The ascent of social commerce this 618: Douyin, Xiaohongshu

    Social commerce platforms challenge Tmall and with record-breaking sales and engagement this 618 shopping bonanza, creating new opportunities for brands.
    Jing Daily
      Published   in Technology

    Douyin and Xiaohongshu turned in remarkable performances during this year’s 618 shopping festival, highlighting their increasing influence in China’s e-commerce ecosystem.

    Douyin, which launched its e-commerce arm two years ago, has rapidly developed into a robust platform that is shifting beauty brands’ focus from Tmall-centric marketing to a closed-loop model centered on social media.

    “Douyin capitalized on its massive user base and livestreaming capabilities to drive sales across all segments, particularly beauty and fashion,” Subramania Bhatt, CEO and founder of market research firm China Trading Desk tells Jing Daily. “Douyin’s 618 revenue in 2024 is expected to grow by 20% to 30%, with beauty products potentially increasing by 40%.”

    Douyin’s short video, livestreaming ecosystem#

    According to the short video app Douyin’s official data, the Douyin 618 Good Things Festivals (抖音618好物节) recorded a total livestreaming duration of 40.5 million hours, while short videos featuring shopping cart links attracted 115.1 billion views. In total, 183 live broadcast sessions each achieved sales exceeding $1.37 million (10 million RMB), and 758 brands reported sales surpassing this threshold.

    Significantly, many beauty brands reported sales on Douyin that either approached or outpaced their Tmall sales. Douyin’s Top 30 Beauty Brands list reveals substantial growth compared to last year.

    Proya's promotion on Douyin. Image: Douyin
    Proya's promotion on Douyin. Image: Douyin

    Brands like Whoo, Estée Lauder, and Ya-Man surpassed $13.7 million (100 million RMB) in sales, a significant leap from last year, when only Whoo reached this milestone. Fourteen brands achieved sales over $6.8 million (50 million RMB), double the number from the previous year.

    According to Feigua data, Chinese beauty brands KanS and Proya have surged ahead on Douyin during this year’s 618 Shopping Festival, securing the top two positions by gross merchandise value (GMV). Last year, Proya and KanS ranked ninth and tenth, respectively. This year, KanS ascended to first place, while Proya climbed to second. This significant leap underscores the growing competitiveness of domestic brands against international counterparts in China.

    “Influencer marketing and engaging livestreaming sessions played a crucial role in boosting sales,” Bhatt says. “In the beauty sector, targeted promotions, livestreaming events, and collaborations with key influencers bolstered sales, reflecting a trend towards guochao, or national pride. Domestic beauty brands gained favor, and there was strong demand for skincare products driven by heightened self-care awareness.”

    Xiaohongshu popular for new product launch#

    Xiaohongshu also posted impressive results. The platform’s livestreaming sessions during the 618 period saw order volumes increase 5.4 times compared to the previous year, while GMV from in-store broadcasts was five times higher.

    Xiaohongshu 618 user shopping list recommendation. Image: Xiaohongshu
    Xiaohongshu 618 user shopping list recommendation. Image: Xiaohongshu

    This surge can be attributed to a strategic reorganization that merged its e-commerce buyer and merchant operations, enhancing operational efficiency and optimizing merchant services.

    Xiaohongshu’s ability to push posts with trending product keywords to relevant user groups has made it a popular choice for new product launches. For instance, the beauty brand Flower Knows (花知晓) launched its new Midsummer Night brightening concealer series via buyer livestreams on Xiaohongshu, generating over 15,000 orders and $468,500 (3.4 million RMB) in sales within just four hours.

    Xiaohongshu’s monthly active users (MAU) reached 312 million in 2023, a 20% year-on-year increase, underscoring its rapid growth. The platform’s alignment with brand aesthetics and its focus on user trust have made it increasingly popular among merchants.

    Jacob Cooke, co-founder and CEO of WPIC Marketing + Technologies, says, “The growth in Xiaohongshu’s sales demonstrates the broader trend of content-driven commerce and consumers’ willingness to make purchases on what we traditionally see as social channels.”

    Despite these successes, Xiaohongshu faces the challenge of scaling its new model compared to other platforms, where top players, such as Apple, Xiaomi, and Maotai, can quickly exceed billions of dollars in GMV over the shopping spree period.

    Douyin vs Xiaohongshu#

    Comparing the two platforms' performances, Douyin's extensive reach and high engagement metrics underscore its rapid ascent in the e-commerce domain. Its ability to drive significant sales and brand visibility through live streaming and short videos highlights its growing importance. In contrast, Xiaohongshu’s strength lies in its precise targeting and effective promotion of new products, supported by its substantial user base growth.

    While Douyin’s total sales and engagement figures present a formidable challenge to traditional e-commerce platforms like Tmall, Xiaohongshu’s strategic realignment and robust order growth signal its potential to become a key player. Both platforms exemplify the shift towards interest-driven e-commerce, leveraging social media dynamics to foster consumer engagement and drive sales.

    • Douyin’s e-commerce arm grew rapidly, achieving significant sales and engagement during the 618 Shopping Festival, challenging established platforms like Tmall.
    • Many beauty brands achieved higher sales on Douyin than on Tmall, with several brands surpassing $13.7 million (100 million RMB) in sales.
    • Xiaohongshu saw a 5.4-fold increase in order volumes from livestreaming sessions during 618, driven by a strategic reorganization.
    • Both Douyin and Xiaohongshu exemplify the shift towards interest-driven e-commerce, as such to boost sales brands need to leverage social media to enhance consumer engagement and sales.
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