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How Brands Leverage the Craze of 618 to Market to the Chinese Shoppers

618 is not just another random lucky number for Chinese like 338, 888 that you might be thinking. It is the second-biggest shopping festival in China, after the Double Eleven. If you want to tap into the Chinese consumer’s market, the first thing you need to know about are their major shopping festivals which represent the best timing to push Chinese shopper’s red buttons.

618 refers to the date June 18. It is one of the major shopping campaigns for China’s e-commerce platforms like Taobao/Tmall, Jingdong and Pinduoduo. Many retailers also take the opportunity to launch their own campaigns online and offline. It usually starts early June until late June. 

How the 618 craze all started

The shopping festival was initially launched in China by Jingdong ( jd.com)  for its anniversary. Founded on June 18, 1998, Jingdong is the second largest e-commerce giant in China after Alibaba. The platform rolls out promotions every year on its birthday. Every June is the anniversary month of Jingdong, and the promotions and discounts reach a peak on 18 June.  jd.com first promoted 618 as a marketing concept in large scale back in 2009 and it has achieved an outstanding sales result: sales on that June 18th alone surpassed 30 million RMB, and the number of orders was over 45,000. Alibaba’s Taobao soon also launched its own “Taobao 618” campaign and 618 is now one of the top shopping festivals in China. In 2011, jd.com extended the 618 campaign from a one-day event to a whole month celebration.

The 618 Shopping Festival has also expanded beyond mainland China to overseas Chinese in recent years and has become a major mid-year special activity for the Chinese consumers worldwide.

Post-covid19 surge in e-commerce

As a nationwide marketing campaign launched during the post-Covid19 period, 618 in 2020 has taken on special significance as a surrogate metric for consumer confidence and a measure of economic recovery in post-Covid China.

alibaba-618-min
Alibaba's Tmall is the biggest e-commerce platform in China. Photo: alizila.com

In 2020, 618 festival’s total sales reached 16.91 trillion RMB (about US$2.38 trillion), up 42% from last year (source: China Internet Watch):   

  • Jingdong, which invented the 618 festival, saw a surpass of 269.2 billion RMB (US$37.98 billion) during the holiday period, an increase of 33.6% YoY from that of 2019. On the first hour of June 1, their transactions of Apple products were three times of that of the same period in 2019; luxury goods achieved a 400% growth. jd.com’s outbound e-commerce platform witnessed a 742% growth in transaction volume on June 1st, compare with the same day of 2019. The top five markets were the United States, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, and Canada.
  • Transaction volumes on Alibaba’s Taobao/Tmall hit 698.2 billion RMB (US$98.49 billion) during the 18-day shopping festival (June 1st- June 18th) in 2020. The direct purchase transactions of Tmall Global overseas warehouses increased by 199% YoY. As of June 18, more than 4,000 overseas brands doubled YoY growth. Close to 180 luxury brands had participated in 618 of 2020, nearly doubled the amount from Double Eleven 2019 Global Shopping Festival. Burberry, Montblanc, Cartier, and Michael Kors were offering customized special edition items co-created with Tmall just for 618.

618 Shopping Festival this year

This year, Alibaba Tmall kicked off 2021’s 618 Shopping Festival on 24 May. This year’s pre-sale activities are obviously ahead of schedule. Tmall said that a total of 250,000 brands on the marketplace will participate in the event, which is 2.5 times larger than that of last year.

During this year’s 618 event, major e-commerce platforms stepped up efforts to offer shopping coupons and discounts as well as the use of livestreaming product promotions to boost consumers’ enthusiasm.

Jingdong announced it will focus on live streaming, short videos, graphics, and quiz to enrich its content marketing for the ongoing 618 Grand Promotion at a kick-off event on May 20 in Beijing. jd.com will invite more than 300 celebrities, and executives from nearly 600 brand partners to participate in various promotions through live streaming during the promotion.

A few examples of brands that have made their presence with great offers in this year’s 618.

Nike

Promotions have been launched on multiple platforms including their website, Tmall, their mobile app, WeChat Mini-program and at stores.

Highlights of their offers:

  • Up to more Than 50% off online and at stores.
  • Extra site-wide coupons offer: $30 RMB discount for purchase over $500 RMB, $60 RMB discount for purchase over $700 RMB.
  • Livestreaming sales event on June 1-3 on Tmall with exclusive $200 RMB coupon on purchase over $1000 RMB
  • Livestreaming on June 13 on Nike app with exclusive $150 RMB red packet coupon on purchase of $1200 RMB and exclusive purchase right of Nike Dunk products

Fujifilm

The brand has participated in the nation wide 618 sales event for the past few years. It is one of the most active camera brands at 618. 

This year on Jingdong, they are offering a maximum $3350 RMB discount and up to 12 months interest free financing on selected X-series cameras and lenses. The offers have created active sharing among the photography community on the social platforms.

Photo: Fujifilm WeChat

Clinique

The brand is offering big discounts of up to 49% off on selected products. The offers are not only valid through their flagship store on Jingdong, but also on their official website and at stores for the whole month of June. The promotions are widely spread on WeChat through the official accounts of different stores and beauty KOL’s. The significant price drop has created incentives for Clinique’s fans to stock up. It has also attracted lots of new users to try on the products.

Apple

iPhone fans have been waiting for the 618 opportunities to get their best deal for iPhone 12.

Apple started participating in the official 618 discount activity last year and set a record on June 1, 2019. In just 5 hours, $70 million RMB worth of iPhone smartphones were sold in only one Tmall store. This year, they are offering different deals on TMall and Jingdong at different times and there are limited numbers of discounted merchandise everyday so there have been lots of discussions on social media about strategies in how to save the most.

Highlights of their offers:

On Jingdong:

  • Up to $1000 RMB discount on iPhone 12
  • Up to $600 RMB discount on iPhone 12 mini
  • $400 RMB red packet coupon can be applied together with the above deals.

On T-mall:

  • $30 RMB discount coupon with purchase of $200 RMB
  • $400 RMB coupon for their 88VIP members

IKEA

In March of 2020, IKEA China announced the collaboration with Alibaba to launch the IKEA Tmall flagship store, providing Chinese consumers with IKEA touch points in a new digital environment.

This year, they have participated in the 618 Shopping Festival for the first time. Started from May 25 until June 21, big price reduction of up to 50% off will be offered on both the IKEA Tmall flagship store and their brick-and-mortar locations.

Photo: gzhuodong.cn

Due to the huge setbacks from Covid, international brands that previously did not participate in this annual eCommerce shopping festival before are going hard with this initiative. In fact, many retailers worldwide are also leveraging the vibe to expand the promotions to at-stores offers as most of the lockdown measures are now being lifted. Chinese shoppers anywhere in the world are also hoping to head back to the store to enjoy the in-person shopping experience.

It might be too late to participate this year at the 618 event. However, if you are brands or retail businesses that would like to tap into the Chinese consumers market, we are pleased to share with you the complete line-up of major annual shopping events targeting the Chinese consumer market in North America. So that you won’t miss the next opportunity.

Contact us at info@eastwardmedia.ca today for a chat on that.

We specialize in helping marketers define and understand their Chinese target audience to build digital media plans that work.

Interested in learning more? Connect with us today.

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