Residents from lower-tier cities and towns fueled online sales by enthusiastically unleashing their massive purchasing power during this year's Singles' Day shopping extravaganza, despite mounting downside pressure from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Consumers in lower-tier cities tend to seek high-quality and smart products online. According to Chinese e-commerce giant JD, smartwatch purchases by rural consumers rose by 144 percent on a yearly basis from Nov. 1 through Tuesday, while sales of smart accessories and electric toothbrushes surged 128 percent and 212 percent, respectively, on a yearly basis.
Lower-tier cities were the mainstay for book purchases, with the transaction volume in the category of books, culture and education in these markets increasing by 2.5 times compared with that in the first and second-tier markets.
During the Singles Day shopping carnival, the cities with the highest per capita consumption of new users are Yingtan of Jiangxi province, Tongchuan of Shaanxi province, Chuzhou of Anhui province, Ganzhou of Jiangxi province and Pu'er of Yunnan province.
The fourth to sixth-tier cities and townships will definitely become new battlefields for e-commerce players due to the rise in local buyers' disposable incomes and desire to upgrade their lifestyles by purchasing high-quality imported products, experts said.
George Ren, a senior partner from global consultancy Roland Berger China, said lower-tier cities have become powerful driving forces of bolstering the upgrading in the country's consumption market, while noting the buyers coming from the markets are paying more attention to the quality of products and becoming more brand-conscious.
Over at Alibaba's Tmall platform, lower-tier cities and townships have seen explosive surge in consumption, with Panjin and Tieling of Liaoning province, and Ulanqab of the Inner Mongolia autonomous region among the top three cities with the highest spending growth from Nov. 1 to noon time of Nov. 11.
The event is beneficial for buyers and sellers, especially those in less affluent areas.
The shopping festival is also a boon to apparel manufacturers, with some 45,000 small and medium-sized garment makers from 281 industrial bases engaged in the gala.
Pan Helin, executive director of the Digital Economy Academy of the Zhongnan University of Economics and Law, said consumers in third-tier cities and below, counties and rural areas account for about 70 percent of China's total population, indicating a huge pool of consumption potential to tap.
The lower-tier cities and towns are a huge blue sea market, which has become a new track for various industries, said Zhang Jindong, chairman of Suning, another retail giant, adding the company is beefing up its digitalization push in these markets.
Mo Daiqing, a senior analyst at the Internet Economy Institute, a domestic consultancy, emphasized that the lower-tier markets are a significant engine for driving the continuous growth of new users and boosting consumption, thus helping promote the recovery of the real economy.
Brands and retailers are eager to recover from the impact of COVID-19 and have doubled down on their investment on Double Eleven to boost sales. China's economy has seen a strong recovery and Chinese consumers' purchase behaviors have already returned to pre-pandemic levels, if not higher, said Wang Xiaofeng, a senior analyst with research firm Forrester.