As Western brands look to China for growth, there are signs that, for US brands at least, this year’s Singles’ Day event may be a disappointment as shopper sentiment is affected by the US-China trade war.

A report from consulting firm AlixPartners, Retail phenomenon: what should businesses know ahead of Singles’ Day 2019?, was based on a survey of more than 2,000 Chinese consumers about their intentions on November 11.

Reuters highlighted the finding that three quarters (78%) of these shoppers will rethink US brands, largely for nationalistic reasons, while seven in ten said the trade war will impact their overall purchasing.

More than half of respondents (51%) cited national loyalty as the main reason for not buying American brands. In recent months, a number of global brands have encountered similar problems, often by failing to refer to certain territories in the manner preferred by China’s government.

But such sentiment is not the only factor at work: quality (27%), price (16%) and speed of delivery or customs (6%) also play a part.

The report noted how Chinese consumers continue to associate foreign products or cross-border platforms with higher quality products (57%), safer or more trustworthy manufacturing (47%) and better product design (43%) – this despite only 22% admitting a general preference for foreign brands.

“Chinese consumers are pragmatic”, the report said; “they will not sacrifice quality simply to buy Chinese products – they are increasingly sophisticated buyers.”

The report’s other findings include:

• Participants will spend more: consumers in tier 1 and 2 cities indicated they will spend 54% more than last year; women will spend 15% more than men.

• Apparel, footwear and sporting goods are predicted to be the top purchases during this year’s sale, followed by beauty products and lifestyle electronics.

• Two thirds (67%) cited ‘new product launches’ as one of their top three important criteria when selecting which brand or product to buy.

• Live streaming will heavily influence traffic and sales: only 16% of respondents are not planning to make part of their purchase through live streaming in this year’s sale.

Not all respondents were enthusiastic, however, as the proportion declining to take part rose from 1% in 2018 to 8% in 2019. Many are put off by having to stay up late to have any chance of getting a worthwhile discount, while others complained about the event’s longer wait for deliveries. 

Sourced from AlixPartners, Reuters; additional content by WARC staff