The race is on to engage fashionable Millennial and Generation Z consumers in China with products and experiences that build coveted brand affinity and social shares — and with good reason.
Alibaba's 2018 Singles Day extravaganza just racked up an astonishing 27% growth in same day sales over 2017 for a total of USD$30.8 billion in sales — double the combined proceeds of last year's Black Friday and Cyber Monday events.We wondered what that action would mean for digital consumer engagement by our brand partners in China. Would the globe's most digital consumers be more likely to raise their hands, and their smartphones, for a smart & simple confirmation that the product they bought is authentic? Would they share the news with their friends?
The numbers say yes.
Total authentications in the week after Singles Day jumped an impressive 323% over same-period usage in 2017 — a bump 12 times larger than Alibaba's growth in total sales.
The Singles Day Bump
Here's what that looks like when we index two weeks of results to Nov. 4, one week before Singles Day, and follow the action through the delivery period of one week after:
Looking week over week, consumer engagement through product authentications jumped 83% in the week after Singles Day in 2017. In 2018 that bump doubled in magnitude for a week-over-week bounce of 193%.
If those numbers surprise you, you might be asking why a consumer in China (or elsewhere) would be motivated to engage with their smartphone — and share their personal data — to authenticate a product they've already purchased.
There are several reasons.
The most obvious is to confirm that an item with a brand name logo was actually manufactured by that brand. Roughly half of global counterfeits seized by investigators and customs authorities annually are produced in China. The most convincing are served up on sophisticated websites, marketplaces and reseller listings that present counterfeit goods as real, with prices to match. In turn, news and social media users are sounding the alarm.
The second is the desire for new sources of connection with a brand or brand community. Anyone can follow an Instagram account but only a few can enjoy the satisfaction of owning an authentic product that the brand creates — and sharing it with friends. This is especially true in cases where authentic products are scarce or difficult to source, and when brands cultivate a strong brand identity and community around signature iconic products.
Social post created by a Nanjing user after her Nov. 19 authentication confirmed she'd bought authentic from Chinese e-tailer m.kaola.com.
The most recent and potentially exciting reason we see consumers engaging to authenticate products is a desire for transparency and autonomy in purchasing decisions — the classic "vote with your wallet".
The jury is still out on whether Chinese consumers will follow their European and American peers in the call for kinder, more responsible, and less wasteful production in fashion. By ensuring that purchases direct money to legitimate brand owners, authentication restores the critical connection between brand responsibility, brand reputation and brand revenue — and empowers consumers in the drive for change.
We'll be tracking these trends and more in the days ahead as Singles Day passes the baton. The uptick in consumer engagement from Black Friday sales is already underway thanks to early movers and European followers with no Thursday holiday to interrupt their hunt for deals.