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KEY POINTS

Black Friday boosted China’s cross-border e-commerce sales this year. This day is increasingly identified by Chinese consumers as another important occasion in the year to buy imported goods.

  • JD Worldwide and Kaola achieved strong year-over-year sales growth this Black Friday. Selected brands saw sales even higher than Singles’ Day, according to data from Azoya, an e-commerce services provider. 
  • E-commerce platforms adopted different discounting strategies. Alibaba’s Tmall Global offered 50% off in general for the second product purchased within the same category such as cosmetics, mom and baby, nutrition and food.
  • Drone manufacturer DJI offered steep Black Friday discounts.
  • US nutrition retailer Swanson upped its game in the Chinese nutrition market by opening its Chinese e-commerce website ahead of Black Friday.

Black Friday: A Cross-Border Shopping Day for Chinese Consumers

Black Friday has become an important time for Chinese consumers to shop overseas on online marketplaces. Cross-border e-commerce platforms including Tmall Global, AliExpress, JD Worldwide and Kaola boosted sales by offering steep discounts and “first-come-first-served” coupons. This year, platforms reported considerable sales increases on Black Friday.

  • JD Worldwide, which is JD.com’s cross-border site for Chinese shoppers, reported sales revenues of certain brands increased over 100%; and sales revenue of nutrition products and skincare grew 2.6 times and 3.3 times respectively than last year’s.
  • Kaola, which sells Imported goods to consumers in China, exceeded last year’s Black Friday sales in just 10 hours.

According to data from e-commerce services provider Azoya, selected international brands and retailers not only receive orders more than the average day but also more than Singles’ Day:

  • Feelunique, a British beauty and personal care brand, received 1,500% increase in orders and 1,700% in sales compared to an average day. The orders and sales were even 235% and 320% higher than Singles’ Day, respectively.
  • Pharmacy Online, an Australian healthcare retailer, saw a 760% increase in orders and a 900% increase in sales compared to an average day. Order numbers were 70% higher than Singles’ Day and the sales were 50% higher.

Discount Strategies Differed Across E-Commerce Platforms

Discount methods were notably different across different platforms.

Alibaba: Alibaba’s units offered a simpler discount method. On Tmall Global, its cross-border marketplace for international brands and retailers selling into China, and Tmall Direct Import, its self-operated storefront selling imported goods sourced by Alibaba itself, the discount offered ”buy one get one half price” for purchases within the same category such as cosmetics, mom and baby, nutrition and food.

Kaola intended to encourage purchase across different product categories by offering ¥100 off for any cross-category purchase of ¥188 or above. Further to that, limited coupons of ¥20 off and ¥30 off for any respective purchase of ¥200 and ¥300 were offered.

JD Worldwide also offered a certain amount off for a fixed purchase total, which differed by category. The platform intended to expedite the sale of nutrition category in particular by offering 50% off when four or more nutrition products were purchased in one transaction, in addition to ¥150 off for any ¥299 purchase of nutrition products.

Same Product Sold at Largely Different Prices on Black Friday

Looking at the prices of products of Japanese baby care brand Moony, dairy brand Aptamil, Australian health supplement brand Swisse and beauty and skincare brand A.H.C, which were top selling imported brands during this year’s Singles’ Day, on November 23 (Black Friday), we observed significant price differences for the same product sold across platforms. The price difference was as large as 79% for Swisse Ultiboost Sleep Pills (100 pieces) when we compare the most expensive price, of ¥213 on Tmall Global, and the cheapest, of ¥119 on Tmall Direct Import.

From our visits to these e-commerce platforms on Black Friday, Tmall Global tended to sell at higher prices. However, Tmall Direct Import sold at prices closer to its competitors JD Worldwide and NetEase Kaola than Tmall Global did.

Drone Manufacturer DJI Participated in Black Friday Sales

DJI, the world’s largest drone manufacturing company, participated in this year’s Black Friday sales with its signature Mavic Air series offering as much as $100 off. The company launched a detailed promotion plan for the Black Friday sales starting as early as November 18 by offering exclusive coupons and gifts to shoppers through to Cyber Monday.

Swanson Launched Chinese E-commerce Website ahead of Black Friday

US natural health retailer Swanson launched its Chinese e-commerce website a few days before Black Friday to further tap into the Chinese nutrition and wellness market.

The brand continued to expand its online presence in the thriving Chinese e-commerce landscape after having set up online flagship stores on Tmall Global and JD Worldwide. This further heightens competition in the nutrition market in China, where brands like Swisse, Move Free and GNC have been doing well with high brand recognition among Chinese consumers.

Key Takeaways

Black Friday has become an occasion for Chinese consumers to buy imported categories with e-commerce platforms offering steep discounts. We observed that major Chinese e-commerce platforms implemented different discount strategies to achieve their own goals for the day, and that more brands across categories are joining the promotion. Though Black Friday is not traditionally deeply meaningful to Chinese consumers, it has been gaining a lot of traction.

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