Behind the numbers 6/18 lies not only in the middle of the year, but is also the second largest shopping festival in China. So what is the hype all about and why can this be a great opportunity for German brands?
Recently, the 6/18 festival is heading for its climax in China. If you've never heard of it, there's no shame in that—but it's worth catching up on as soon as possible. Not only is 6/18 the second largest shopping event in the People's Republic, but examples such as Singles Day show how quickly Chinese commerce festivals are becoming more and more important in Europe.
Since 2010, 6/18 has been held every year around June 18. Retailers from all over China then try to boost their sales with discounts and special offers via the country's major e-commerce platforms. This year, it is estimated that more than 250,000 brands with over 13 million products are participating—on Alibaba's B2C platform Tmall alone.
The 6/18 Festival was launched by the Chinese platform JD.com, which wanted to celebrate the anniversary of its own founding and oppose Singles Day, which was launched by competitor Alibaba, with its own event. However, the event is by no means limited to this one day. The presale starts at the end of May before the festival officially begins with an opening ceremony—lasting several days—and the first wave of sales. This is followed by a sort of recovery phase in which retailers try to rekindle buying interest with their own campaigns for the second main part of the event, the 6/18 Grand Carnival. In an extended promotion phase, the summer sale then slowly winds down after a total of almost a month.
This mixture of mechanisms and different phases is what makes shopping events like 6/18 so successful in China. They are, in the truest sense of the word, real festivals, real experiences that in the past have already been accompanied by international stars such as Taylor Swift or Katy Perry. In addition, many brands use the occasion not only to sell their established products, but also to present entirely new ones—with the total expected to reach 1.4 million products this year. These market novelties attract even more people, creating an ever-increasing self-perpetuating interaction that ultimately results in high visitor and sales figures.
The 6/18 festival is still known to hardly anyone in Germany. Nevertheless, German brands can benefit from a look at China right now. During the big shopping events in particular, we can see what tomorrow's e-commerce will look like. For example, livestreaming, which is still in its infancy in Europe, is omnipresent, especially in these big campaigns. Often, an audience of millions is reached here, to whom so-called key opinion leaders (KOLs) present their favorite products. With the help of such influencers, brands can increase visitor numbers in their flagship stores. In-house livestreaming also serves as digital customer advice, which is often provided by specifically trained customer care specialists. Here, potential customers have all their questions about the brand and the products answered live. This creates a relationship of trust similar to that of a local store. The goal is to convert the traffic generated through this type of consultation.
So both forms of livestreaming have different objectives: Big names generate user numbers, and in-house consultation converts.
It is true that German brands can also benefit directly from these events in China, for example by selling their products there via cross-border e-commerce. However, this step should not be underestimated, as it requires a carefully planned campaign strategy and should not be taken lightly. Brands need to offer people something, be it livestreams with celebrity hosts and KOLs or special limited editions of their products. What's important is that there is something exciting to experience. Another important key element is the pricing strategy, where it is essential for every brand to strike the fine balance between competitive offers and devaluing of its own products.
In any case, German brands and retailers who want to go down this path should rely on the support of local experts who are familiar with the Asian market and understand the cultural conditions. Then they have a good chance of tapping into the enormous potential of these events for themselves. It's not without reason that festivals like 6/18 are already firmly established in China - and the chances are good that they will also become increasingly relevant in Europe.