It used to be that Chinese consumers had to fly to the U.S., Europe and Japan to learn about the brands that made those places famous. Now Tmall Global is bringing the U.S., Europe and Japan—and Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Korea and Thailand—to China.
On Monday, Alibaba’s cross-border shopping site held its annual 8.8 Shopping Festival, showcasing these countries and regions and some of their top-selling products during a live-streamed event on the Tmall mobile app. Through a series of real-time broadcasts, brands such as U.S. sports nutrition company GNC, U.K. retailer Sainsbury’s and Korean cosmetics maker Too Cool for School used everything from exercise routines to dance numbers to on-air makeovers to connect with consumers watching from home.
But where Alibaba’s well-known 11.11 Shopping Festival is all about sales, the 8.8 event focused on education. The goal was to teach viewers about the products shaping the way that consumers overseas are living their lives.
“We always want to bring new ideas, new merchants, new products to China,” Tmall Global General Manager Alvin Liu said.
That education is important because while the spending power of China’s consumers continues to rise, their awareness of international brands is still limited. Moreover, Tmall Global currently hosts 7,700 brands from 53 countries and regions on its platform, with 2,300 joining so far this year alone, which makes it all but impossible for Chinese consumers to know them all.
The 8.8 event, therefore, is a way to highlight the products that may resonate with the site’s users. It was part of a larger push by Alibaba to expand Chinese consumers’ understanding not just of global brands but of the cultures and lifestyles of overseas markets as well. Last month, the company hosted another full day, live-streamed event during the Fourth of July holiday in the U.S., which mixed product placement and cultural education as a way to engage Chinese consumers.
One global brand that recently doubled down on Tmall Global—quite literally—is Sainsbury’s. The London-based retailer launched its flagship store last September and last week announced that it was upping the number of products it sold through the site to 100 from 50.
The 145-year-old company also used the 8.8 festival to host a Super Brand Day promotion, which gives Sainsbury’s top placement on Alibaba’s e-commerce sites while driving traffic to its Tmall Global storefront. Alibaba also uses the shopping data it collects from users to reach Sainsbury’s intended audience and drive engagement with those customers.
“Sainsbury’s has a very long and rich history, and we have very good quality products,” said Mendy Cui, a Hangzhou, China-based operations manager for the company. “And we want just to bring the British lifestyle and healthy lifestyle to China.”
Watch the video above to see how the brands pitched their lifestyles, and products, to Chinese consumers during 8.8.