The dual opportunity to do business in the world’s second-largest economy – China – and have products featured in the world’s biggest shopping event is only an application away.
For the second consecutive year, Alibaba Group’s Tmall Global is hosting its “Go Global 11.11 Pitch Fest,” which presents small-to-medium sized U.S. businesses with a chance to not just fast-track their brands to the China market but concurrently be spotlighted in Alibaba’s annual 11.11 Global Shopping Festival, which generated $74.1 billion in 2020 alone.
This year’s 11.11 Global Shopping Festival, the 13th iteration of the burgeoning, international event, aims to build off its success in 2020. The event last year featured 250,000 brands (including 31,000 international brands), and introduced more than two million new products.
The festival was originally created to tap into what was known as “Singles Day” in China – an anti-Valentine’s Day and opportunity to treat oneself by online shopping. Its origins have all but been forgotten as 11.11 has become a national shopping phenomenon for everyone – single or not.
It’s known as a festival, rather than a sale, because discounts are only part of the appeal. It’s the moment when the latest retail technologies are unveiled along with new product launches, livestreaming celebrity events and even see-now-buy-now fashion shows.
“It’s become something of a holiday season event; it’s not just shopping, it’s entertainment. And it’s an opportunity for us to spotlight the different brands and merchants that we work with from around the globe.” — Tony Shan, head of Tmall Global for the Americas, Alibaba Group.
Along with being a part of ‘the spotlight’, selected Pitch Fest applicants will have hands-on coaching from Tmall Global, learning how to not merely launch into the palpable China market, but how to grow as well.
“It really is a great opportunity for us to both discover and support more U.S. brands to find success in the China market,” Shan says. “There’s growing interest for brands to enter the China market, as it has a huge consumer base with strong demand for high quality American products. And with the ongoing travel restrictions, Chinese consumers have really turned to online platforms like Tmall Global. For us, that means a continuation of ramping-up our product offerings, and looking to debut more brands.”
In addition to the hands-on coaching from Tmall Global, selected brands will have access to a host of market resources and logistical networks, including being a part of Tmall Global’s Overseas Fulfillment program, which utilizes Tmall Global’s warehouses in the U.S. for selling via Alibaba’s cross-border business-to-consumer platform.
American businesses that are considering an application may want to take further note of the fact that U.S. companies generated more than $54 billion in sales in China last year via Alibaba. For example, California businesses are using the cross-border platform to export everything from natural beauty products, to handbags to raisins.
“When our products launched on Alibaba’s e-commerce platform, we gained exposure to over 900 million global consumers and sales soared.” — Harvard-educated Ric Kostick, founder and CEO of San Jose-based natural beauty brand, 100% Pure.
Such broad growth would seem to address hesitations in working with China. For those who still have pause, Shan provides some further suggestions and insights.
“There are intricacies about how Chinese consumers shop, why they shop and what they’re looking for in their shopping experience. It can be very different from the U.S.,” he explains. “My advice for businesses looking to enter the China market is to gather as much information as they can, use multiple resources and then find the right partner. For example, the advantage to working with Tmall Global is that we have a team here in the U.S. and offer ongoing support for our brand partners.”
A shifting China economy has resulted in enhanced interest and buying power.
“China has definitely transitioned from a manufacturing economy to a consumption economy,” Shan says. “Some of that is the sheer size of the consumer base, which is huge, of course; there are more than 900 million global consumers on Alibaba’s platforms, more than twice the entire U.S. population. And these people have purchasing power and are looking for these high-end products from around the world.”
“In 2020, given the pandemic circumstances, the China market served as a bright spot for many companies from around the world,” he adds. “We saw many new companies enter the market for the first time.”
For Pitch Fest, the inaugural year had nearly 100 applicants, with eight brands ultimately selected. In the process, Tmall Global learned a few lessons for the sophomore season now in-play.
“Last year, we launched in August, and, with all the disruptions in retail, one thing we’re changing this year is giving both applicants and our own team more time to better prepare for the launch onto our platform,” Shan says. “That’s why we launched the process in early June this year; and we’ll be selecting these brands on a rolling basis up until the August 6 deadline. Launching into a new market is no easy feat, so having that extra time is key to education, adapting, pricing and understanding consumer behaviors.”
The application opportunity encourages brands from a wide range of categories to apply: Health & Wellness, Beauty, Fashion, Home Goods, and Personal Care.
As a piece of learned advice to applicants, Shan suggests: “Being e-commerce ready is crucial, such as having bar codes for each SKU. Having images and product descriptions is also very important. We’ll also look closely at brands with a rich history or a really compelling backstory, which is great for marketing.”
Specifying an example of a Pitch Fest brand last year, Shan references New York-based beauty and skincare brand, C.O. Bigelow Apothecaries, which used last year’s 11.11 to build brand awareness and continues to engage Chinese consumers through Alibaba’s technologies, such as livestreaming.
“We’ve seen success with, and we also have a special focus on, Health & Wellness and Outdoor Sporting Goods, which is very much in-line with what’s going on presently in the U.S.,” Shan concludes. “And we think these types of products will translate very well right now in China.”
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