We’ve all seen the dramatic scenes of Black Friday shoppers storming into department stores in North America, but what about in Asia? Does China celebrate Black Friday?
The answer is yes, but with a twist.
While the festival has taken root across the globe as the largest shopping day of the year, Black Friday is still overshadowed in China by Singles Day (Nov 11), also known as Double 11, and other major e-commerce festivals including 6.18 (Jun 18).
However, in recent years, more e-commerce platforms and consumers have started to pay attention and participate in this iconic global shopping festival. From brands and e-commerce platforms launching themed campaigns and interactive gameplay, to consumers waiting until late November to purchase foreign goods on their wishlist, there is a strong focus on the festival’s overseas origins.
This translates into a shopping festival that not only promotes overseas brands but also creates a global ambiance to attract shoppers. This international emphasis also aligns with growing consumer interest in specialty and high-quality products from around the world.
Buying from around the world without ever leaving home
Consumption habits in China are constantly evolving, and, recently they are moving towards greater personalization and scenario-based shopping. Whether it’s embracing a particular lifestyle, following a trendy diet, or celebrating global festivals like Black Friday, Halloween, and Valentine’s Day, consumers are progressively tailoring their purchase preferences, leading to greater diversification in China’s consumer market.
Part of the ongoing shift in consumption owes to the rapid development of the cross-border e-commerce industry and the increased availability of information and products from abroad facilitated through social media and digital content creators.
In the past, consumers lacked credible knowledge about popular brands and products in other countries, while also facing complex transaction processes and poor after-sales service. Fast-forward to today and the evolution of the e-commerce industry has dramatically improved the shopping experience and streamlined the path for cross-border consumption.
Based on insights from the “2023 Douyin EC Global & Deloitte Industry Trends Whitepaper“, China’s cross-border e-commerce imports have surged nearly tenfold over the last six years. The number of cross-border e-commerce users, meanwhile, has grown from 66 million to 168 million during this period, resulting in a significant expansion of the cross-border e-commerce user penetration rate from 12% to 20%. The low starting point of this trend also indicates the potential for increased consumer adoption and future growth.
Recognizing this trend, Douyin’s cross-border e-commerce arm, Douyin EC Global, invests heavily in promoting a range of high-quality products from global brands to prospective cross-border customers. Through a combination of in-app entry points, including search, merchant stores, and product promotions, combined with promotional offers and personalized recommendations, the platform is active in matching consumers with relevant brands and products from overseas.
Douyin: Bridging brands and consumers
Reflecting on China’s cross-border e-commerce landscape in 2023, more and more overseas brands are embracing Douyin’s omni-channel growth flywheel—both for their daily operations and for achieving explosive sales during major festivals. Covering the entire spectrum of “users looking for products” and “products attracting users”, this model empowers brands to accelerate the integration of sales and marketing, fostering deep and comprehensive growth.
From a consumption perspective, consumers need a channel that can accurately match their needs and at the same time assist them in discovering new brands and products. As an interest-based e-commerce platform, Douyin’s recommendation algorithm helps to match consumers with products and content that fit their interests and viewing habits. The platform’s deep insights into consumer demand during major promotions and exploring potential demand add to its attractiveness from a brand and merchant perspective.
Douyin also provides brands direct access to a massive pool of popular, unique, and trusted content creators. This rich creator ecosystem not only understands the consumer market in China and their preferences but also recognizes what products and consumption habits are trending in other countries, especially among outbound Chinese tourists. Additionally, they have the unique ability to share valuable insights about the origins and production process of products abroad by co-creating content with brands and touring their production facilities.
With the help of overseas creators, brands can thus quickly and easily design a robust market entry strategy for China while also boosting brand awareness, especially during major shopping festivals.
Regarding logistics and supply chain support, overseas brands can rely on Douyin EC Global to provide end-to-end support. This includes access to the bonded warehouse model, where bonded goods are purchased through Douyin EC Global and delivered to consumers within China in 1-3 days.
Black Friday provides a focal point for creators
Attracted by platform-led incentives, Black Friday provides a focal point for creators to design and distribute high-quality content related to travel, lifestyle, and overseas products.
Every day, creators, KOLs, and merchants host live shows on Douyin, streaming from every corner of the world to deliver an interactive and immersive shopping experience for viewers across time, space, and regions. Their content is important, as it helps to build awareness and trust, leading to more orders during major shopping festivals.
As an example, let’s take a look at Tang Jie Chuang, an overseas e-commerce creator living in the US who has been deeply involved in the cross-border e-commerce sector for many years now. At first, she shared her life on Douyin, converting fans who wanted to learn more about life abroad and who shared her love of global brands. Later, she started livesteaming to share and recommend quality products available in the US. In the early stages, she experienced difficulties accumulating fans. However, she persisted and continued to host regular live shows, recommending products at promotional prices to her fans, while also accumulating popularity and a large audience that regularly tuned in to her content. Her persistence paid off as her livestream room evolved into a popular cross-border channel with over 156,000 followers.
In an interview with TopKlout, a Chinese new media company, Tang Jie Chuang shared her perspective that Black Friday presents a two-sided opportunity for creators and brands. For cross-border merchants, it’s an opportunity to promote discounts, launch new products, and gain exposure through collaboration with the platform. For overseas creators, it’s an opportunity to collaborate with the platform and leverage its various features. This involves selecting products for their live shows, advocating for better benefits for their followers, and participating in various marketing activities initiated by the platform to build buzz for brands.
In turn, this closely coordinated series of actions allows creators and brands to reach a broader audience and amplify their conversions.
Why this year’s Black Friday in China was a little different
Compared to previous years, this year’s Black Friday shopping festival offers more ways to play and participate. This not only introduces a sense of surprise and entertainment for users but also helps brands showcase high-quality products across a diverse range of formats and connect them with prospective customers.
Taking Douyin EC Global as an example, the cross-border e-commerce platform held its own “Black Friday Shopping Season” event series from November 21 to 30, 2023. The 10-day event series leaned on livestreaming shows such as “Scream at 8 PM” and content series like “Global Unboxing” to create anticipation and build buzz while also increasing the exposure for overseas brands. There was also a “Search for the Easter Egg” game with a chance to win a 1 CNY round-trip flight abroad.
In terms of products, the Black Friday shopping season traditionally focuses on value-for-money shopping, bringing consumers global products at exclusive prices throughout the event. However, this year, Douyin EC Global channeled its marketing resources to promote two Black Friday shopping lists; one focused on value-for-money products combined with promotional offers from well-known global brands, and the other focusing on high-quality products at attractive prices, highlighting the diversity and unique value of overseas products and targeting more adventurous consumer groups.
To help promote a wider range of products during Black Friday, Douyin Mall also published a Black Friday special as part of an online lifestyle magazine. Split into four key scenarios, the publication looked at Trendy Icons, Early Birds & Night Owls, Health Enthusiasts, and Home Life to seed interest and promote exclusive access to a range of quality overseas products.
Lastly, to improve the shopping experience for consumers, this year Douyin EC Global offered direct shipping from the United States to China, reducing shipping times to as little as 3 days.
Leveraging Ocean Engine to dramatically boost sales
For brands looking to achieve explosive growth during a major festival like Black Friday, Ocean Engine provides a comprehensive suite of marketing and advertising services for Douyin and other popular apps in China. By analyzing user interests and behavior, Ocean Engine helps brands reach the right audience, at the right time, and at the right place.
During a major shopping event such as Black Friday, Ocean Engine enables merchants to dramatically increase sales by expanding the availability of high-quality traffic through strategic advertising.
In addition to increasing traffic supply, advertisers can accurately locate target groups to improve advertising efficiency and return on ad spend. Using Ocean Engine’s accurate 5A consumer insight and segmentation, for example, global brands can identify which audiences to target and when to increase their advertising, including specific strategies for marketing campaigns and individual products.
The growth achieved through paid advertising during a major shopping festival such as Black Friday can also help to boost long-term sales performance after the festival. This is attributed to the heightened visibility among Douyin users and increased engagement with the app’s recommendation engine. That said, advertisers can also boost long-term growth by launching ad campaigns on Ocean Engine outside of major shopping festivals.
Learn more about China’s cross-border industry
Global festivals such as Black Friday have become an exciting opportunity for brands to connect with consumers through themed content and promotional offers, enabling consumers to buy products from around the world.
As platform features, policies, and marketing opportunities continue to evolve, we expect to see more overseas brands take advantage of the Black Friday shopping festival and prioritize long-term growth in the Chinese market. This overall trend is set to build a thriving and diverse cross-border e-commerce ecosystem, ultimately fostering increased global exchanges in consumer culture.
To learn more about other seasonal shopping festivals in China, including Valentine’s Day, we have prepared a comprehensive marketing calendar report as a free download. Also, to learn more about Douyin, Ocean Engine, and digital marketing in China, you may like to check out the number one shopping trend in China and how to advertise in China using Ocean Engine.