizzes. For example, top KOLs “Hi Better Me” and “Late Night Ms.Xu” both made multiple shopping guides that were popular with their followers.
The Niche E-commerce Approach
To tackle the choice overload, a wave of curated online marketplaces started gaining greater market traction during the holiday. The curated e-commerce site known for value buys Yanxuan (meaning “strictly selected” in Chinese) has a year-end target of $3 billion on gross merchandise volume.
Secoo, known as the e-commerce site for China’s high-net-worth individuals, brought a thoughtfully edited shopping board to Singles’ Day. Not only did the highly curated luxury site nearly triple its November 11 sales from last year, it also collected some impressive online luxury sales: a $387,725 (RMB 2,700,000) Rolex and a $68,929 (RMB 480,000) Hermès Birkin bag were two of the top sales that day, according to Secoo International CEO Federica Marchionni.
While they have far less product variety than Alibaba, curated sites like Yanxuan and Secoo have made it easier for Chinese consumers to shop for quality products.
China’s upper-middle-class urban consumers identified ‘shopping efficiency’ as their top consumer demand, according to a 2018 report from iiMedia Research. Amid the Singles’ Day shopping craze, the trend towards curated shopping and edited marketplaces emphasized how companies want to alleviate this issue.
After all, China’s e-commerce landscape is immense, with endless choices and nonstop shopping festivals. The ability to select and influence the shopping decisions of others has, therefore, become a coveted skill. In the face of choice overload, innovations that blend simplicity and quality will hold the key to China’s e-commerce future.