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11.11’s a Wrap: China’s Annual Shopping Blowout By the Numbers

Roughly 1.3 million viewers joined Tmall’s two-hour livestream from inside the Stuart Weitzman, Coach and Michael Kors stores at the Woodbury Commons outlet mall last week, setting the tone for another big 11.11 shopping spree.

Tmall parent Alibaba said the popular 14th annual Singles Day commerce event managed to about match last year’s gross merchandise value (GMV), even with all of the Covid restrictions limiting business in China in recent months. More than 290,000 brands from 90 countries and regions sold products across 7,000 categories. Taobao Live drew more than 300 million viewers throughout the pre-sale period and main 11.11 event while 62 livestreaming events hosted by key opinion leaders, aka influencers, and brands rang up about $14 million in GMV, according to Alibaba.

Alibaba’s strong livestreaming results conflict with AlixPartners’ 2,000-Chinese-consumer study projecting a falloff in consumer participation. Ahead of the sale, the consulting firm expected just 74 percent to join a stream versus the 97 percent who did so last year. The reason? Bad buzz about people involved in the business, like “bankable” livestream host Viya, aka Huang Wei, who has disappeared from public view since was fined $210 million for tax evasion, according to China Daily.

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Livestream shopping hasn’t quite lost its luster despite recent controversies. People surveyed by AlixPartners who planned to purchase during a stream said they liked this way of accessing product information (60 percent), getting freebies (35 percent) and interacting with brands and hosts (32 percent).

Though AlixPartners expected daily staples and apparel and footwear to be 11.11’s top two categories, Alibaba pointed to diversity in the areas driving “strong momentum” this year, including sports & outdoors products, as well as pet products, collectible toys and jewelry.

Alibaba’s results, matching but not outpacing last year, suggest the AlixPartners study might have keyed in on some critical consumer trends. The findings indicated Singles Day shoppers would spend “more selectively” as last year’s “revenge shopping” gave way to inflation-minded “deal shopping.” The study expected 60 percent to spend comparatively more than in 2021 though the 14 percent who planned to rein in spending blamed the not-so-great economy right now.

Naturally, discounts will encourage some shoppers to take the plunge.

“Consumers said their biggest drivers for increased spending are attractive discounts, the expectation that the festival will offer a better deal, and the longer duration of discounts, which allows for extra time to make more discounted purchases,” the study said. Forty-two percent of survey takers told AlixPartners they wanted to see biggest discounts this year.

Taobao offered 50 renminbi ($6.92) off every 300 renminbi ($41.50) while JD.com shaved 50 renminbi ($6.92) off every 299 renminbi ($41.36) purchased.

“Bigger markdowns, meaning better ‘value for money’, are also a top priority for surveyed shoppers,” AlixPartners said.

Alibaba’s Tmall Global brands used 11.11 to their advantage, with 1,009 seeing GMV leap 100 percent from a year go. Nearly 2 million of the 120 million packages Alibaba’s logistics giant Cainio delivered were ferried on 700 Xiaomanlv autonomous vehicles. Alibaba wants 10,000 of these last-mile package movers on the road by 2024.

Sustainability-labeled products played a Singles Day role too. About 1.63 million 11.11 items including clothing, cosmetics, electronics and food were marketed as low footprint or eco-friendly.