Double 11 Alibaba E-commerce

Explainer: How come Double 11 becomes a shopping marathon

Weilin Li

posted on November 10, 2021 7:44 pmEditor : Wang Boyuan

You might think this year's Double 11 shopping festival is about to begin tomorrow. No, it isn't. 

This time, China's biggest online shopping gala kicked off on October 20. And it proved that Double 11 is just a number, because on that night, the meaningless 10.20, top livestreamer Austin Li Jiaqi sold 10.7 billion yuan ($1.7 billion) worth of products within 12 hours. It was the highest value of sales by an e-commerce livestreamer ever on Taobao, a major online shopping platform owned by Alibaba.

In fact, this year is the second time that the Double 11 has developed into an extended shopping gala. Last year, the festival began on November 1 and lasted for 11 days, which is still not on par with this year's 22-day-long marathon. 

Now you might want to ask, why it is getting longer and longer?

Find more consumer motivation

The reasons are not very complicated, given that the contribution of e-commerce to the total retail sales has been going down in recent years.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics data, e-commerce transactions accounted for only 2% of total retail sales of consumer goods in 2009. The figures in 2018 and 2019 were around 20%. Since 2015, the growth rate of online rentals sales’ contribution has hit a bottleneck.

On the other hand, the dividend of China’s netizen growth is shrinking. According to an Internet report, the number of Chinese netizens in June 2021 reached 1.01 billion. Compared to that of December 2020, the growth rate has decreased to 2.2%.

In both scenarios, a more extended shopping festival allows customers to gain increasing amount of time to change their buying habits, participate in buying more actively, and acquire more motivation for consumption.

Sellers’ maneuvers for new profits

One difference for this year’s festival is that a larger number of coupons have emerged on the markets, and customers must make more intricate calculations. Here is an example:

Final Price = Pre-Sale Price - Early Payment Discount - (Coupons + Price-Break Discount)
Final Price = Pre-Sale Price - Early Payment Discount - (Coupons + Price-Break Discount)

Professor Deyi Zhu at Nanjing Forestry University told Caixin that this seems to be a price discrimination practice, where sellers charge customers different prices for the same product based on customers’ characteristics. It’s a way for the sellers to maximize their profits.

Similarly, an Excel document was previously posted on Austin Jiaqi Li’s Weibo, a Twitter-like platform, informing buyers of the latest shopping strategies for Double 11. The file, including 439 shopping items, was soon overloaded and moved offline. At the same time, balance payment (尾款) has become a trending word on social media.

Less burden on logistics

Given the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, more physical purchases are moving online last year and now.

Chen Wuqiang, a principal analyst at think tank ExpressHub, told PingWest that a marathonian festival will cause less burden on the express industry because the orders previously rushing onto the service provider now can be split. “Even in the pre-sales period, couriers may have prepared parcels at the warehouses,” he said.

Although some customers reported finding their parcels missing or sent to another destination by mistake, Chen said this is not very common. The logistics industry has gained years of experience to face the peak period for orders.

Origin of Double 11

In China, Double 11 used to celebrate single men and women because of the four “1” symbolism.

Double 11 shopping festival was first launched on November 11, 2009, by Alibaba. Zhang Yong, the CEO of Taobao Mall, said they “want to let the customers have a good time.” Actually, in the debut year, only 27 brands were participating in the festival.

Since the festival’s inception, Taobao has been a significant shopping entrance for Chinese e-commerce customers. But things began to change in 2019, when Austin Austin Jiaqi Li, the young livestreamer, nicknamed “Lipstick King,” attracted about 50 million followers across all platforms on the Internet. The female counterpart beauty influencer in China is Viya.

As for e-commerce rivals, Taobao faces and Pinduoduo. Short-video platforms Kuaishou and Douyin also offer e-commerce options for Chinese buyers.

The Double 11 has grown in Southeast Asia. Singapore’s Lazada and Shopee both have discounts for the festival. In Indonesia, November 11 is dubbed National Online Shopping Day.

Photo by Arno Senoner on Unsplash