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China’s 5 shopping festivals businesses can’t miss

2018-06-18 9 minute read China

11.11 Global Shopping Festival 2017 (AlibabaGroup)


  • China's five lucrative shopping events
  • How the festivals evolve and grow

China’s fast growing e-commerce industry is the largest, unique online market in the world that currently accounts for 40% of global e-commerce sales.

According to Statista’s latest report, online sales in B2C e-retail reached USD 499,150 billion (GBP 377 billion), up from USD 403,458 billion (GBP 305 billion) in 2016. While the projected figure for 2022, in four years time, will reach more than USD 956 billion (GBP 721 billion).

Chinese consumers love sales and special promotions. As a result, e-commerce shopping festivals offer enticing opportunities for foreign brands to raise brand awareness, market towards Chinese consumers, and achieve higher sales.

E-commerce festivals span across the year, with the majority of the heavyweights happening in the second half. They play a crucial role in creating experiential shopping scenarios. As an added bonus, these festivals also have great impact on the e-commerce industry as a whole.

In China, e-commerce is extremely competitive. The chance to penetrate, especially for new participants, has already been proven to be difficult. Online shopping festivals provide multiple opportunities for foreign businesses to entice Chinese consumers into trying something new (at a good price off!) while marketing their products to boost brand presence.

Here we highlight five key festivals of China’s e-commerce industry in 2018 that you can’t afford to miss. They contribute the highest growth to platforms, the merchants (POP store owners), and foreign brands.

618 — June 18

618 celebrates the birthday of JD.com (formerly known as 360buy), as the company was founded on June 18, 1998.

It’s certainly China’s second-most prominent e-commerce festival after Single’s Day. The shopping festival lasts 18 days, and though it was originated by JD.com, these days the festival is celebrated across the e-commerce industry. Other e-retailers also host sales, though JD receives the most attention.

618 doesn’t see the same scale as Singles’ day. But with USD 17.6 billion (GBP 13.3 billion) in sales over a promotional period of 18 days, 2017’s figures were very impressive. During the festival, the best-selling categories on JD.com were small electronics such as smartphones and household appliances, including TVs, refrigerators, washing machines, and air conditioners.

The seamless link between online and offline channels was a major attraction for this year’s 618. Both e-retailers and brick-and-mortar retailers jointly launched online and offline promotions. This year was also the first 618 after JD launched the “unbounded retail” strategy – encouraging cross-platform sales dynamics to bolster online and offline commerce. Together, they accelerate the transformation of the traditional retail model.

JD launched unbounded retail promotions with thousands retailer outlets to simulate sales during the 618 shopping festival. They worked with tens of thousands of brands, including well known Chinese Sports brand ERKE.

Double 11 (Singles day) — November 11

Double 11 was the spectacularly innovative idea of Jacky Ma.

Taobao, Alibaba’s CtoC platform, launched sales for the first festival in 2009. It was designed as a day for China’s single persons to celebrate and treat themselves. So 11th November, with four number ones in the date (11.11) symbolises the single life.

It’s growth has been rapid and it has expanded into becoming the largest shopping event in the world.

Chinese consumers spent USD 25.3 billion (GBP 19.1 billion) in the 24 hours of last year’s Double 11 shopping festival, with 90% transactions coming from mobile devices. In general, Double 11 generates nearly 4 times the combined online sales of Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the US, with 225 participant countries and regions.

Double 11 has truly evolved into a shopping festival phenomenon that’s celebrated across the world, and across the whole of China’s e-commerce industry.

Double 12 — December 12

Double 12 shopping festival was created in 2011, appeasing online shoppers left wanting more after Double 11.

It’s an end-of-season promotional sale hosted primarily by Alibaba, and JD.com, and also hosted as a cross-industry event. The event lasts four days, from 8 – 12 December. It’s encouraged for shoppers to save their favourites into their shopping cart prior to the promotional start, for an opportunity to win “free items” from their wishlist.

Double 12 also boasts impressive sales figures. It’s the last chance for consumers who weren’t fully satisfied with what they gained from Double 11, and it’s the perfect shopping festival for Christmas and year end shopping needs. 2017, according to China Post, 113 million parcels were delivered, an increase of 60% compared to the previous year.

Christmas — December 14-25

Christmas has become increasingly popular in China.

Most first tier cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and other large cities start to fill up with festive decorations by the second half of December.

It has become the festive celebration amongst young people and it has increasing started to develop into a distinct tradition. Friends and colleagues exchange gifts, while schools put decorations out and organise mini parties for students to exchanges gifts.

Christmas shopping has become more important for online shoppers. Many buy Christmas gifts for their friends and loved ones online. So the festival has a strong potential, especially as it gains more interest from lower tier cities – where the shoppers don’t have same access to certain products in offline stores.

JD delivery staff dress up as Santa to deliver parcels. How great is it to receive a surprise gifts from Santa Claus himself?

Chinese New Year — Spring

Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival, is China’s most important festival of the year.

It’s a great opportunity for new brands to enter the market and raise brand awareness, and for established business to gain more market shares through promotions.

During Chinese New Year, food and beverage are the most popular categories to see a sales surge. Clothing and electronics shortly follow in terms of sales volume. The gathering of family and friends is a tradition, as is giving “hongbao”, a red envelope usually containing money, and gifts to friends and family.

With the advance of e-commerce and online shopping over the past few years, gift-giving become much easier and it has increased massively.

Chinese New Year’s sales festival is celebrated across all e-commerce platforms, with merchants participating in stimulating sales. JD offers “pay when you receive the order”; while Taobao and Tmall launched “Family link” so parents can pre-select the gifts they want to receive, to be paid by their kids.

China UnionPay reported a total of 462 billion RMB online payments for 343 million transactions during the 2017 Chinese New Year holiday. A growth of 48.1% year on year and 11.7%, respectively, compared to the same holiday period in 2016.