The start of the calendar year is always a busy and exciting time for the Asia regions in terms of festivities, and not to mention, shopping habits. The year starts with exciting Lunar New Year celebrations, quite quickly followed by 3 Valentines days (Valentine's day, 520 & White day)… talk about the gift that keeps on giving when it comes to peaks in shopping interest. 

It’s quite clear that love is all year round when it comes to Asia. We have seen a huge upwards trend in White Day and 520 since 2021 and of course Singles Day has cemented itself as a huge shopping festival in the past 5 years. In fact, according to Techcrunch, Singles Day is 2.5 times larger than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined. 

Our team explore these dates, how they fit into your eCommerce strategy and with that acknowledge how search trends are encouraging brands to diversify their eCommerce promotional calendar. The team also give a nod to the consumer trends that seem to be dominating the market in 2023. 

When are these dates? And what do they mean? 

Also known as Chinese Valentine’s day, 520 falls on the 20th of May. For context, sayings in Chinese culture and language play on homophonic words, tones and numbers with hidden dual meanings. The occasion 520 itself stems from the literal pronunciation of the numbers “5”, “2” and “0” in Chinese, “五二零”(wǔ èr líng), which sounds similar to the words for “I love you” in chinese, which are  “我爱你” (wǒ ài nǐ). Although not identically sounding, “520” as a word itself has been recognised as a Chinese counterpart of English’s “ILY” in the book of text shortcuts and hence came the association of the 20th of May with romance.

Whilst 520 is an occasion popularised by wordplay, White day on the other hand is a gifting celebration of Japanese origin that occurs a month just after Valentine’s day. On the 14th of March, people would give reciprocal gifts to those who gifted them on Valentine’s day. Culturally, White Day is focused on the idea of women gifting men, as for Valentine’s day, women were on the receiving end of gifts. Unlike the typical western Valentine’s day tradition where both parties simultaneously do a gift exchange on the same day, White day offers a wonderful opportunity to extend the occasion, post-February. Although these events originated from specific Asian cultures, their observance has spread across several other Asian nations.

With the constant spirit of giving in the air, it is no surprise that in the build up to Valentine’s week, and the upcoming White Day & 520 day, that many shoppers in the Asia and the international global community are going to be frantically scrolling for gift giving ideas. Yet, with a lot of noise surrounding these dates, and the occasions becoming more saturated. Our team uncover practical steps that can gear brands up for success when it comes to maximising these holidays of love.

1. Consumer Trends 

Brands must be privy to consumer trends to inform the strategy around these dates. We’ve seen a huge peak in self gifting and self-care. Limited Edition designs for these occasions, alongside collaborations with leading brands help to generate excitement and demand for new products which have the scarcity factor, and pull on key trends within the Asian markets. The Current Body x Peter Rabbit mask is a fine example.

Brands should also keep an eye on search terms to tailor their targeting “Valentine’s Gift for him“ searches on Tmall increased by 11% in 2023 despite a flat growth for “Valentine’s Gift for her.

2. How to reach your customers?

Live-stream plays a crucial role as brand’ direct-to-customer strategy in China

Starting from the 6th of Feb in 2023, L’oreal Group (Lancome, Kiehls, Skinceuticals etc) collaborated with Tmall’s Live-stream team to promote Valentine’s day gift sets and bundles for a limited period of time. Flash sale activities ranging from 4 hours to 24 hours are widely utilised for beauty brands in China to generate great sales performance in the gifting season.

3. Has 520 overtaken Valentine’s Day demand in China?

Brands will make a marketing impact with local campaigns targeting Chinese consumers.

In China specifically, the total search volumes for “520” surpassed the volume for Valentine’s Day by 70% - showing a strong consumer demand in localisation, and perhaps a consumer craving around ‘newness’.

Brands should therefore be closer to search trends and how this informs their promotional calendar and marketing efforts, ensuring they are tapping into new opportunity around 520 and White Day.

4. When should brands prepare? 

Dive into romance straight from the lunar new year celebration.

Brands tend to kick off their Valentine’s campaign promotions 1 month before Valentine’s Day as search trends on Tmall and Baidu in China start to rise aggressively on the 22nd of Jan - the lunar new year in 2023. Consumers in China are expecting to see marketing activities from brands at a full swing a week before Valentine's Day. In terms of White Day (Japan) & 520 day, it makes sense for brands to start planning for these dates right now, and particularly look at the opportunity if they haven’t previously explored these dates.

Want to know more about how you can localise your eCommerce strategy in the Asian market? Get in touch with the team.