Chinese consumers' passion for online shopping was visible once again during this year's June 18 shopping carnival, which industry experts said played a vital role in promoting the recovery of consumption and shoring up the economy.
Highlighting that consumption has become a major driving force for China's economic growth, they called for more supportive measures to boost spending on new energy vehicles and other big-ticket items as well as to stabilize employment. New consumption growth points also need to be cultivated by leveraging digital technologies to attract more shoppers, they added.
E-commerce giant JD, which initiated the midyear promotional event, said 30 percent of domestic brands saw turnover surge 100 percent year-on-year in the first 10 minutes of the final promotion, which kicked off at 8 pm on Saturday. Sales of mobile phones such as iPhone, Xiaomi, Honor and Oppo skyrocketed 100 percent year-on-year during the brief period.
Consumers showed strong interest in a new generation of products featuring innovative technologies. Transaction volume of 4K projectors and augmented reality devices jumped 200 percent and 150 percent, respectively, on a yearly basis, JD said.
Many shoppers also bought gifts via online marketplaces to celebrate Father's Day, which fell on Sunday. According to online retailer Vipshop, sales of men's coats witnessed a 40 percent year-on-year increase in the first 10 hours of its final promotional campaign, while turnover of belts and shavers rose 33 percent and 31 percent, respectively, year-on-year.
Data from Alibaba's Taobao and Tmall platforms showed that 2.56 million small and medium-sized merchants saw their sales from 8 pm on May 31 to midnight on Saturday surpass those of last year. The turnover of more than 305 brands exceeded 100 million yuan ($14 million) during the period.
Outdoor sporting goods, nutrition and healthcare products, household appliances and skin care products also witnessed strong growth during the shopping extravaganza that now spans around three weeks.
Consumption plays a crucial part in bolstering economic development, and the June 18 shopping festival is pivotal to stimulating consumers' purchasing appetite and promoting the recovery of the economy, said Wang Yun, a researcher at the Academy of Macroeconomic Research, which is affiliated with the National Development and Reform Commission, the country's top economic regulator.
"China's consumer market has maintained growth momentum, with the overall growth rate expected to reach more than 7 percent this year," Wang said.
Greater efforts should be made to boost the sales of new energy vehicles in rural areas, accelerate the building of NEV charging infrastructure and provide more support for the recovery of services-based consumption segments, including tourism and culture, Wang added.
China's retail sales — a significant indicator of consumption strength — grew 12.7 percent year-on-year in May, compared with 18.4 percent in April, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed. In the January-May period, the country's retail sales increased 9.3 percent year-on-year to 18.76 trillion yuan, according to the bureau.
More stimulus policies are needed to stabilize and expand employment, improve household incomes, boost people's ability and willingness to spend, and propel the country's economic growth, said Pan Helin, co-director of the Digital Economy and Financial Innovation Research Center at Zhejiang University's International Business School.
Ray Hu, partner at global consultancy EY, said consumers now hope to make wiser purchases through more thorough evaluation of products and making practicality a priority. Hu added that interaction on social media is becoming a prominent part of their purchasing experience.
Hu said e-commerce platforms have developed different strategies to help brands restore their confidence during this year's June 18shopping spree. Besides traditional heavyweights like JD and Alibaba's Tmall, short-video platforms, including Douyin and Kuaishou, also joined the fierce competition for consumers.
Zhao Ping, deputy head of the Beijing-based Academy of China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, said: "China boasts a sizable consumption market, with immense development potential and resilience. The top priority to stabilize economic growth lies in maintaining stable consumption growth."
Zhao said enterprises should be encouraged to use new-generation information technologies such as big data, artificial intelligence and cloud computing to create new types of green and intelligent consumer goods.
JD, for example, is betting big on the consumer-to-manufacturer model, which leverages online retailers' big data and customer analysis capabilities to customize products that meet the demands of consumers and drive the innovation of consumption modes.