The Double 12 promotions are not only popular with tech-savvy young consumers. Many middle-aged shoppers are also part of the action. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)
The reception to Alibaba's Double 12 shopping festival, which takes place just a month after its sister event Singles Day, shows that Chinese consumers aren't afraid to shop
First there was the massively popular "Double 11" festival, also known as the Singles Day shopping festival, which takes place every year on Nov 11.
Then came the "Double 12" which, as its name suggests, takes place on Dec 12.
Just a month after another record-breaking Singles Day shopping festival - this year's event raked in 168.2 billion yuan (.4 billion) in online sales in 24 hours - businesses again sought to entice shoppers to continue spending, but this time in brick-and-mortar stores.
Over 1 million merchants in China and around the globe were involved in the Double 12 shopping festival, with a slew of promotions offered at places such as restaurants, hypermarkets, movie theaters and hair salons.
Just like the Singles Day, Double 12 is the brainchild of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group. It made its debut three years ago as a means to help boost the revenues of small and micro online retailers on e-commerce platform Taobao that face difficulty competing against major brands during the major festival on Nov 11.
But in a bid to promote mobile payments offline and acquire physical retail stores so as to make them intelligent, the Double 12 festival was eventually transformed into the event it is today.
In Shanghai, the enthusiasm to exploit discounts on Dec 12 was evidenced by the long queues outside Starbucks and Carrefour. Fast food chain KFC saw brisk business on that day too. According to company figures, 30,000 egg tarts were snapped up across China in just 10 minutes. Everyday essentials were also popular, with bargain hunters around the country purchasing 50,000 bottles of Olay's shower gel, a brand under personal care giant P&G, in an hour.
In a Family Mart convenience store on southwest Shanghai's Jinshajiang Road, the average user spending ballooned from more than 10 yuan to nearly 20 yuan, thanks in part to the promotion, said the store chief Liu Jian.
Though the Double 11 and 12 shopping festivals are just a month apart, the latter is still distinctive enough to attract consumers, said Neil Wang, president of consultancy Frost & Sullivan Greater China.
"Singles Day is all about sales figures: Alibaba has repeatedly broken its own records year-on-year," he said.
"But Double 12 strives to create this fanfare of shopping in-store and build a personal connection between suppliers and customers."
Bank clerk Zhou Jianfei agrees with this sentiment. He admitted to spending much of his day grabbing coupons on Koubei, an online-to-offline local service site backed by Alibaba, which gives users extra discounts of up to 25 yuan on top of existing store promotions.
"You go to the restaurants, wait to be served, and get discounts automatically," said Zhou. "This level of sophistication in (omni-channel) shopping goes beyond making a few clicks of the mouse and waiting for your parcels to be delivered."
Tech-savvy young consumers were not the only ones getting in on the action on Dec 12. Senior citizens could also be spotted filling their shopping carts with discounted veggies, cooking oil and bags of rice before paying with their phones.