12 Key Dates for your e-Commerce & Marketing campaigns in China
Updated: Jul 2
January 20, 2022
As one of the most promising markets in the world, hundreds of entrepreneurs and international companies are trying to enter the Chinese market every day. In recent years, Chinese customers have shifted toward online platforms in order to purchase products instead of going to brick-and-mortar stores. Making up more than 50% of the world’s retail sales on the internet, China’s e-commerce is happening at a faster clip than anywhere else in the world. Furthermore, the COVID-19 crisis has only exacerbated even more this phenomenon, increasing Chinese people’s dependence on their smartphones. So, it is clear that in order to succeed in China, you will have to focus on e-commerce, but you will also have to plan your marketing campaigns according to China’s festivals and specific events. In order to help you understand the importance of adapting and planning your marketing campaign beforehand, we have made this short article reuniting 12 of the most important events that every marketer should be aware of when doing business in China.
The 12 most important dates for FMCG brands in China
Why should you plan your marketing strategies depending on key dates?
In China, besides universal traditions like Mother’s or Father’s Day, and Christmas, China has its own holidays and festivals. They allow brands to launch promotional campaigns in order to attract as many consumers as possible. To explain the importance of these promotional campaigns, you have to know that Chinese consumers are particularly tempted to purchase products if they can benefit from discounts. So, you will have to plan which period and event is the most suitable to send vouchers and apply discounts.
Chinese society is benefiting from a growing purchasing power. Thus, people are able to afford and buy even more products, especially on e-commerce platforms. China is in fact the fastest growing country in the world in terms of e-commerce, registering a 44% growth as of 2020. However, if you want to be profitable and attract Chinese consumers, you will have to adapt your strategies according to events and festivals that are specific to China. By doing this, you will be able to increase your ROI.
Read also: China eCommerce Guide
Shopping Events and Holidays to Increase your ROI
For almost every kind of business in the world, the goal of a company is to increase its ROI (Return On Investment). However, as many companies have settled their business and expanded their activities in China, the competition is tougher than ever. In order to increase your ROI, you will not only need to be creative to stand amongst your competitors, but you will also have to take advantage of festivals like the 11.11 festival, which is one of the most lucrative days of e-commerce companies in China.
The 12 most important dates in China
1. Chinese New Year – Between January and February
The Chinese New Year is the most important event in China and also one of the biggest shopping festivals, comparable to our Christmas. In contrast to western countries that are using a solar calendar, China is using a lunar calendar. This period of the year marks the beginning of China’s holiday, which is a period during which they have to honor their household, heavenly deities as well as ancestors. It is also an opportunity to bring the family together for feasting. During the Chinese New year, almost everyone returns to their hometown in order to celebrate this particular day with their relatives.
Chinese New year – Grandma is giving Kids Hongbao
During the few weeks before the Chinese New Year there’s a rise in consumption as people buy presents and bring them to their family. Then, firms will begin to wind down their business a week or so prior to the first day of the festival.
To have an effective campaign for Chinese new year celebrations you need to start advertising early so that potential buyers know what products are available or promoted at some point between Christmas and when festivities begin.
Many brands use Chinese new year as an opportunity to show their understanding of the Chinese culture through thoughtful video clips and short movies, others for instance launch limited new years collections or packaging, while others have special discounts and vouchers.
Finally, you will have to ensure that you have a detailed schedule of opening and closing dates in advance, in order to organize and prepare your stocks of products. After all, Chinese New Year is also a particular time of the year for businesses in China, as it is the time to re-group, re-strategize, and re-staff for the new year to come.
The few last days of the Chinese holidays are also important because it is the Lantern Festival, which lasts for 4 days. It symbolizes a family reunion and people are able to release some lanterns in the sky.
2. Western Valentine’s Day – February 14th
Cartier – Wechat Campaign Valentine’s day Campaign
Even if China has its own Valentine’s day, young people tend to follow western countries’ traditional Valentine’s day. During this day, you will have to promote your products intensively, with colorful packaging, or you can also offer a product for one product purchased so they can give the other one to their loved one. You will also have to focus on social media, such as WeChat, Weibo, and Douyin, by promoting campaigns celebrating love and care.
3. Qingmingjie 清明节 (Tomb Sweeping Day) – Between April 4th – 6th
The Qingming Festival (translated as “Pure Brightness Festival”) is the day when Chinese families visit the tombs of their ancestors to clean the gravesites, pray for their ancestors, and make ritual offerings. Your marketing campaigns should start around the middle of March and you have to know that promotions involving travel-related packages are really popular during this period of time.
4. Labour Day – May 1st
The Chinese Labour Day is celebrated in China on the 1st of May. It started as just a day off but has become 5 days where people are able to spend time with their children, do shopping and other things for themselves or others who may not be so fortunate. The longer vacations typically correspond with an increase in consumption which benefits all sectors including retail stores that depend heavily on consumer spending.
5. Dragon Boat Festival – June 14th (as for 2021)
Starbuck Dragon Boat Festival – Localized Products Mirroring the traditional Snack eaten during this holiday in China
The Dragon Boat Festival is one of the most important Chinese festivals as it celebrates the life of Qu Yuan, a famous Chinese scholar. During this day, people eat Zhongzi (rice dumplings) and it is now common to give gifts. Gifts such as e-coupons, vouchers, high-tech products, and luxury products are highly popular. For example, you can create some WeChat H5 brochures with Zhongzi on them, and create mini-games allowing people to win prizes.
6. Summer Sales and shopping season in Hong Kong – July – August
Just like in a lot of countries summers sales are very successful with customers always looking at finding the best deals.
In Hong Kong during the summer shopping season, July and August are marked by events that allow shoppers to find products with rebates. These opportunities have been a major lure for mainland Chinese consumers who love high-quality items at lower prices!
7. Qixi Festival: China’s Valentine’s Day – August 14th
Actress Tang Yan and singer Zhang Yixing for Valentino (© Valentino)
Did you know that China had its own Valentine’s Day? In fact, even if Valentine’s day (Qixi) is not considered as an official festival in China, Qixi has grown to become one of the most important giftings (and shopping) festivals in China, with luxury brands doubling up on their digital marketing efforts to boost their online sales during this period. For example, these past few years many brands were able to boost their sales thanks to the release of limited-edition products on their website. It was also a way for consumers to engage with their favourite brand on social media.
Over the years, the Qixi festival is increasingly turning into a shopping festival, so you will definitely have to consider integrating buzz-generating campaigns in your marketing strategies. By doing this, it will be a great opportunity for you to drive e-commerce conversions.
8. Golden Week – October 1st – 7th
Considered as the National Holiday, it is also known as the Golden Week. This week is one of the longest Holidays in China after the Spring Festival holidays. Many people decide to travel during this Golden Week and consumption usually skyrocket during that week.
Here are some figures from 2020:
From Oct. 1 to 8, duty-free sales in Hainan more than doubled from 2019— rising 148.7%—to a total of 1.04 billion yuan ($155 million)
Chinese e-commerce giant Tmall Global saw 79% spike in sales during the golden week 2020 (compare to the same period in 2019).
9. Mid-Autumn Festival – September/October
Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋节) is also one of the family-oriented holidays in China, and the most important after Chinese New year. Also known as the Moon Festival or Mooncake festival is a traditional holiday celebrated by many East and Southeast Asian people. It can be traced back to 3000 years ago at a time where people's where celebrating the moon in hope for good harvest.
Europastry – Mid-Autumn festival WeChat Post – by Linked Partners
The festival is linked to mythological story personas such as Chang’e and her husband Hou Yi (and of course the full moon) that are often represented into companies communication at that time for the year. The festival sees family coming together and exchanging gifts such as fancy moon cake and snacks boxes.
The mid-autumn festival has become an important day for companies who uses the meaning and aesthetics of the holiday to sale gift box and limited edition. Celebration such as the mid-autumn festival are also an excellent way to leverage emotion such as nostalgia and create a stronger engagement with your target audience. It is a good opportunity for international brand to show they care about the Chinese culture.
10. Single’s Day “11.11” – November 11th
Single’s Day or “Double Eleven”, on November 11th, is a 24-hour super discount period initially launched by Taobao (Alibaba) and followed by all the other major players of E-commerce. It can be compared to Black Friday in the United States. “Single’s Day” has now become a very anticipated and highly appreciated event in China, which can lead to amazing sales if you have a strong marketing plan.
11.11 has become an unmissable date for companies in China and they start prepping the field month ahead to make sure they will be ready on time for the big day! Chinese eCommerce apps offer a plethora of marketing tools, such as special deals or discount, pre purchases and so on, to merchants who want their brand and products hyped up enough for the biggest day of the year.
Double 11, is a good time to launch new collections but it’s also a great opportunity to sell out-of-season stock.
NB: On 11.11 consumers not only purchase products they would not in normal time but the practice of purchasing a years worth of common daily life items such as toilet paper and shampoo is pretty mainstream.
11. Double 12 Festival
“Double Twelve” on December 12 is a sequel to “Double Eleven”. Originally launch to support smaller Taobao vendors that could not compete against huge brand on 11.11, the event has rapidly become another popular shopping festival in China although on a much smaller scale.
Still, an event that comes with a few advantages to smaller sized vendors, for instance in 2016, there was no commission fees for sales made during the event.
Although the event is not as big as 11.11 in China, the Double 12 takes takes place in pretty much all Asia, and it is conquesentiel.
As in many western countries, Christmas is also a synonym of festivities in China, even if it is not a traditional festival in China. Young people are especially fond of the Christmas atmosphere around snow and Santa Claus. You will be able to apply kind of the same marketing strategy in China as you have here.
Adapting your advertising campaign according to specific events
During these events and festivals, Chinese consumers will be more actively looking for products, brands, and deals. During this time, you should use content to build buzz, using keywords and hashtags to ensure that consumers will click on your ad.
Hiring a KOL
It is important to underline the fact that if you want to advertise your products as well as your brand in China, you might probably want to hire a KOL (Key Opinion Leader) who acts as an influencer. However, you will have to take into account that there are some promotion periods in China. So, you will have to contact them at the appropriate time, not too early nor too late, in order to be prepared and be up-to-date. To know when you should contact KOLs, you can look at the recap at the end of this article.
A short recap
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