- Although it's more widely known for deep discounts, Singles' Day is gradually morphing into an entertainment-based festival that attracts investment from a wider range of platforms and brands.
- Fliggy's music-heavy gala on October 21 was a first for the travel industry, and could indicate a stronger presence for tourism-focused companies in years to come.
- While critics are concerned that too many galas take place, Fliggy's event makes it clear that opportunities still remain to stand out during the Double Eleven festival.
Although the festival itself officially begins on November 11, this year's Double Eleven e-commerce festival — otherwise known as "Singles' Day" — had its soft launch on October 20 with the kickoff of Tmall's pre-sale session. And while many of the lavish galas we have come to expect from the e-commerce extravaganza are yet to be unveiled, tourism has already become a noticeable new entrant in 2021.
On October 21, the Alibaba-owned travel platform Feizhu, also known as Fliggy, hosted a music-heavy gala entitled the “Fliggy Wonderful Journey” to promote sales of tourism services. The gala was co-hosted by Jiangsu Television and streamed on live TV, the streaming video platform Youku, Youku’s smart TV app Kumiao, and the Fliggy app, allowing Fliggy users to easily place travel bookings as they came across desired offerings.
Unlike traditional indoor Double Eleven galas, Fliggy's gala featured outdoor performances held at several Chinese tourism hotspots that included famous music and movie IPs to strengthen the emotional connection with the audience. One performance of the music from the TV series Chinese Paladin took place at Zhejiang’s Thousand Islands Lake, a major location in the show and its namesake video game. The performance included a stunning CGI display in which a traditional Fujian Tulou, a unique type of rural dwelling, appeared underwater as a performer danced with a whale in the courtyard — an homage to its appearance in the Chinese animated film Big Fish & Begonia.
Later, musicians played the theme of the Harry Potter series on traditional Chinese instruments as the gala advertised offerings from the recently-opened Universal Studios Beijing, and the introductory theme of the gala mimicked the opening titles of Game of Thrones as it highlighted places of interest across a map of China.
This gala is part of a larger campaign by Fliggy to introduce tourism offerings to the Double Eleven festival. Following the gala, Fliggy launched a non-stop livestreaming program for the entire duration of the festival, with over 30 livestreamers showcasing lodging and culinary attractions across China, making its travel products eligible for Tmall’s RMB 30 discount for every RMB 200 purchase upon checkout. For their part, top livestream hosts such as Viya, Austin Li, and Cherrie — who also appeared in the gala — all held special tourism sales sessions.
The results have been promising so far: tourism hotspots featured in the gala saw their searches increase by about 200 percent on the Fliggy app. Fliggy’s transaction value for the first 40 minutes of Double Eleven exceeded that of the first day in 2020’s installment; more than 280,000 high-end hotel bookings were made within four hours, while the sessions from the top four livestreamers yielded RMB 562 million ($87.8 million) in total revenue.
But more important than Fliggy’s sales figures — which could have been impacted by the currently strengthening COVID control measures — is that the gala highlighted Alibaba’s innovation when it comes to Double Eleven content. Since Tmall pioneered the Double Eleven gala in 2015, rival platforms have introduced their own galas. In 2020, six galas took place during the festival, held by Alibaba, JD.com, Pinduoduo, and Suning. Some critics, however, hold that the galas, which typically seek to boost sales through discounting and appearances by famous livestreamers or performers, are experiencing “inward curling," a Chinese term meaning intensified competition that produces little to no value.
The prolonged duration of the Double Eleven festival — stretching out now to around three weeks from soft-launch to finish — and livestream sessions also diminish the value of galas. By introducing the travel sector, however, this year Alibaba provided consumers with refreshing content, highlighting that Double Eleven is not just about discounts, but also about improving the consumer experience and quality of life. Future Double Elevens might see more diversified content like the Fliggy gala, transforming the occasion from a commercial invention into an engaging, entertainment-heavy festival.