MoonFox Analysis | Grabbing the Market, Consumption Transformation under the Low Price Strategy

About us: Aurora Mobile (NASDAQ: JG) established in 2011, is a leading customer engagement and marketing technology service provider in China. Its business includes notification services, marketing growth, development tools, and data products. As its sub-brand, MoonFox Data is a leading expert in data insights and analysis services across all scenarios, aiming to help companies gain market insights and empower precise decision-making.

SHENZHEN, China, May 15, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — As of 2023, the total retail sales of social consumer goods in China reached RMB 47.15 trillion, with a year-on-year increase of 7.2%. Under various favorable policies, the consumer market in China is gradually being repaired.

However, it is undeniable that the pace of development of a large number of once fast-growing industries has slowed down under macro factors such as the global economic downturn and international social unrest; The scissors difference between M1 and M2 has widened, and more consumers choose “saving” instead of “spending”, and “careful calculation and strict budgeting” have become the main theme of the consumer market. On the whole, the long-term growth of the consumer market in the future is still under significant pressure.

In this context, the “low price strategy” began to be favored by more enterprises. With price reduction, subsidies and focusing on the markets in lower-tier cities, the competition among enterprises is becoming increasingly fierce. In the long run, does the low price strategy work? After acquiring users and occupying the market, how can enterprises further achieve user retention and long-term operation?

I. From high-end to cost performance, the tea-based drink market subverts itself 

HEYTEA and Nayuki were the first to start, and the price reduction method has long been nothing new.

Take HEYTEA as an example, RMB 30 used to be the standard average price of its products. From fresh tea and fresh milk to NFC juice, HEYTEA took the lead in competing tea-based drink raw materials and raising the specifications; Meanwhile, in terms of site selection and store decoration, HEYTEA centers around first-tier cities and only selects core business districts to open stores. According to iBrand of MoonFox Data, in April 2020, HEYTEA had more than 1,000 offline stores, thus forming a differentiated image of high-end tea-based drinks.

In 2021, the high pricing strategy began to come under pressure due to compounding macro and other factors. HEYTEA began to focus on innovative products, including freshly squeezed phyllanthus emblica, bottled sparkling water/light milk tea, etc., but the popularity was always limited. In 2022, IP co-branding became its core strategy, with significant results in cooperative marketing such as HEYTEA x FRAGMENT and HEYTEA x 3CE.

From January 2023 to March 2024, HEYTEA’s Trend of Offline Customer Flow Index and Monthly Active Users of Applet in China

Date

Average monthly customer flow index

MAU (million/person)

2024/3

510,643

16.13

2024/2

430,822

12.39

2024/1

432,150

11.76

2023/12

443,465

18.32

2023/11

423,414

10.12

2023/10

463,065

11.72

2023/9

457,795

11.24

2023/8

408,027

15.40

2023/7

387,358

9.76

2023/6

361,533

7.93

2023/5

318,280

6.94

2023/4

294,948

5.70

2023/3

274,002

6.47

2023/2

261,491

6.87

2023/1

231,830

16.13

 

Data source: MoonFox iApp & iBrand (MoonFox iApp & iBrand)  Data cycle: January 2023 – March 2024

The statistical results only contain applet data, excluding ecological traffic data such as web pages, application clients and Quick App.

Generally speaking, although the strategy is effective, the magnitude of high-end market is still limited. In 2022, the store traffic and applet MAU data of HEYTEA began to fluctuate and decline. In the context of consumption downgrading, HEYTEA began to officially focus on the markets in lower-tier cities.

In January 2023, HEYTEA announced that the prices of some products, including pure tea and fruit tea, were lowered by about RMB 5. Then at the end of February of the same year, the official announcement was made that “RMB 29 and above products will no longer appear in the standard menu of HEYTEA”. With the price reduction, the store flows of HEYTEA and applet MAU have climbed. Based on MoonFox Data, in August 2023, the HEYTEA’s applet MAU reached a short-term high, exceeding 15 million.

In the second half of 2023, HEYTEA and Nayuki announced further price cuts for their products, and the RMB 19 era began; Subsequently, through cooperation and subsidies with some platforms, activities such as “drinking 10 cups in RMB 100” and “delivering to your home in RMB 9.9” rose. In terms of store location, HEYTEA is no longer confined to the core business districts of first-tier cities, and the secondary business districts of new first-tier and second-tier cities can also apply to join, and the number of stores is rising rapidly.

II. The coffee market with continuous involution and fierce competition 

“Let coffee return to a reasonable price”. Compared with tea-based drink, the price war in the field of coffee started earlier.

In 2017, Luckin Coffee was established. Relying on the price advantage and the rapid opening of stores, Luckin quickly occupied the slightly blank coffee market in China. In 2019, its number of stores surpassed Starbucks for the first time. Although it was subsequently delisted from NASDAQ due to virtual trading, Luckin still maintained its leading position in the Chinese market through rapid iteration of low price and products.

But with the departure of the founders of Luckin, they brought their low price strategy and rapid expansion to their new brand – COTTI COFFEE. In 2022, COTTI COFFEE was established. With the formats of quick-access stores and in-store stores, it has grown rapidly and quickly entered the first echelon.

Comparison of Offline Customer Flow Index and Number of Active Business Stores among Leading Coffee Brands in the Chinese Market in 2024

Offline Customer Flow Index (April 7, 2024)

Number of Active Business Stores (Units) (February 2024)

COTTI COFFEE

2,847,213

6,431

Starbucks

1,787,452

6,849

Luckin Coffee

1,467,712

13,080

 

Data source: MoonFox iBrand  Data cycle: February 2024 – April 2024

Based on MoonFox Data, COTTI COFFEE’s offline customer flow index surpassed Starbucks and Luckin in June-July 2023 and continues to grow. Currently, under the premise that the number of stores is less than that of Starbucks and Luckin, COTTI COFFEE can still maintain a high level of offline customer flow index.

As for the low price strategy, COTTI chose to further lower the average order value after entering the market. At the initial stage of brand establishment, the average order value is RMB 10-12. Later, with the further intensification of market competition, the price of RMB 8.8, RMB 7.8 per cup once again penetrated the bottom line of the price of coffee, through the highly overlapping with Luckin Coffee’s site selection strategy and store specifications; COTTI’s market share has further increased.

Meanwhile, with the fermentation of the “price war” between Luckin and COTTI, low price gradually became an important feature of the coffee market and brand consensus, and “how to be cheaper” began to become the core focus of emerging brands. For example, Mixue Ice Cream & Tea, which is famous for its cost performance, incubated the coffee brand “Lucky Cup” in 2017, focusing on low-priced coffee drinks and drip coffee bags; For example, Jueco Coffee, which continues to lower the price of the basic model and introduce American coffee for RMB 5 per cup; For example, Manner Coffee, which focuses on boutique coffee, backed by a purely direct operation, reduces the price of fancy coffee by bringing your own cup and other forms.

III. Simultaneously focus on the markets in lower-tier cities online, and there are rich cases in the fields of e-commerce and games

The “low price” strategy is not only fermented offline, but also the low-priced method in many fields online has been implemented earlier and achieved remarkable results. The first is the e-commerce industry that intensifies the involution and the leading platforms compete fiercely with each other.

In 2018, Pinduoduo, whose GMV was less than 10% of Taobao’s, started the road of growth. Pinduoduo took the lead in defining the low price route and focused on the markets in lower-tier cities. It cancels the shopping cart and puts forward “order first and then pay”; It encourages consumers to share shopping links for bargaining, etc. And as a merchant, low-priced goods have become the only choice for them to gain market share and seek increment.

Not only Pinduoduo, Taobao and JD.com also pay close attention to the integration of low price strategy and platform. For example, Taobao, its own brand “Taogongchang”, which is responsible for docking the source factory, further reduces the entry threshold and accelerates the simplification of the entry process, including individual industrial and commercial households uploading business licenses to apply for settlement, 5-minute approval, and Taobao and Tmall merchants one-click settlement. Meanwhile, focusing on the platform itself, Taobao use the supply side advantages to further expand investment, rich merchant categories to enhance the overall number, further intensifying the internal competition of sellers and continue to compete for prices; Facing buyers, it launched special channels such as “comparison of prices for the same model” and “99 sale” to enhance consumer stickiness.

Take JD.com as an example. In 2023, JD.com began to fully implement the low price strategy. In March, it launched a special channel of RMB 10-billion subsidies; In August, the threshold of exemption from postage for self-operated goods was lowered throughout the year. A package can be free of postage by reducing the amount from RMB 99 to RMB 59. JD.com PLUS members can enjoy unlimited exemption from postage for self-operated goods.

From March 2022 to March 2024, Trend of User Repetition Rate in Taobao, Pinduoduo and JD.com

Date

Repetition rate

March 2022

41.3 %

March 2023

49.7 %

March 2024

52.5 %

 

Data source: MoonFox iApp; Data cycle: March 2022 – March 2024

The statistical results only contain application client data, excluding ecological traffic data such as web pages, applets and Quick App; Repetition rate – coincident users / union

On the whole, regardless of the platform tonality and service characteristics, the market strategies of the leading platform gradually converge, and the low price strategies of different forms and dimensions have achieved certain results, and the giants are also gradually eroding each other’s share.

Based on MoonFox Data, Taobao, for example, in March 2024, its user overlap rate with JD.com and Pinduoduo was 71.97% and 84.54% respectively, both rose by about 10 percentage points compared to March 2022. Multi-platform purchase, price comparison, goods comparison and service comparison have become the mainstream strategies of contemporary core consumer groups.

Not only in the e-commerce industry, have low prices also frequently appeared in the marketing cases of the game industry.

With the strong support of WeChat and Tiktok, and the accelerated integration of ultra-leisure and multi-category method, the mini-game market has developed rapidly, and now it has gradually entered the stage of accelerated competition. As a result, the pressure on medium-level developers has further intensified. In this context, a large number of medium-level developers rely on the relatively low development cost of mini-games, and begin to choose to start from the unit price to seize market share.

Take marketing materials as an example. Based on DataEye data, in the past 30 days until January 11, 2024, the titles of purchased materials included “0.1 off” creative materials for mini-games, and the total number of videos and pictures exceeded 5,337. Take products as an example. For example, Mad City Pixel, Demon Warrior, etc., take the role card drawing as the core payment point, and add copywriting such as “winning XX in 1 cent” and “648 only needs RMB 6.48” on the in-app purchase page. Up to now, there are still a few mini-game products that choose to “compete for copywriting and lower the paid unit price” for marketing, and the conversion effect of some purchased materials is really impressive.

IV. Avoiding the trap of low price, quality/brand should be the core

Lowering the price of a product is in itself consumer-friendly behavior. Enterprises gain market share and cultivate user loyalty by sacrificing profits or even some losses. But at the moment, more “low price” strategies are going to extremes, and some price wars are beginning to destroy the enterprise business model. Meanwhile, some brands are facing a “lose-lose” situation in which the interests of franchisees are damaged and the quality of products obtained by consumers is reduced.

Take the industry as an example. As for tea-based drink brands, large-scale price reduction leads to the decline of the quality of tea products, and broken tea and inferior fruits cannot guarantee the taste and have food safety hazards; In the coffee market, a large-scale price reduction on the brand side will give franchisees greater stocking pressure, and problems in the supply chain will make a large number of single products out of stock for a long time; Even in the game market, excessive marketing around low-priced internal purchases will significantly affect the overall development of the mini-game industry, as a result that bad money drives good money out of circulation.

Under the general trend of consumption downgrading, users’ consumption habits tend to be more rational. In our view, low prices should be a means, not an end. Enterprises should focus on the integration of low price and brand identity, and make clear the subsidy strategy that meets the needs of key users; Meanwhile, ensuring the core competitiveness of products, quality and service are still the key factors for enterprises to develop, acquire and maintain competitiveness in the long run.

  • Our Information:

Website: https://www.moonfox.cn/
Contact number: 400-888-0936

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Name: Felix
Title: Director of Sales, Industry Insight Division
Tel: +86 -13366276383
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Name: Janette Zhou
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Address: 608/F, Tower B, Wintrust Center, No. 1 Xidawang Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing, China

 

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