Sense over Sensibility for Singles’ Day Shopping Extravaganza, Unveils Soul App

2023 sees the Singles’ Day shopping festival enter its 15th year. Since its inception on a university campus as a celebration of singledom, Singles’ Day has carved out a place in youth culture. Later repurposed by e-commerce retailers into a signature shopping bonanza, it is now being watched closely as a barometer of emerging consumer trends.

The largest consumer demographic is gradually shifting as the post-95s and post-00s, the generations born after 1995 and 2000 respectively, join the workforce and move up the career ladder. Meanwhile, a reshuffled e-commerce landscape and livestream selling have influenced consumer choice, consumption scenarios, and category selection.

Are younger generations still enthusiastic about Singles’ Day? What are the driving forces behind their purchase decisions? Have their different consumer needs created new categories? In an attempt to answer these questions, Just So Soul, the research unit of Soul App, recently published a report titled 2023 Singles’ Day Insights: Gen-Z Consumer Behavior, which is based on 1,757 responses collected on Soul. A sought-after social platform with almost 80% of its users from the post-95s and post-00s generations, approximately matching Generation Z, Soul offers a window into the inner mind of today’s youth.

According to the report, some young people who no longer pursue higher-end products but affordable alternatives – a flight-to-value trend labelled by media as “reverse shopping” – welcomed the commerce festival with open arms. Nearly 90% of them made a purchase and about 30% overspent their budgets. The mindset shift among self-aware young customers has brought with it a boom in the experience economy, as evidenced by increased consumption in hospitality, tourism, medical check-ups, and wellness services.

New Customer Mindset: Roughly 90% of Young Users Celebrated Singles’ Day amid the “Reverse Shopping” Trend

Prohibitively complicated Singles’ Day promotion rules, coupled with ever-longer campaigns, have put customers off. Furthermore, as they rethink consumerism as a whole, younger generations have gained a fresh perspective on their shopping behavior.

Discussions around “No Shopping” or “Anti-consumerists” continue to surface on social media. Recently, the hashtag “Reverse Shopping” has quickly become one of the most searched topics on Weibo, China’s answer to Twitter, triggering heated debate on attitudes towards consumption. The question comes down to whether young people have lost enthusiasm for Singles’ Day. Just So Soul’s annual consumer insight report reveals that 88.1% of Soul users made a purchase during the e-commerce sales campaign, up from 81.3% in 2021.

According to the report, 35.6% of them had a larger budget this year than in 2022, while 36.8% stuck to the same budget as last year, reflecting persistent consumer enthusiasm and confidence. More important, many young shoppers, well aware of “what they truly need”, resisted the urge for “unbridled shopping”. 78.9% set spending limits and only 21.1% “bought at will”, with a mere 15.9% “going over their budgets”.

New Channel Preference: Brick-and-mortar Channels Made a Comeback with Over 50% of Young Shoppers Drawn to Offline Promotions

After 15 years of evolution as a shopping event, Singles’ Day has ushered in remarkable developments in the e-commerce landscape as well as engagement and marketing models. The report shows that, during the weeks-long event, e-commerce retailers Taobao/Tmall, JD.com, and TikTok’s sister app Douyin emerged as the three most popular platforms with youth. The post-95s preferred JD.com and Douyin while the post-00s favored Pinduoduo, another online retailing giant.

The choice of platform was shaped by factors such as “better discounts” (38.9%), “convenient product return and refund processes” (37.7%), “a wide range of merchandise” (32.6%) and “guaranteed quality” (31.9%).

In addition, younger generations did their homework about products on their to-buy lists and remained rational shoppers: 43.4% “identified their needs and hunted for the best deals before making a purchase”, the most common approach; and 30.62% “placed orders only after comparing prices across platforms and channels”.

Unsurprisingly, livestream shopping has become a mainstream model of online consumption. According to the report, on the rise are brand-hosted livestream shows, during which 30.68% of young customers made a purchase, compared to 12.2% who shopped in the livestreams held by top influencers.

Although the major e-commerce platforms are still the go-to consumer destination on Singles’ Day – a re-invention of online retailers – the revival of offline channels is a defining feature of 2023. The O2O integration, diversified consumer scenarios, and the reimagination of 3Ps (people, product, and place) have brought focus back to the offline shopping experience.

During 2023 Singles’ Day, 54.3% of young users paid attention to offline promotion information; over 60% of these users then spent as much as, or more, offline than they did online, a trend particularly prevalent among town dwellers (70%).

New Category Sweetheart: The Shift to Self-pleasing Fueled the Take-off of the Experience Economy

Consumption is an expression of an attitude: the brands and categories Gen-Z chooses give a glimpse into consumer preferences and behaviors as well as the drivers behind them.

In addition to household essentials, beauty products, clothing, shoes, and bags, young customers set their sights on a memorable experience; half of them paid for hospitality and tourism services, such as hotel stays and group tours, along with medical check-ups and wellness services. And more than 20% upped their spending this year.

The rising purchasing power of the post-95s is making them more amenable to experience-based products. Nearly 60% of post-95s customers purchased hospitality and tourism services; 23.8% of the post-00s lavished more money on such services than the previous year.

Behind the spending growth is a cohort of young people with growing self-awareness, who value their health and self-rewarding in the hope of getting more out of life.

China’s younger generations, who have grown up with a fast-growing economy, have a stronger sense of national identity and a greater appetite for Chinese products. Evidently, the “Buy China” trend is here to stay, thanks to the different mindset of young consumers and relentless efforts to build up the competitiveness of Chinese products and brands.

During the 2023 Singles’ Day, almost 60% of young consumers opted for Chinese brands, versus 40% in 2021: men preferred sports/outdoor products, shoes, and electronic gadgets, while women favored such categories as food, beverages, cosmetics, and accessories.