Singles’ Day 2023: A shift in e-commerce dynamics and pricing strategies for Tmall, JD and Xiaohongshu

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Competition between e-commerce platforms and livestreaming anchors is intensifying ahead of Singles’ Day, China’s biggest shopping day of the year. 

Also known as 11/11 and Double 11, Singles’ Day has seen e-commerce platform Tmall promise to offer the lowest prices on the entire Chinese net to its consumers; meanwhile, social media app Xiaohongshu has pledged billions of RMB in traffic support and subsidies; and shopping site rolled out its Singles’ Day presale event to 8pm on October 23, one day earlier than other e-tailers.

Domestic brands are offering bigger discounts (60 percent to 80 percent) than last year. 

As the Singles’ Day presale period kicks off, how are beauty brands faring?

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Presales: Singles’ Day prelude

Despite the attractiveness of their promotions, beauty brands are not confident about their performance during this year’s shopping festival.

Consumers are shopping more rationally this year, according to domestic media outlet Cosmetics Observer. Recent livestreaming tests have produced unsatisfactory results. 

Declining consumer confidence is hitting medium and smaller beauty labels in particular – they are locked in battle with top beauty players with large marketing budgets.

Consequently, beauty factory order volume ahead of Singles’ Day is half last year’s, and promotion budgets have been slashed by 40 percent.

Ma Desheng, CEO of Shanghai Deyou Cosmetics, said in an interview, “We treat Double 11 as a normal daily promotion. We don’t have high expectations.”

Big promotions are not a big help for SMEs in terms of traffic — smaller businesses’ budgets are insignificant compared to those of the big brands. 

Hence, many SMEs are taking part, but not putting much effort into Singles’ Day.

Winners and losers 

Tmall kicked off its Singles’ Day presales at 8pm on October 24. The gross merchandise value (GMV) of beauty labels Proya, L’Oréal, and Guerlain exceeded 100 million RMB ($13.7 million) within one hour, according to the platform.

These three brands also topped Tmall’s GMV ranking in the first four hours of beauty presales, respectively coming first, second, and fourth. Lancôme took the third spot.

Compared to last year, when international names took the top three positions, this year, Chinese skincare label Proya claimed first spot, signaling an important milestone for homegrown beauty brands. 

Additionally, over half of the top 20 performers are local names – Shiseido, SK-II, and Kiehl’s have dropped compared to last year. The former two have been impacted by the ongoing Japanese nuclear wastewater issue.

YSL had initially made it to second position on Tmall’s Double 11 top 20 makeup brands GMV list in the first four hours of presales. However, a recent livestream featuring the brand’s products irked many consumers, likely affecting the brand’s performance and serving as a cautionary tale for luxury businesses.

top 20 list

Singles’ Day Top 20 beauty brands pre-sales results. Photo: Tmall

Rising awareness of ingredients 

Chinese dermatological brands are on the rise. Upstarts Dr.Alva and Comfy all made it onto the top 20 list, confirming local consumers’ ingredients awareness. 

Top Chinese brands like Proya or QuadHA, and emerging ones like Dr.Alva and Comfy, are emphasizing the ingredients they use in their formulas through storytelling on various social media platforms.

Proya scientific research campaign ahead of Single’s Day presales

Proya scientific research campaign ahead of Single’s Day presales. Photo: Proya

Proya last month launched a new campaign shifting its focus from females to the brand’s scientific research over the past 20 years. In March, Chinese skincare brand Comfy joined forces with local media production house Xinshixiang and A-list livestream host Li Jiaqi to launch a film series named “China Ingredients.”

Discounts and coupons alone no longer impress consumers in China. Brands’ grass rooting promotion strategies on social and interest-driven e-commerce platforms ahead of presales are having a larger impact on shoppers’ decision-making process.