NRF 2022: Will Chinese shopping festivals migrate to the U.S.?

Discussion
JD.com celebrates the results of it’s 6.18 event - Source: Facebook/jd.cominc
Jan 21, 2022

At a 2022 NRF Big Show session, executives from JD.com and Authentic Brands Group (ABG) discussed the massive opportunity around shopping festivals in China and offered some insights into their potential for U.S. retailing.

The two best known Chinese shopping festivals are 6.18, held annually from June 1 to 18, and 11.11 or Singles Day, a 24-hour event held on November 11. At JD.com, both days last year generated about $50 billion in gross merchandise value (GMV).

“If you think of 6.18 or 11.11, it’s an excuse to shop,” said Nick Woodhouse, president and chief marketing officer at Authentic Brands Group, the brand management firm. He likened it to how Valentine’s Day drives flower sales in the U.S.

One difference is that numerous other shopping festivals are held throughout the year, driving the number of shopping occasions in China to about double the traditional U.S. shopping occasions, such as Easter, Halloween and Christmas.

The shopping action is also driven by a significantly more digitally-savvy Chinese consumer than even young U.S. counterparts.

NRF 2022: Will Chinese shopping festivals migrate to the U.S.?
Left: Nick Woodhouse, Authentic Brands Group; Right: Harlan Bratcher, JD.com – Photos: NRF

Harlan Bratcher, global business development head, JD Fashion at JD.com, known as Jingdong locally, noted that 90 percent of JD.com’s sales are conducted on mobile phones. Said Mr. Bratcher, “Chinese are highly, highly mobile and digital.”

Aligned with that digital comfort, influencers are much more pervasive in China, driving discovery and purchases.

Deborah Weinswig, CEO of Coresight Research, who led the discussion, remarked on how shopping in China is similar to “entertainment and almost like a sport,” as well as highly social.

For U.S. retail, the addition of deal-driven events to the retail calendar could produce greater margin pressure, although many vendors highlight limited-edition or customized offerings for Chinese shoppers to attain premium prices.

In the U.S., shopping events such as the Fourth of July  could be extended over weeks, similar to Chinese New Year. Existing festival days in China with a global stance, including International Women’s Day, were also seen having high potential in the U.S. “Any shopping festival or day that is not clearly created by a lobby I think has legs,” said Mr. Woodhouse.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Could mobile and influencer-driven shopping events that mimic Chinese shopping festivals take off in the U.S.? How might they work differently?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"I think a similar situation could be successful in the U.S., but a few things would have to change."
"The West has a long way to go to catch up in mindset to Chinese about digital, especially the younger adults."
"We are at the precipice of a significant shift in how consumers shop and engage with brands."

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11 Comments on "NRF 2022: Will Chinese shopping festivals migrate to the U.S.?"


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Dave Bruno
BrainTrust

I definitely think North America is “primed” for more shopping holidays. One look at the growth of Prime Day beyond just an Amazon event tells you all you need to know. The question, in my mind, is not if, but rather what (or who) will be the driver of the next shopping day?

Brandon Rael
BrainTrust

We are at the precipice of a significant shift in how consumers shop and engage with brands. In 2021, we witnessed the emergence of livestreaming and immersive shopping experiences that were established virtually. However as a Western society, we are in a crawl/walk/run-like scenario in terms of large-scale influencer-driven shopping events.

There is plenty of potential in influencer-driven shopping events via livestreaming. However the Western market is still dominated by the traditional holiday shopping season calendars. Though we have the holiday season extend throughout the October – December timeframe and a somewhat diminished significance of Black Friday. Spreading out the holiday shopping season has relieved some of the sales target and margin pressures for retailers.

So, considering that and how quickly consumers adapt to innovations, we should expect influencer-driven shopping events to become more prominent over the next few years.

Melissa Minkow
BrainTrust

I think a similar situation could be successful in the U.S., but a few things would have to change. The trust Chinese consumers have in influencers isn’t what U.S. consumers have because our influencer market became saturated and so commercialized. The lack of authenticity eroded consumer confidence in influencers. We still definitely look to influencers for inspiration, but research still ends up happening before a purchase is made. We also don’t have the same mobile penetration yet for shopping. Our numbers are getting higher, but until U.S. consumers demonstrate the same reliance on mobile and apps for shopping, the scale that’s achieved by shopping festivals in China isn’t feasible here. Again, we can get there, but just not yet.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust
The culture in Asia is quite different from that in the West. As noted in the discussion, the Chinese are more savvy in digital than anyplace else in the world. I have never been in China during the J-D summer event. I have seen the reactions to 11.11 or Singles Day at least four times. The event is as much entertainment as it is shopping. The night before there is a gala that is broadcast nationwide. They bring in international stars — names you would recognize. It makes Super Bowl halftime look like the Minor Leagues. This is the Super Bowl for China. The anticipation for Single’s Day is palpable and makes Black Friday feel like nothing. And certainly it is about deals as most everyone has a shopping list. But it isn’t necessarily specific items that are on deal or showcased. It is basically everything one wants to buy. The West has a long way to go to catch up in mindset to Chinese about digital, especially the younger adults. I can foresee shopping… Read more »
Gary Sankary
BrainTrust

Thanks for the insight Gene. I was wondering about cultural differences in this discussion. I would guess that in the West, the approach would probably be to make the events that our consumers already have embraced; Black Friday, Valentine’s Day, Halloween, even bigger, rather than try to introduce something new. I’m not 100 percent sure, but China didn’t really have public holidays associated with buying and gift giving correct? When you say “they” is this massive retailers and Alibaba type of entities, or is this the Chinese government?

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

The “they” is not the Chinese government. It is Alibaba. These shopping events are not government sponsored. In fact, the Chinese government is concerned about the strength of Alibaba and JD.

RandyDandy
Guest
8 months 11 days ago
I realize RetailWire is about, well, retail, and that the discussions, focuses, forums, et al, should reflect what is good for all manner of business that falls under that broad category. To make it about what could and should help good companies get their, well, goods to consumers at good prices and at the best quality is really a good cause, too. Meanwhile, sorry about all the “good(s)” but there’s a point to it: sometimes (make that often) there can be too much of a good thing — and folks, this is it. Aside from the benefits of bringing enormous amounts of cash (or Bitcoin?) into the pockets of a few leaders of a few companies — and in China let’s not delude ourselves into thinking that wages for the workers can in any way reflect the incoming bounty — and getting people (lemmings, really) a lot of stuff they do not need in any measurably beneficial way(s), what is the “good” of this? Just trying to extrapolate all the numbers of items that have… Read more »
Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

China is not the U.S. and vice versa. We are already staggering under the weight of too many “shopping festivals” of our own — Black Friday, Amazon Prime Day, Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday, Super Bowl Sunday, the “Holiday Season” (which starts sometime in October and runs through January), Halloween, President’s Day, and on and on and on. Assuming these could be consolidated into one, two, or three mega-shopping galas, would annual sales increase or decrease? There is a huge difference between marketing and media strategies and culture and context. You could make an argument that Amazon could do what Alibaba has, but I’d counter that there is a world of difference between Prime Day, a totally commercial ploy, and Singles Day, which at least started as an authentic consumer event. Are the Chinese more digitally savvy? Maybe, but that’s not what’s holding back another shopping holiday in America.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

It’s only an “opportunity” if it makes sense, and I don’t see that these do: I believe the dates have cultural significance for the Chinese, and even if I’m mistaken, I don’t see them having any for us … which is ultimately what matters.

Let’s turn the question around: do these festivals really accomplish anything other than shifting existing spending?

Anil Patel
BrainTrust

Retailing and its infrastructure are aimed to enhance the lives of customers. Americans already have a decent standard of living and have progressed to the point where they are above customer luring strategies. On the other hand, most Chinese consumers are only now beginning to enjoy a higher standard of living.

Mimicking Chinese shopping festivals would mean motivating American customers to follow fast consumerism, disregard sustainability, and be constantly FOMO-ed. This is a step backward for a developed economy with relatively more mature consumers. Instead, retailers should be more socially responsible and encourage customers to be environmentally conscious. The message of conscientious consumption should be so loud and effective that not just Americans, but also Chinese customers, refrain from engaging in unnecessary purchasing behavior.

Gwen Morrison
BrainTrust

Before launching new shopping holidays, US retailers can take a page from JD.com’s integration of live streaming and entertainment into shopping. There’s an exuberance in how shoppers feel in the concert-like atmosphere delivered by festivals such as Alibaba’s 11/11. Far better experience than standing in line for Black Friday deals.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"I think a similar situation could be successful in the U.S., but a few things would have to change."
"The West has a long way to go to catch up in mindset to Chinese about digital, especially the younger adults."
"We are at the precipice of a significant shift in how consumers shop and engage with brands."

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