Wunderman Thompson Commerce research on Singles Day and Chinese New Year

Last year people encountered strict, last-minute Covid-19 restrictions and high-street closures across China led to one of the most disruptive retail periods. Yet for many consumers, shopping online helped save the day with online retail sales in China growing by 11% in 2020 and accounting for 25% of total retail sales*.

This would perhaps explain why 53% of consumers said that their Chinese New Year celebrations would have been impossible without online shopping. Families were forced to cancel big gatherings altogether, with more than half (63%) of consumers claiming that Covid-19 ruined their celebrations. This is according to Wunderman Thompson Commerce’s ’Peak Selling and The Pandemic’ report, which surveyed over 6,000 online consumers in China, the UK and US.

Similarly, China’s Singles’ Day – taken on by Alibaba was a key date for shoppers with over two-thirds (68%) of total spending online that day versus 32% of spending in-store.

Chinese retailers should be preparing for an even bigger Singles' Day in 2021 with over six in 10 (62%) shoppers in China saying they intend to spend more this year and even more of this spend is expected to be through online channels (93%).

Unsurprisingly, many opted for a frugal approach during the peak period with nearly a third (33%) admitting that they resisted peak spending all together, in favour of puttingmoney away into savings.

As the China economy recovers from Covid-19, retailers that rely on Singles Day and Chinse New Yearfor survival, should already be planning for a successful 2021. The expectation from over two thirds(71%) of shoppers is that retailers should be better prepared for these periods.

Hugh Fletcher, Global Head of Consultancy and Innovation at Wunderman Thompson Commerce, said:“Whether retailers liked it or not, they had to pivot ‘peak’ plans in 2020. And when it came to Singles Day and Chinese New Year, most were forced to adopt a digital-only mindset for what has come to be the busiest and most profitable peaks in the year. For some, this was an easy change as they had been reaping the benefits of online for years. For others, Covid-19 was a shock to the system that caused a complete overhaul of strategy.

“What’s clear is 2020 changed peak retail forever and perhaps retail generally– consumer behaviour shifted more than retailers could have anticipated and the expectation for an unbeatable, affordable service is even higher now. Companies like Tmall and Taobaohave been mastering peak periods well before the pandemic stole the headlines,so it’s vital other retailers aren’t left behind by continuing to innovate, investing in the back-end and listening to what customers need.”

James Bay, Managing Partner, Commerce at Wunderman Thompson China, added “Brands will also need to look at their approach to peak periods more holistically against their annual marketing calendar. The cadence of marketing activities and launch of new products need to be timed to build stronger top of mind, eventually leading to higher traffic during peaks like Singles Day.”


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