Daily Insights

The Beauty of Singles Day

By: Liz Flora | Nov 15, 2019

Alibaba’s $38.4 billion Singles Day, or 11.11, shopping extravaganza clearly demonstrated Chinese consumers’ massive and constantly growing spending power. Some major drivers of that power? Face cream, serum, and lipstick—just to name a few. 

That’s because beauty remains an especially hot Singles Day sales category: out of the 15 brands to achieve over one billion RMB in sales for Alibaba, over a quarter were in the beauty category this year. The first brand out of any sector to achieve this milestone during the 11.11 promotional period was Estée Lauder, a feat that helped to dispel the notion that U.S. brands were laying low during this year’s festival. 

In fact, the beauty label broke its 2018 sales record a mere 25 minutes after pre-sales for the e-commerce festival started, and was the first brand in the history of 11.11 to reach one billion RMB in pre-orders alone.  

Meanwhile, the beauty brand that landed at the top of the list by midnight on November 12 was L’Oréal Paris, which surpassed Estée Lauder along with L’Oréal Group-owned Lancôme in the final 11.11 beauty ranking. These two brands, along with fourth-place Olay, also achieved over 1 billion RMB GMV in sales. 

Beauty brands’ success came from a combination of key digital initiatives that were highlighted by Alibaba as sources for 11.11 growth this year, including commerce livestreaming, product launches, and new Tmall shop functionality. 

As China’s commerce livestreaming boom was highlighted by Alibaba as a major source of overall sales growth this year, beauty winners were especially enthusiastic to embrace this feature. Estée Lauder teamed up with one of Taobao’s top livestreamers, “lipstick king” Austin Li, to offer a buy one, get one free deal of its hero product serum that is nicknamed the “little brown bottle” in China. L’Oréal Paris, meanwhile, invested in seventeen hours of Tmall/Taobao livestreaming on its first pre-sale day and generated 700% more GMV from livestreaming than it did last year. 

Brands also teamed up with Alibaba’s Tmall Innovation Center to create new products using Tmall data on consumer demand. L’Oréal Paris, for example, launched a face cream aimed at younger Chinese consumers called a “midnight cream” utilizing Tmall data about demographics and demand for skincare products. Stéphane Wilmet, the chief customer officer at L’Oréal China, said the product was developed by “listening to Tmall shoppers and how they understand anti-aging and the benefits, and how they talk about it,” with branding that evokes a product used by young people who stay out late rather than something in their grandmother’s medicine cabinet. He stated that the results of the partnership “are quite spectacular.”

Beauty labels also embraced Tmall’s new shop functionality, which the platform has named the “flagship store 2.0.” Estée Lauder and several Estée Lauder-owned brands utilized Tmall’s flagship store 2.0 to offer AR makeup try-on features. L’Oréal Group also upgraded multiple brands to the new flagship, also offering virtual try-on features as well as offline information, personalized recommendations, a fans interaction index, and more. “The experience is O+O; it’s not O2O,” said Wilmet, “because when you look at consumers, and shoppers, and how they shop in China, they can be in an offline store with their phone, or they can be at home thinking of the services they want.” 

In addition to Tmall features, mega-celebrities also continued to play a strong role in generating social engagement for brand promotions. L’Oréal Paris, for example, enlisted a constellation of celebrities including pop star Li Yuchun, actress Guan Xiaotong, actor Zhu Yilong, rapper Lai Guanlin, actress Zhang Zifeng, and more for 11.11 social media promotions. Lancôme, meanwhile, featured top idol group TFBoys member Wang Junkai, who generated over 789,000 interactions on just one Weibo post about the brand’s 11.11 promotion, joining a long list of celebrities that included its brand ambassadors Kris Wu and Zhou Dongyu.

The 11.11 results demonstrate that brands should continue to “explore opportunities to leverage Tmall partnership,” says Ariane Turley, senior principal for APAC advisory at Gartner L2. “This includes pairing up with the Tmall Innovation Center to create new products, especially for Singles Day, and embracing new shop functionality,” she advises. “Brands should also continue to work with KOLs to host livestreams that drive to commerce” given the strong sales being generated.