What ecommerce brands can learn from China’s 618 Shopping Festival

When it comes to innovation in ecommerce, there’s one country that’s definitely leading the way. China has pioneered concepts such as social shopping, chat commerce, live streams and much more. They are also known for their huge online shopping events, which rival Black Friday in both sales and online engagement. You may already know of Singles Day, held on November 11th each year, but did you know there’s a summertime event that’s just as important in the Chinese retail calendar?

The 618 Shopping Festival takes place on June 18th (hence the name), and was started in 2010 by one of the biggest names in the Chinese ecommerce industry, JD.com, to celebrate the date the company was founded. Nowadays, it’s not only JD.com but many other retail giants, such as Taobao and Pinduoduo, who take part, working together to turn 618 into one of the biggest spending events of the year. In 2020, 618 spending reached an incredible 16.91 trillion yuan (about US $2.38 trillion), up 42% from last year.

As China has led the way with so many ecommerce trends over the past decade, we predict that other countries will see similar events emerge in the future. So, what can ecommerce brands do to ensure that they’re ahead of the competition and central to the rise of the next big trend in the online retail industry? Here’s what we can learn from the success of the 618 Shopping Festival.

China's 618 shopping festival has encouraged young people to spennd

No big events coming up? Create one!

In retail, marketing tends to revolve around calendar events, tying our campaigns into annual occasions such as Christmas, Easter and New Year. This means we experience fantastic sales and web traffic peaks around these events, but we shouldn’t stop there – instead, we should look at ways to keep up the same momentum throughout the year. One way to do this is by creating new events, as JD.com did with the 618 Shopping Festival. Before launching your event, look for gaps in the shopping calendar, and consider what theme and campaign strategy would be most relevant and effective at that time of year.

Stronger together

While JD.com is a huge player in Chinese ecommerce, 618 would have been known simply as JD’s annual anniversary sale, if it wasn’t for the fact that other retailers saw the benefit of getting involved. Similarly, one of the biggest days in Australia’s shopping calendar is Click Frenzy, which was started by a retail industry publisher, who brought together some of the country’s leading brands to create their equivalent to Cyber Monday. By working together, brands are able to dominate the conversation on the relevant date, for example through social media trends and press coverage.

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618 is more than a one-day event

The key to success with an event like 618 is to raise awareness in the weeks leading up to the event, building up anticipation with teasers and announcements. Much like Black Friday, which has developed into Cyber Week in recent years, 618 has become more of a shopping season than a one-day event. Brands begin announcing their sales and offering limited presale opportunities in late May, while the official deals typically run from June 1st to 18th.

Revitalising the economy

Like many countries, China is facing the challenge of getting its economy back on track in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The 618 Shopping Festival played a key role in resuming normal spending habits. The Chinese government and major brands such as Tmall and WeChat worked together to ensure it was a success by providing consumers with e-vouchers or “consumption coupons,” which had an estimated total value of over 10 billion yuan. China understands that encouraging consumers to reform their old shopping habits will be crucial to re-energising economic growth.

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