‘Community Commerce’ Takes Center Stage During Taobao’s 12.12 Sale

Alibaba Group is blurring the lines between social media and e-tailing during the company’s annual 12.12 online sale held by giant C2C shopping website Taobao Marketplace.

In the runup to today’s 12.12 event—which takes place a month after Alibaba’s epic 11.11 Global Shopping Festival—Taobao shopping channels and the site’s mobile app have been lit up with blogs, live-streamed videos and other promotional content, much of it generated by ordinary Taobao users. It’s all part of Alibaba’s ongoing drive to help Taobao retailers engage Chinese consumers through social media, in what company officials call “community commerce” or “social commerce.”

The 12.12 sale provides a solid platform for community commerce, since it’s hosted by Taobao. The world’s largest C2C shopping website is made up of millions of smaller merchants and mom-and-pop online sellers. Shopping on Taobao has long been a social activity, marked by personal exchanges between customers and merchants and even its own community lexicon.

Meanwhile, the 12.12 sale is held every year to give these micro-merchants, who are drowned out by the noise surrounding the 11.11 shopping festival, their own China-wide promotional opportunity. Here are some of the ways Taobao has been priming shoppers for the 12.12 sale:

  • Taobao Headline, a news aggregator within the Mobile Taobao app, has been featuring a “topic of the day” to encourage users to tell personal stories about the marketplace’s shops and products. Taobao Headline currently boasts more than 100 million monthly active users.
  • Taobao recently refined its crowdsourced Q& A feature Wendajia (Ask Others) so that consumers are served personalized topics and questions based on their shopping behavior and interests. Taobao said more than 30 million consumers make purchasing decisions based on feedback offered from their peers on Taobao through Wendajia every day.
  • Taobao officials estimated that video bloggers, merchants and others would broadcast more than 20,000 live-stream video sessions in the lead-up to 12.12, on topics ranging from fashion trends to making pearl jewelry to cooking demonstrations. A Dec. 6 live broadcast hosted by fashion blogger Zhang Linchao, who has some 3.67 million followers on Chinese microblogging site Weibo and runs a Taobao apparel shop attracted more than one million viewers, setting a new record for live viewership on Taobao. The site now broadcasts some 5,000 live streams daily, according to the site, with some 40 percent of viewers visiting the virtual stores being promoted.

In addition to user-generated content, Taobao this year partnered with Hunan TV and video streaming site Youku to produce a two-hour shopping show that aired daily Dec.1-11. During each show, viewers voted yea or nay on featured products. In Dec.3 episode, eight local government officials from seven provinces across China showcased regional agriculture produce like apples, oranges and eggs. The episode generated 1.15 million views.

“Professionally generated content is our recent move in live streaming,” said Chen Lei, a Taobao director who oversees live streaming and shopping recommendation features for the site. “Both content produced by individuals and professionals indicate Taobao’s potential to be more diverse. Some of our programs have already become staples for consumers.

”In the future, Taobao will continue to lead merchants, highly engaged users and live broadcast professionals to create a consumption-oriented live broadcasting platform,” Chen said.