In the U.S., most of us have already celebrated the New Year and are now trying to get used to writing the date as 2020. But don’t forget that for a significant part of the world, January 1 isn’t the start of the New Year. If you are marketing your goods in different nations, don’t assume that all consumers follow the same calendar as your domestic customers. For example, Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of the Jewish New Year and happens over two days in September. And then there’s Chinese New Year, or Lunar New Year, a 15-day celebration that usually starts in late January. 

Here are ten things cross-border e-commerce merchants should know about Chinese New Year, even if you don’t sell your goods in China. 

  1. It’s one of those tricky “moveable feasts”, so each year it starts on a different date. This year, Chinese New Year officially begins on Saturday, January 25th. Cross-border retailers will need to pay close attention to when it begins and ends each year, and plan accordingly.
  2. The Lunar New Year has been proven to drive up e-commerce sales in China and other Southeast Asian countries. This year is estimated to rake in $156 billion in sales globally. To compete with local online retailers, international businesses will need to be prepared to ship orders in time for the festivities.
  3. Each year takes on the persona of a different sign from the Chinese zodiac, and 2020 is the “Year of the Rat.” Why is the rat significant? In Chinese culture, the rat is the first sign of the zodiac. Rats are also seen as a sign of wealth and surplus. Clothing, accessories and other items emblazoned with the image of a rat will be in high demand. An example: online food retailer Manhattan Fruitier just launched “Year of the Rat” cookies.
  4. Chinese New Year isn’t just for China; in fact, it is observed all over the globe. China is one of the top ten cross-border e-commerce markets on the planet, but smart retailers can cast an even wider net. South Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, and most other nations of Southeast Asia celebrate as well. In the U.S., brands target regions with a high population of Chinese-Americans. Macy’s, for example, is leveraging this holiday to attract more shoppers to its remaining brick-and-mortar stores with a series of in-store events that celebrate Chinese culture.
  5. The Lunar New Year is considered an emotionally powerful time in Asian culture, with lots of superstitions and beliefs.The event is associated with prosperity, celebrating family and loved ones, and getting rid of any “bad luck” from the previous year. It’s important for cross-border retailers to acknowledge these cultural norms and craft marketing campaigns centered around the holiday that speak to these values and traditions.
  6. While a popular gift is cash handed out in red envelopes (always delivered with two hands), there are more modern digital options that are bringing this custom into the new era. Several alternative payment companies in Asia have launched online “red packets” with the goal of capturing more online traffic from consumers who are looking to simplify gift-giving. 
  7. Another custom associated with the Chinese New Year is called a “reunion dinner.” All family members are expected to come home, from wherever they are, and take part in the feast. And if they can’t make it, the rest of the family puts out a chair for them at the table with an empty place setting. It’s no surprise that a growing number of consumers are turning to online retailers for items like groceries, flatware, and cookware for this holiday. Online travel merchants also see an uptick in sales from family members making the journey home.
  8. When it comes to your online product catalog, think red. This is the official hue of good luck in Chinese culture, and consumers will be on the hunt for special deals on anything red to wear to their New Year’s dinners and parties – even red underwear!
  9. Food, housewares, and electronics are popular categories for this holiday. But for cross-border retailers, it will be crucial to make sure your online store is localized, as you’ll be competing with local retailers such as Alibaba and other, smaller online merchants. That means providing product descriptions, shipping and return policies in the local language, accurate currency displays, and pricing transparency. 
  10. While the traditional gifts for Chinese New Year are supposed to be small ($5 or $10 bill in an envelope, for example), that is also changing. Luxury items are becoming a hot trend for families who can afford them and want to share their prosperity with others. Designer watches, jewelry, handbags, and beauty items are now sought-after gift options.

To stay in-the-know about global holidays that present an opportunity for cross-border e-commerce promotions, check out our free 2020 Global Holidays Calendar. To learn more about cross-border e-commerce preferences in China, download our free infographic