Published on: November 14, 2023
Here are my takeways now that another Singles’ Day is in the books.
One of the biggest stories was the enormous growth in social commerce. According to each platform, orders on Pinduoduo were up 20%, Kuaishou 50%, Douyin 119%, and Little Red Book 400%. Tmall and JD grew in the single digits—and that’s still solid given that they accounted for the majority of sales. But the eye-popping growth is coming from the social commerce channels. Consumption habits are changing.
The dominant narrative this year was about steep discounts. Tmall and JD offered aggressive subsidies and real-time low-price guarantees, on top of the regular platform-level discounts. Part of that effort was to appeal to a consumer that is relatively price conscious.
But the focus on discounts was as much about intensified competition between the e-commerce marketplaces as it is about the consumer. Douyin and Pinduoduo are discount-oriented platforms that have become popular in recent years by offering an innovative social commerce experience, and their rise has forced JD and Alibaba to compete on both price and on the platform experience to maintain market share. Consumers are searching for value in certain categories, but in general we’re not advising brand partners to aggressively discount—that not only hurts margin but also brand image.
So how does Singles’ Day reflect on the consumer? My view is that consumption is resilient. We still saw solid Singles’ Day growth in a difficult macro environment. Consumers splurged on categories like vitamins, athletic apparel, outdoor-wear, and pet care, which have grown rapidly in 2023 alongside the health and wellness boom and other lifestyle trends. We have seen middle-class consumers cut back in certain commoditized product categories where quality and brand differentiation is less significant, as well as in large durables related to the property sector.
But despite the challenges, consumption is up overall in 2023 and I think the dominant narrative about a struggling consumer is missing nuance.
Another narrative is that Singles’ Day has lost its luster—that’s largely due to the prevalence of discounts via live-streaming and other shopping festivals, which allow consumers to access good deals year round.
But make no mistake—this was still the world’s largest shopping festival.
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