Imported goods are in the limelight at Tmall gala

Tmall Global, the portal for imported products under Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, is looking to help 2,000 in-demand overseas brands break the 1 million yuan ($146,286) sales threshold during this year’s Nov 11 shopping campaign, as cross-border e-commerce takes center stage at a time when international travel is effectively restricted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The platform will attract 2,600 new brands to debut in this year’s Nov 11 session, said Liu Peng, president of Tmall Import and Export. Some 22,000 overseas brands from 78 markets attended the annual 24-hour shopping gala last year.

“Due to the COVID-19 travel restrictions, there is significant growing demand for imported goods among Chinese consumers,” Liu told an event kicking off the Double 11 campaign for foreign merchants. “International brands need a trusted channel for reaching Chinese consumers, while domestic shoppers are looking for ways to buy more quality products from abroad.”

In response to the fast-changing socio-economic dynamics, Beijing has decided to bring about the potential of domestic demand to establish a new development pattern featuring domestic and international dual circulations that complement each other.

Tmall Global said more than 200,000 products debuted from January to March this year when the contagion was plaguing the country. It also claimed the number of new brands launched on the platform increased 125 percent and their paid GMV grew 113 percent year-on-year, respectively, from April to the end of August, 2020.

The emphasis on fostering new product categories in the upcoming Nov 11 event will center around cosmetics, baby and maternal, health and fitness, food, and pet goods, said Liu Yiman, Tmall Global’s general manager.

To add to the appeal of international offerings, the company is setting up livestream studios in bonded warehouses and regional industrial parks to boost shopping excitement. This is built on an existing practice where hosts share their experience on imported products with viewers in a bonded warehouse in Hangzhou.

Liu said such studios will be expanded to another 10 cities and regions in China in the coming year, including Hainan and Shanghai, high-flying destinations for free trade zones. The company will work with leading celebrities, domestic and overseas influencers, as well as merchants to host the livestreaming sessions.

Zheng Dian Bird’s Nest, which opened its Tmall Global official store earlier this year, is planning to invite celebrities and KOLs to market their products during the campaign in a bid to capture the potential torrent of consumers, said general manager Wen Yan.

“We are also targeting to use other content marketing tools, such as short videos, to educate the market and influence our key audiences, namely pregnant women, people with strong skincare needs, and the elderly,” Wen said.

To quench the growing interest of consumers in understanding cosmetic ingredients, German cosmetic brand Eucerin has solicited some 1,000 key opinion consumers through livestreaming and other methods to explain how its ingredients can help brighten brown spots and make uneven skin tones radiant, said Freeman Liu, the brand’s general manager for China.

Virtually nonexistent three years ago, livestreaming now accounts for 4 percent of total online retail sales in China Hangzhou and about 1 percent of total retail sales. GMV sold via livestreaming events more than tripled last year to more than 400 billion yuan, said consultancy Bain & Co.

Although it is now the hottest trend, industry experts warned livestreaming could cut into margins which does not translate into a sustainable story.

“While it has introduced a new way to purchase consumer goods and encourages impulse shopping, livestreaming has also influenced the overall rate of fast-moving consumer goods sold on promotion and, as a result, has depressed average selling prices,” said Bruno Lannes, a Bain partner in Shanghai.

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