Alibaba Group’s annual celebration of young entrepreneurs, Taobao Maker Festival, is showcasing emerging trends in China’s effervescent consumer market, from treadmills for pets to snackable health foods, including a transparent burger.
The festival is back in full force this weekend after the traditionally in-person event went partially online last year amid the coronavirus pandemic. Consumers will be able to try out hundreds of innovative products and meet the creative minds behind their favorite stores in person.
In its sixth year, the festival will take place in Shanghai from July 17-25 and showcase over 100 merchants from Alibaba’s Taobao digital marketplace.
Taobao Maker Festival is about championing creativity and entrepreneurship, and it also offers a “window into the young people of China, their passions and what the future may hold,” said Chris Tung, Alibaba’s chief marketing officer.
“What it is today for young people is what it will be tomorrow for commerce,” said Tung.
Since its debut in 2016, Taobao Maker Festival has shone a spotlight on the platform’s young creators through this offline bazaar. But the festival’s treasure-hunting experience is taking on a literal meaning this year. Tung said they’ve “gamified” the event, transforming it into a large-scale scavenger hunt.
Inspired by “escape rooms,” a recent craze in China where players team up to solve puzzles and complete tasks to get out of an enclosed space, the event will invite 5,000 players, divided into two teams, to hunt for “lost treasure” as they walk around the 30,000-square-meter venue – about the size of 60 basketball courts.
Through this new immersive format, buyers will become players and participants instead of just visitors.
Nutritional Coffee to High-Tech Glamping
Many of this year’s exhibiting merchants are emerging powerhouses in their niche categories. Hanfu maker Meiji, for example, will feature its latest hanfu design, a form of traditional attire worn by China’s Han ethnic majority. The “Matchbox Hanfu” weighs just 24-61 grams and can be folded to fit inside a tiny matchbox, making it easier for the country’s over 3.56 million hanfu enthusiasts to carry with them while traveling.
Other featured products also illustrate rising trends in China, such as tents with projectors, treadmills for pets and snackable health foods, including everything from nutritional coffee made with Chinese medicine and broccoli-based ice cream to low-fat konjac plant burgers that can be kept at room temperature.
Fitness equipment brand Yesoul came up with the idea for its pet treadmill during lockdown when many people were confined to their homes with their pets.
“If pets don’t get the exercise they need, they tear the house apart,” said Yesoul founder Mark Luo. “Through participating in Taobao Maker Festival, we want to showcase some of our coolest, most novel products to consumers and let them experience them.”
Another pet brand Purlab also created a laptop-shaped scratching pad that had been inspired by the way that cats loved to climb onto their owners’ laptop keyboards, so “Catbook” was born.
Tent-maker The Free Spirits featured its newest glamping tent, which can hold up to 20 people and project movies onto its walls. Wang Hu, the company’s head of China sales, said the pandemic had accelerated the glamorous camping trend.
“People used to have the impression that camping involved a lot of hard work and staying in rough environments,” Wang said. “Today, more and more people know that tents can be spacious, comfortable and a nice place to host barbecues – even play movies.”
During Alibaba’s 6.18 shopping festival, sales of “glamping” products jumped by over 130% percent, with consumers purchasing everything from vintage camping lights, portable coffee makers to barbeque gear and outdoor clothing.
Tung said these merchants were selected from a fast-growing pool of innovative merchants and specialty stores on the platform. The average age of participating merchants is 30 years old, with the youngest just 21 years old.
“What sets Taobao Maker Festival apart from all other shopping festivals is that it isn’t about promotions or sales, but to provide a platform for young makers and creative merchants,” said Tung.
Sign up for our newsletter to receive the latest Alibaba updates in your inbox every week