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American shoppers have yet to embrace Single’s Day

Online shopping records were shattered in China over this past weekend. Within a period of just 24 hours, Single’s Day brought it over $30 billion in online sales. To put that in context, Adobe Analytics forecasts that $23.4 billion will be spent in the U.S. on Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the weekend in-between combined. While shoppers in China have now contributed to the world’s single largest day in e-commerce, Single’s Day has yet to capture the pocketbooks of consumers in the States.

On 11/11, U.S. shoppers spent a total $1.82 billion online. While the growth rate is impressive (over 29% year-over-year), it is a far cry from the expected spend on Cyber Monday ($7.8 billion), Black Friday ($5.9 billion) and even Thanksgiving ($3.3 billion). And it is dwarfed by the Single’s Day haul in China. While 11/11 has consistently been a healthy and growing holiday in the States, it is overshadowed by the bigger Thanksgiving weekend. In 2017, we saw a $1.30 billion in online sales that day and $1.19 billion the year before.

Why hasn’t Single’s Day, the world’s largest shopping extravaganza, made an impact in the U.S.? Other branded shopping moments have made their way across oceans – just look at Black Friday in the U.K. But unlike Black Friday in the UK, importing Singles Day to the U.S. is not just a matter of creating a new retail holiday from scratch. Singles Day also has to compete for awareness and attention with an existing national holiday in Veteran’s Day.

The question now is whether retailers will vigorously promote Singles Day in the U.S. and whether Americans will adopt this global phenomenon. Retailers have successfully led this kind of change in the past: Amazon was able to create Prime Day, a brand-new shopping day that was not only embraced by consumers but also grew the e-commerce pie overall. Adobe Analytics data this year showed that large retailers offered their own promotions to coincide with Prime Day and saw a 54% lift in sales (compared to an average day).

In recent years, we have begun to see certain retailers testing the waters with Single’s Day promotions in the U.S. Examples include ALDO, Uniqlo, Topshop and many others – which played a role in driving the revenue lift for the day. However, the retail heavyweights have not yet leaned into this global phenomenon. Until they do, we won’t know if American consumers are willing to add a new major shopping event just days before Black Friday.

Yet, even without the formal participation of retailers, awareness of Singles Day is on the rise as national news outlets around the world have begun to cover the e-commerce phenomenon. Retailers in China have also expressed interest in pushing Single’s Day more prominently onto the global stage, and we can expect marketing efforts aimed at doing just that.

U.S. retailers should watch Singles Day closely and follow the data to see the impact of targeted promotions on buying behaviors. As online shopping continues to grow and consumers reduce the amount of time they spend in stores, digital-led moments like Single’s Day are where retailers should look for potential large-scale growth.

Taylor Schreiner is director of Adobe Digital Insights.

But what about the UK?

James Hebbert, UK managing director, Hylink:

"Singles Day broke records again this year with sales over $30bn. UK brands earned the 6th biggest slice of this according to Alibaba. However, with Armistice Day falling on the same day and this being a poignant date for British and French citizens, it is unlikely that a celebratory shopping festival will take off as a recognised e-commerce day in these markets.

For this reason the real opportunity that Singles Day provides is for UK brands, not UK consumers. UK brands need to understand the different approach that Chinese consumers have towards retail. For example; embracing digital innovation such as O2O and New Retail strategies ensuring consumers have a seamless shopping experience.”

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