618 Shopping Festival breaks records: How can your brand sell through China’s festivals?

Western marketers are often amazed at how big Chinese shopping festivals are. After all, although we may be familiar with Black Friday at home, these events are dwarfed by Chinese equivalents, including Single’s Day and 618 shopping festival.

What is the 618 Shopping festival?

Launched originally by JD.com, the 618 shopping festival on the 18th of June is China’s biggest mid-year commerce festival, and a hotbed of competition between JD.com, Taobao and other leading e-commerce platforms. Pre-sale promotions usually begin at the end of May, and the actual sales begin from early June until the end of the month. Every China e-commerce platform, plus most retailers, have their own promotions for the event in anticipation of huge sales.

Putting it into context

This year, thanks to the Covid-19 quarantine, 618 resulted in record-breaking sales of $38 billion (against $29.2 billion in 2019). The sale was particularly interesting as it was the first since China’s Covid-19 outbreak, and demonstrated that Chinese customers are now more inclined to shop online than ever before – both for essential and non-essential items.

What do Chinese e-commerce shoppers look for?

This year’s most popular categories included fresh food, electronics, fashion and beauty and household daily-use consumables. Chinese shoppers love special promotions and sales – not to mention luxury brands and quality Western products – which means that these shopping festivals offer the perfect opportunity for Western brands to grow their sales in China, develop brand recognition and begin to develop their Chinese consumer audience.

How Western eCommerce brands can use Chinese shopping festivals

So how can you use shopping festivals such as 618 to sell to customers in China? Every e-commerce brand will naturally have a different approach according to their goals, objectives – and budget. However, in this sophisticated country of increasingly middle-class netizens, it is perfectly possible to reach, engage and convert Chinese customers with a highly attractive ROI. The trick lies in careful campaign planning, a deep understanding of your audience, creative digital marketing and the expert management of the right channels. Here are some starter points:

1. Create your campaign

Begin by creating a special campaign that is targeted for the festival, bearing in mind that your target customers are likely to be swayed by incentives such as deep discounting, limited-edition releases or ‘free’ gifts with their purchase. Be creative and do your research carefully to ensure that the special offer you create will resonate with your market, carrying out market research beforehand to devise your target customer persona. You will need to consider which channels you will use for an integrated campaign, and create Chinese language content – ideally, created for your target market, rather than translated from existing Western materials. This means delivering careful translation which meets all needs – including socio-cultural factors and government censorship requirements. Review your brand too – will it work for your Chinese audience or will it need some degree of localisation? Chinese audience testing can be highly valuable here as a test before you launch a full campaign – saving you time and money if adjustments need to be made before you go live.

2. Create your landing page

There are a couple of options here. You could create a special shopping festival landing page on your website which flags up your promotion for the festival and which optimises the user journey for immediate purchase via the most common Chinese payment platforms. You could also use a H5 page (WeChat Moments on your WeChat official account). WeChat is such a large digital ecosystem in its own right that it offers its own popular payment platform as well as online shops for e-commerce brands. Whichever approach is right for you, Market Me China can help you to optimise your digital hub to encourage qualified leads to your website and to generate maximum conversions with the right user journeys, content, design and concepts.

3. Work with social media KOLs

There is a social media Key Opinion Leader (KOL) in every Chinese market. Although the biggest KOLs charge hundreds of thousands of dollars for a single post, there are many which are affordable and which have highly relevant follower bases. The trick lies in finding the right influencer for your brand and your market, with KOLs that work across WeChat, Weibo, DouYin, Little Red Book and other platforms. A Chinese marketing agency can broker the relationship and create a tailored sponsorship or partnership package which offers you brand recognition and the chance for immediate sales conversions online. For example, KOLs can sell your products directly online through live-streaming as they carry out product testing and explainers.

4. Run social media adverts

Each Chinese social media platform offers its own online advertising opportunities. WeChat ads are a powerful route to placing your products in front of your target customers – bearing in mind that Chinese customers appreciate advertising as a sign of value and trustworthiness (after all, this is a country where many consumers have had negative experiences with low-quality, or even dangerous, counterfeit products). Within WeChat, you have varied advertising options:

1. WeChat Official Account banner ads on a CPM/CPC basis with targeting (and costing) available for different city tiers, demographics, and more.
2. Moments ads which are commonly used by international luxury brands, and smaller brands can also get benefits from Moments ads. These integrated, non-disruptive adverts flow alongside user-generated content to provide a seamless user experience – and a great potential for viral sharing.

Find out more

Market Me China can help you to prepare your marketing campaign for a full annual calendar of Chinese online shopping festivals. From creative campaign concept planning and content creation through to channel management and post-campaign analytics, we work on a flexible basis with clients from across all industries, according to their needs. Our team of experienced digital professionals offer native Chinese language skills and significant expertise in this complex field. Please contact us to find out more about how we can help your brand to succeed in the lucrative China market.