Shanghai, China— The clock tolling midnight on the fateful day of 11/11 ceremoniously launched a flurry of frenetic tapping that would have likely persisted well into the wee hours of the morning–and, for some, many hours after that. This uniquely Chinese phenomenon, known as Double Eleven, happens annually on the innocuously-named Single’s Day.
Despite its humble origins as an impromptu holiday created to celebrate bachelordom, Single’s Day has now blossomed into a (according to a recent estimate) 268.4-billion-yuan cash cow. It essentially doles out coupons in advance, all of which take effect on the one day. Additionally, further discounts are applied with every expenditure of 200 or 400 yuan. And consumers love it. People stay up, waiting for the first peal of midnight bell, and strive for the first to empty their shopping carts.
The secret lies in the marketing. Associate Professor of Marketing Dengfeng Yan chalks it up to a combination of “(1) social influence: when people around you all talk about shopping on Double 11, you are very likely to be influenced…(2) scarcity: both limited time and limited quantity increase promotion attractiveness…(3)…a small down-payment (定金)…[that]…increases purchase likelihood.” Combine that with the fact that Chinese shoppers are usually, as Professor of Economics Jianye Wang puts it: “quite price sensitive.” Even partial participation from this massive market could generate a powerful horde mentality, with the collective goal of snatching the best bargain.
Incidentally, the youth make up the bulk of the online-shopping demographic. According to Professor Wang, one reason for this could be that “Younger generations are more internet savvy and hence tend to benefit from e-commerce more than the older generations.”
Some of our very own students here at NYU Shanghai are textbook examples, and can shed some insight on what it’s like up-close. After all, they are direct participants. As the spoils of the day, Sullivan Hongyu Lu ’23 bought “shoes, perfume for [his] girlfriend, and electronic devices; Eric Yu ’23 bought “food, LEGO toy, books”; and Lexie Zhu ’23 bought “lego, airpods pro, skin care”.” Each had spent in the thousands. But even they share differing opinions of Double Eleven’s profligacy-inducing euphoria. While Lexie denies any benefit, Sullivan maintains it is a “double-edged sword,” and Eric thinks it okay for him personally, but ultimately case-dependent.
What about the fallout? In the Tower 2 lobby, where packages ordered by Jinqiao residents are bound, one of the computer rooms have been cleared to make way for an additional shelving unit. The Residential Life staff, who requested to remain anonymous, said, “I know, the first day we filled it out completely, the two shelves…” hence the additional one in the next room. But it is a step up from last year, where “it was pretty hectic and that they’ve had to use the common area over there on the other side.” The difference is down to individual responsibility. As always, the staff are “doing the same thing [they] always do. It’s up to the residents…to come and pick up their stuff.”
Double Eleven has been eleven years in the running. And it shows no sign of slowing down. For now, we can only speculate about the future path of the highly lucrative marketing campaign. Enter the professionals. Professor Yan believes, “Live streaming has already been extremely popular this year but may become even more so in the future.” Meanwhile, Professor Wang foresees that “if richer consumers become less price sensitive, in shop shopping offers more attractive experience, competition and regulations mitigates the herding effect, turnovers would…[concentrate less]…on one particular day during the year.”
This article was written by Michelle Li. Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to get in touch.
Photo Credit: Michelle Li