How Alibaba Tapped The Chinaverse For Double 11

    With over 21 million products showcased and 290,000 brands participating, China’s Double 11 season was back — but this time with a Web3 makeover.
    Alibaba's virtual idol Noah promoted electronics giant Haier during Double 11. Photo: Screenshot
      Published   in Meta

    During China’s annual Double 11 shopping extravaganza, it's all systems go for top players to show off their marketing chops. Over the past year, that’s meant utilizing the technological and digital advancements surging through the country’s e-commerce landscape, as well as tapping the changing behavior of local consumers — particularly the spending power of Gen Z.

    While Web3 remains a largely newfound space, big and small retail brands alike have demonstrated ambitions to crack the terrain. And there's no better time to ramp up efforts than during China's shopping festivals, with last year's Double 11 hitting a record-high gross merchandise value of 84.54 billion (540.3 billion RMB) and attracting at least 900 million consumers.

    With over 290,000 brands taking part in last year’s festival, and new names including Bulgari and Moncler joining the roster this year, some brands are looking ahead at how the metaverse can separate them, and their online experiences, from the crowd. Below, Jing Daily rounds up some of the Double 11 Web3 activations from Alibaba Group this year.

    Tmall trumps competitors with a series of digital-first activations#

    Owned by Alibaba, online retail group Tmall was one of the first players to harness the power of Web3 across China and remains one of the leading pioneers in the space. Unsurprisingly, the tech titan came out on top after launching myriad virtual retail campaigns in honor of the festival.

    For example, New York-based cosmetics label Maybelline released its first-ever global metaverse campaign on the e-commerce platform, in collaboration with K-pop girl group ITZY. The beauty brand launched “The City of Rhythm,” a virtual universe designed exclusively for Double 11 and lasting throughout the month of November. Over the past year, the cosmetics industry has found new potential within the metaverse, with many names — including Nars, YSL Beauté and Sephora — flocking to the digital domain to showcase innovations. But what Maybelline does so well is gamifying the experience, offering its customers the opportunity to access exclusive benefits through incentivized activities, as well as appointing well-recognized ambassadors to attract fans.

    Maybelline teamed up with K-pop group ITZY to attract consumers to its virtual world on Tmall. Photo: Maybelline
    Maybelline teamed up with K-pop group ITZY to attract consumers to its virtual world on Tmall. Photo: Maybelline

    Tmall also introduced a series of 3D projects, such as digital complexes, into presale marketing. A new dedicated space allows users to preview products like watches and jewelry using 360-vision and experience items in real-life scenarios for maximum effect. Guests can access the space through Tmall’s homepage, where they can then virtually walk past brands’ conceptual storefronts and visit specific retailers. Thanks to the accessibility of these 3D initiatives (many projects don’t require external equipment such as VR headsets or add-on technology), the concept is growing in popularity across China and will likely be picked up by more competitors in coming months.

    Alibaba launched a virtual mall for Double 11 where shoppers could browse over 700 products. Photo: Screenshot, Alibaba Group
    Alibaba launched a virtual mall for Double 11 where shoppers could browse over 700 products. Photo: Screenshot, Alibaba Group

    Virtual idols and stores#

    Alimama, another platform created by the conglomerate Alibaba Group, designed an immersive meta space dubbed “Metaverse” (曼塔沃斯) exclusively for Double 11. Consumers were able to browse virtual shops through the lens of customizable avatars while also engaging in exclusive entertainment experiences. Not only is the festival one of China’s booming profit generators, but it also provides scope for companies to test out strategies before rolling them out on a more permanent basis.

    Alibaba also utilized its popular virtual idol and employee, Ayayi, during the course of its retail festivities as well as its latest user-customized ambassador, Noah, who was unveiled in May. As part of its Metaverse Art Exhibitions, which were broadcast on both Taobao and Tmall on the first day of pre-sale, the hyper-realistic metahumans presented a series of products and experiences to consumers via VR.

    Metahumans are on their way to becoming the latest revolutionary advertising tactic; in fact, the virtual idol industry reportedly reached 960 million (6.76 billion RMB) in 2021. Since her launch, Ayayi has collaborated with several luxury giants including Tiffany & Co. and Burberry, in addition to high street labels like L’Oréal and MAC Cosmetics.

    Lucrative shopping events like Double 11, 618 and Mid-Autumn provide high-yielding opportunities for consumption across the country and help boost the economy particularly during a time of financial woes. Could the Chinaverse be the key to unlocking new avenues for growth across the mainland?

    With zero-COVID curbs, low growth rates, and faltering global demand threatening the country’s retail landscape, many are turning to new technologies to entice younger fans and provide elevated, new experiences. China’s metaverse race is shaping up to be exactly that.

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