What we learned from Singles' Day: It's time western brands took this retail extravaganza seriously

Half-price jacket. Discounted towels. A bargain toaster. Not your usual shopping list when you think of treating yourself, yet these are some of the deals that were bought on yesterday’s Chinese Singles’ Day (11 November).

Named and timed for the date that consists of four ‘ones’, Singles’ Day is pitched as the antithesis of Valentine’s Day and is an occasion for single people to celebrate single life, by participating in some retail therapy.

So why should marketers care? The 24-hour retail extravaganza has now evolved into what is described as the world’s greatest online shopping fiesta with a record number of foreign brands including Nike, Topshop, Burberry, Uniqlo, ASOS and Estee Lauder taking part yesterday.

Forget Black Friday and Cyber Monday, they are small fry compared to the $9.3 billion dollars spent by China alone during this year’s Singles’ Day. With 37,000 mentions on social media platforms on 11 November [according to Meltwater], the popularity of Singles’ Day shows no sign of slowing down.

Of course, it’s not just singles who take advantage of the bargains on offer to go on a spree and it’s not just the Chinese either. Ex-pats living in China use the opportunity to stock up on discounted Christmas presents and the trend is beginning to cross China’s borders as well.

Retailers with e-commerce operations in China and UK-based websites that ship worldwide must build Singles’ Day into their marketing plans to ensure they take a slice of the pie in 2016. To put things into perspective, e-commerce giant Alibaba estimated 120,000 orders each minute during yesterday’s Singles' Day.

How many businesses will wake up this morning regretting their decision not to have got involved?

Marketers need to take the time to understand this retail holiday and the positive impact it can have on brands. It’s important to remember that one size does not fit all, particularly when marketing in different countries, languages and cultures. Tailoring marketing campaigns and the online shopping experience will be the secret to success for retailers, as these online retail events are growing from strength to strength.

Marketing teams should start preparing their clients now for an even bigger and more profitable event in 2016, or risk missing out to those that do.

Heidi Myers is marketing and communications director EMEA at Meltwater

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