Leveraging Chinese shopping holidays
The past few months have been tough for Australian brands. But they have been even tougher for Australian brands that rely on Chinese customers.
As early as January Chinese customers in Australia started to change their spending in response to COVID-19. They could see the devastating impacts on the health and freedom of family and friends back home in China and proceeded to unfollow and turn off from brands trying to sell to them during this time.
Australia was operating as usual, and with the virus contained in China, it was difficult for local brands to understand why so many local Chinese were in almost a form of self-imposed local lockdown.
With China now entering what seems to be a cautionary recovery phase and talking about rolling back restrictions, the role of Chinese customers in our retail recovery will be key – many have been spending conservatively for some time and are primed to re-enter the market.
So how can you leverage this?
In China, a range of giant conglomerates have long competed against each other to drive billions of dollars in sales through one-day branded shopping festivals. The kinds of shopping events that make Black Friday look like a regular Monday morning in Myer. You’ve probably heard of the buying frenzy that happens around Chinese New Year and maybe you’ve caught wind of Singles Day. But there are even more.
As Australian brands consider the coming months and how to move inventory, they should also be considering how to leverage the following Chinese shopping days:
- 6.18 Shopping Festival: while this was created by e-commerce platform JD.com to celebrate its June 18 anniversary, many more retailers have jumped on board over the years. This is the number one shopping event to capitalise on in the next three months
- National Golden Day Week on October 1, which kicks off a week-long holiday during which many travel and shop. Brands should be thinking and planning for this as it is absolutely massive
- The mammoth Singles Day on 11 November regularly breaks sales records – think US$43 billion in sales over 24 hours
- The smaller but sweet 520 Day on May 20, which is a kind of Valentine’s Day for the young and internet enabled where they trade cute gifts
Australian brands can absolutely leverage these events here, down under, but it has to be through the right channels and in a manner that demonstrates they understand the audience.
Few retailers have adequately communicated with this audience before and subsequently have few Chinese customers on their books. This means building a Chinese consumer journey including establishing the right channels, as well as the right payment options.
WeChat is the most well-known channel of choice for Chinese – click here for a primer on what it is. In Australia, it acts as your Chinese website, serving up great content that appeals to Chinese culture and buying behaviors; it is your online Chinese-speaking customer service, connecting your salespeople to customers. WeChat Group is an online community that helps brands more deeply understand consumers, while Weibo is just as important and is a great place to drive reach with KOLs and leverage market trends. Being on these channels is critical, but you also need to build in payment mechanisms like WeChat and Alipay. You should also think about incentives, paid media and leveraging KOLs to drive more reach and success.
We see great opportunity for alcohol and giftware brands for 520 Day, while there is plenty of scope for fashion, beauty, automotive and many more over Golden Week and 6.18. Not sure where to start? Give us a call!
What brands can learn from China’s recovery
Chinese retailers are a couple of months ahead of Australia’s as the country relaxes its restrictions and attempts to get back to normal. There are a number of key trends emerging out of the country that Australian brands should consider as we cautiously approach recovery.
Worry free shopping
It’s understandable, but the lingering concerns over virus transmission are still in play in China and social distancing is still being followed. In this climate Chinese brands are finding they need to demonstrate a vigilant safety culture and hygiene standards to confidence and customers. The rise of the “worry free economy” is being touted by many as brands offer contactless delivery and enhanced online services including a continuation of live streaming and virtual appointments.
Down under, western and Chinese consumers will have the same concerns, particularly as our social distancing is set to last until September. As we chart a road to retail recovery Australian brands returning to the market should be considering how they meaningfully communicate a safety-first approach to operations and how they can pivot retail locations to offer more personalised touchpoints – think fewer people in store, but more meaningful contact and service.
In China we’ve seen a number of high profile offline only brands start to move into online, and quickly – Prada, IKEA and BMW all established Tmall stores during the epidemic, among others. This has particularly occurred as brands have sought to move back into sales mode during the recovery period. Digital strategies during the major infection period focused on adding value through information, education and entertainment (think the likes of fitness brands offering live streamed workouts, restaurants offering cooking workshops etc), and while brands haven’t dropped this approach as it has resulted in great engagement, they’re now selling more overtly and they’re doing that online. Retail foot traffic is coming back, but certainly not in the previous numbers. People are spending, but not crazy amounts. That means there are less buyers, more competition and so marketing needs to be effective and efficient.
In Australia we’ll start in a similar place – consumers will be conservative and cost conscious, while brands will be keen to start to move inventory. For brands it means thinking about your online to offline ecosystem – how you can continue to drive brand equity online through social, what is your D2C approach and how does that fit with any high street retail you might have. The key message? Digital isn’t going anywhere and if you thought you could get away with social media silence at the start of COVID-19, that isn’t going to work much longer.
Ok, this trend isn’t one that has come out of COVID-19 but it is one that Australian brands should be considering anyway. Group buying became highly popular with the launch of Pinduoduo – one of the fastest growing e-commerce start-ups in China, meaning Together, More Savings, More Fun. It allows buyers to get deep discounts by getting friends to participate in group buys of items. Buyers have 24 hours to fill a group and the app shows the discount increasing as every new buyer joins.
The popularity of the concept has taken off and now many online retailers offer their own group buying deals on their platforms.
Australian brands can tap into this phenomenon by offering their own incentive based group discounts to local Chinese audiences to push more product in every sale. This can be achieved through platforms like WeChat.
The myth behind revenge spending
In the early days of China’s recovery many were hoping “revenge spending” by cashed up, and until then, locked down, residents would drive the early days of the recovery. And certainly early on the signs were hopeful. However, weeks in and the picture is one more so of cautious spending. Some numbers did suggest a boost to eating out and small purchases, but the luxury sector hasn’t ignited as some thought it would. The South China Morning Post found that Chinese consumers were planning on spending on groceries and clothes, but those luxury goods, not so much. Segments including health, finance and investment are also areas to watch.
In Australia, there is likely to be some kind of level of revenge spending, but this is likely to be similar to China – focused on food, fashion and small purchases.
All in all, when looking at China, what we can see is a clear desire to get back to normal, but that normal isn’t what it used to be. Safety is a huge consideration in the post COVID-19 world and is why digital and social will still be really important as buyers return to the market. Australian brands can check out Bastion Effect’s piece on how manage social media during COVID-19 here. Obviously when speaking to Chinese audiences there are different factors to consider, as digital channels and the habits and behaviours of users are wildly different. More on that to come in a future blog!
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