Originally launched with a focus on steep discounts to encourage online shopping, China’s largest online shopping day of the year is going upscale. After making $17.8 billion last year, the November 11 Chinese e-commerce extravaganza Singles’ Day (or “11.11”) will be promoted across the web and TV with a celebrity-studded fashion show as its founder Alibaba courts luxury brands.
Luxury is a relatively untapped market for B2C platforms like Alibaba’s Tmall and its main competitor JD.com. While beauty and CPG brand stores are common on both of these platforms, luxury labels have been slow to follow. Only 24% of luxury brands in L2’s Insight Report: Alibaba had official Tmall shops as of June. Rather than shunning online sales altogether, brands have sought out pureplay e-tailers: L2’s Digital IQ Index: Luxury China reports that the portion of fashion brands with no e-commerce offering in China is down to 9%.
With B2C platforms making significant efforts to entice luxury and premium brands, Tmall’s 11.11 spectacle will highlight its recent successes. Scheduled to broadcast across multiple platforms with “see now, buy now” capabilities on October 31 to create hype for the upcoming shopping day, the show features top premium and luxury beauty and fashion brands, including LVMH-owned brands Tag Heuer, Guerlain, and Rimowa, Estée Lauder, MAC, Furla, Polo Ralph Lauren, Pandora, Sandro, Maje, and more.
Participating brands have lined up special promotions including celebrity appearances, singing and dancing performances, and product launches. For example, Estée Lauder will launch a special-edition Kendall Jenner lipstick exclusively on Tmall, while Rimowa has enlisted Fan Bingbing to introduce limited-edition suitcases with designs by Chinese artist Yue Minjun. As the official partner of the show, MAC will be showing makeup looks as well as broadcasting a “happy 11.11” video for 24 hours in New York’s Times Square on October 28.
The competition between Tmall and JD.com for the luxury industry’s attention has been fierce. Tmall launched its Luxury Pavilion platform in August featuring brands including Burberry, Maserati, Hugo Boss, Guerlain, Zenith, and La Mer, while JD.com followed with the announcement of its competing luxury platform Toplife. Tmall has scored several luxury and premium brand wins this year, including store openings by LVMH-owned brands Fresh, Tag Heuer, and Loewe (for a 24-hour sale), as well as MAC, Furla, and Polo Ralph Lauren. Meanwhile, JD.com invested $397 million in Farfetch in June and will deliver all Farfetch packages in China through its new white-glove luxury delivery service. Not long after the announcement, Saint Laurent launched an official China partnership with Farfetch that will include same-day delivery.
Both have also been active at top international fashion weeks. JD.com has hosted runway shows in New York, Milan, and London, while Tmall was an official partner of New York Fashion Week and will feature American brands Opening Ceremony, Robert Gellar, and Jason Wu in its upcoming runway show as part of the partnership.
This year will mark the second time Tmall has hosted a see now, buy now runway show for Singles’ Day. In addition to being broadcast on Tmall and Taobao’s livestreaming platforms, the show will stream on social platform Weibo, video platform Youku, news aggregator Toutiao, smart TV platform CIBN, and TV channel Beijing TV. Youku will also offer see now, buy now capabilities, while Weibo users can click links to purchase through Tmall or Taobao. Alibaba is also setting up a mobile platform for its TV audience, allowing users to shake their phones when each item is shown to receive links to purchase.
Tmall and JD.com are not the only Chinese e-tailers in the luxury e-commerce game. Luxury e-tailer Secoo launched its US IPO in September and became the official partner of the European Confederation of the Footwear Industry, while VIP.com announced this month that its new VIPLUX platform will be home to the only authorized online flagship presence in China for Marc Jacobs.
While Alibaba is the king of the Singles’ Day shopping festival, JD.com has been launching competing initiatives. On October 17, it announced a big data partnership with Tencent that will utilize information from WeChat. The e-tailer’s additional powerful allies for data sharing and links include Wal-Mart, Baidu, and Toutiao. Its 6.18 shopping festival created to compete with Singles’ Day brought in $17.6 billion in 18 days this year, coming close to Alibaba’s sales for 11.11 last year.