Valentine’s Day, which dates back to 496 AD in Rome, has no direct link to China, yet China’s romantics have become even more generous than their Western counterparts when spending on the holiday. According to studies by Master Card and the National Retail Federation, Chinese consumers spent an average of $274 on Valentine’s Day last year versus $144 for Americans.
That figure is even more surprising when you consider that Feb. 14 is just one of three different celebrations of romance in China each year. There is the Qixi Festival on July 7 of the lunar calendar, which is tied to a story from Chinese mythology. And May 20, whose Chinese characters sound like “I love you,” was created by Chinese netizens in the early 2000s.
With so much love in the air this week, it’s a good time for brands to engage Chinese consumers searching for the perfect gift. Many use the occasion to launch new products. In fact, Tmall this year added 500,000 new products from 20,000 brands ahead of Valentine’s Day, including customized items, limited-edition lipsticks and gift boxes from brands like Givenchy, Jo Malone, Longines, and Adidas. On Tmall Luxury Pavilion, Alibaba’s exclusive, high-end shopping platform, brands such as Versace, Marni, Giuseppe Zanotti, Coccinelle, Tod’s and Valentino introduced Valentine’s Day special merchandise. Versace’s Valentine special-edition sweatshirts have been among the top-selling items in its Luxury Pavilion store this year.
Similar to Western culture, traditional gifts such as roses and jewelry are also part of China’s language of love. In the days leading up to this year’s Valentine’s Day, sales of fresh flowers on Taobao soared 69% year-on-year, with roses increasing 220%. 500,000 top-quality flowers from farms in Yunnan Province were sold out on Taobao’s group shopping channel Juhuasuan within three days. And just hours after a special Valentine’s Day campaign launched on Taobao, the gross merchandise volume of jewelry had risen 192% year-on-year. The GMV of top-selling categories including bracelets and earrings increased 273% and 350%, respectively, the shopping site said.
And Chinese consumers have their own unique ways to celebrate love, for both couples and singles, in the age of e-commerce. More than 12 million couples have registered Taobao relative accounts, which allow family members to discuss what they buy and pay for items in each other’s shopping carts. For singles, livestream hosts on Taobao broadcast over 5,000 sessions on Feb. 11-12 to provide beauty tips and relationship advice.
The high percentage of younger users on Tmall and Taobao are helping to drive Valentine’s Day spending. According to a 2018 survey by global accounting and advisory firm KPMG, Tmall was the most popular e-commerce platform in China, with 44% of millennials choosing it as their favorite online shopping channel.
Other top YoY consumption trends on Alibaba’s platforms for the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day 2019 include: