Why businesses need to take note of 12/12 in China (the market’s most important promotion you’ve never heard of) and what brands can do to prepare

November 29, 2019

By Eddie Tabakman, Director of Marketing + Communications at WPIC

Less than two weeks after the dust from Black Friday and Cyber Monday settles, China’s third largest shopping holiday takes place.

Double Twelve, also known as Couples Day, is quickly gaining prominence in both notoriety and sales, since its inception in 2011. And though it currently lags behind the more famous “11/11” and “6/18” festivals, expected growth in 12/12 sales have led many businesses to take serious note, as the event has quickly grown to become the third most prominent holiday in China’s promotional calendar.

Originally conceived as a means for smaller retailers who might have missed out on or not fully benefited from 11/11 to participate in a massive shopping holiday, the day has become a boon for tens of thousands of merchants. Double Twelve typically sees upwards of 500 million customers participating in the event that lasts from December 8th until 12th.

One particular characteristic of Double Twelve that cannot be overlooked is the focus on heavily discounted items. The event has been likened to and even dubbed China’s “Black Friday”, and just like U.S. Black Friday, consumers expect heavily marked down items and generous promotions. In fact, companies have even started to incorporate 12/12 into their 11/11 strategy, knowing that they can offload excess inventory that might not have moved during the November shopping bonanza a month earlier. However, that does not mean that brands cannot be profitable on the day- they simply need to ensure that their discounting strategy is focused on both revenue and profitability.

Another factor analogous to Black Friday is Double Twelve’s occurrence before a major holiday. While Black Friday and Cyber Monday take place three weeks before Christmas, Double Twelve is roughly six weeks before Chinese New Year celebrations. Just as Western consumers use their two massive shopping days to prepare for the primary gift-giving time of year, those planning on making purchases on Double Twelve are readying for the celebrations in late January.

Participation in 12/12 isn’t confined to merchants in China, however. Australian, French, English, American and South Asian merchants are also in the habit of marking December 12th on their calendar to target Chinese consumers. Last year, merchants from four continents participated in the four-day shopping extravaganza.

Brands from every continent hoping to make the 2019 edition of Double Twelve a success are wise to be mindful of and focus on a few key points. Apart from efficiently leveraging the event as part of your 11/11 strategy as mentioned above, digital considerations ought to be first and foremost.

Not only does Alipay’s close association with Double Twelve imply that a large percentage of transactions will take place on a mobile phone, China’s technologically savvy consumers will expect to be able to make their purchases online quickly, and without hiccups. As such, companies would be wise to ensure their Tmall stores, websites and landing pages and fully and seamlessly optimized for mobile.

Another digital component in a successful Double Twelve campaign is the use of targeted advertising. With thousands upon thousands of brands competing for sales on the same day, selective and intentional digital advertising can help separate a brand from the pack. China’s wealth of available consumer data means that, armed with the right information, targeting the right demographic to increase sales is well within the realm of possibility.

Additionally, while not unique to Double Twelve, leveraging the right Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) can be yet another way for a brand to distinguish itself from the competition. Sponsoring or creating a promotional partnership with a KOL – who range from socialites to columnists to photo bloggers – has become a way of life for successful brands in China.

And in 2019, what has become clear is that livestreaming is the most effective way to drive conversions with those individuals and their audiences. According to Alibaba[1], more than 100,000 brands and merchants used livestreaming during 11/11 to market their products. Chinese consumers find the live product trials and commentary particularly valuable, and leading brands are leveraging livestreaming to drive dedicated promotions and, more importantly, conversions.

Though 12/12 may never achieve the prominence of 11/11 or 6/18, it will increasingly become an integral part of a brand’s strategy in the Chinese market. Much like 11/11 and Black Friday/Cyber Monday have become household names all over the globe, so too will Double Twelve one day become a day that consumers from East to West circle on their calendar.

Interested in activating your brand in China’s e-commerce landscape for 12/12? Contact info@wpic.co to learn more.

[1] https://www.alizila.com/alibabas-newest-11-11-gmv-record-us38-4b/