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Singles’ Day: a Chinese celebration on its way to the west?

By Ada Luo



The Drum Network article

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November 20, 2020 | 9 min read

Singles’ Day promotions have been hitting the headlines in the west for the past few days. Alibaba generated $74.1bn in Singles’ Day-related sales on its platform, with an astonishing 583,000 orders a second at peak. More than 340 brands surpassed ¥100m and 13 of them made more than ¥1bn during these celebrations. This spans across various sections, with cosmetics to technology companies all making serious money during this event.

Singles' Day

Singles’ Day: a Chinese celebration on its way to the west?

And they’re not alone. Chinese e-commerce giant generated $40.97bn in sales this year. And yet, there are still billions of consumers outside of China who know nothing about it. In this article, we explore Singles’ Day and how it can be a lucrative marketing event outside of China.

What is Singles’ Day?

We all know about Valentine’s Day, where lovers and those hoping to find love send messages and gifts to one another and share romantic meals. Well, since 1993 in China there’s been a day for singles too. It’s on 11 November, a number (11/11) that signifies four singles celebrating together. It was started by some singleton college students who wanted their own celebrations.

That’s only part of the story, though. As the figures above show, it has now become a major event in any Chinese marketing calendar. It’s probably fair to credit Alibaba in particular with this development, as the company has been emphatic in its marketing around the day in recent years.

Chinese expats in the west are already on board

While it might have slipped under the radar for many in the UK, Singles’ Day definitely happened here too and it wasn’t just Chinese businesses that were getting involved. Many mainstream British and international names capitalised on the Singles’ Day trend this year with a specific page or section dedicated to the event. According to Statista, sales generated during Singles’ Day in the UK will exceed £1.44bn this year.

Asos Singles' Day
Singles' Day value in sales

Chinese consumers who live overseas have been the most responsive towards Singles’ Day promotions in the western market. With this in mind, it’s beneficial for brands to consider working with a partner who already has a strong following with these target consumers.

Insights from Dealmoon

Dealmoon is the largest shopping advisory platform catering to the international Chinese community. Here, it shares insights into the Singles’ Day promotions run across its platforms within the UK and Europe this year.

More brands are embracing Singles’ Day in Europe

James Coggles, director of Dealmoon in Europe, said the company has seen an increase in the rate of brand participation in Singles’ Day sales events, from 65% of advertisers on the platform last year to 75% this year. Those early adopters are seeing results too. For example, Dealmoon saw a £1m turnover during the two-week period (first and second week of November).

Beauty and fashion brands are leading in performance

Unlike during Black Friday when, traditionally, consumer electronics brands have been the top-performers, beauty and fashion brands are extremely popular among Chinese consumers on Dealmoon during Singles’ Day, with some brands seeing a 70% year-on-year increase in sales over this peak period. Additionally, new sectors such as health and food delivery are also exploring the huge potential among Chinese expats under the current climate.

The ad below, for example, is a Singles’ Day promotion for Lancome.

Lancome Singles' Day

What else do we know about Singles’ Day marketing?

1. It’s not all about discounts and revenue

As with Black Friday, Singles’ Day is often associated with considerable discounts to draw the attention of customers to a certain brand – and away from rivals. But one important detail is often overlooked by brands; participation in Singles’ Day sales can be a great opportunity to influence new brand discovery.

If your brand has a relatively low profile among certain segments of an audience (for example, Chinese consumers), running a Singles’ Day event will trigger interest for consumers to further explore the brand after the peak season concludes. According to Bain & Company, in 2019 winners in Alibaba’s Singles’ Day event were able to sustain strong sales growth throughout the year.

2. From Singles’ Day to Singles’ Month

Starting a Singles’ Day campaign early is not uncommon across different regions. For example, Alibaba has already established extended Singles’ Day promotions, where pre-sale and campaigning start from 1 November. In Europe, retailers have also been running activity early, also focusing around the first week of November. This is also prevalent amongst brands running Singles’ Day campaigns with Dealmoon, with some of their brands running activity from 1 November up to the 11 November (official Single’s Day), in an attempt to avoid getting lost in the saturated market.

3. Engagement goes beyond China

With Single’s Day being relatively new in Europe, a majority of retailers choose to limit their exposure to Singles’ Day campaigns by collaborating with unique partners such as Dealmoon (which offers exclusive discounts without releasing the promotion to a wider audience) or by running personalised email campaigns to target buyers. It makes sense for brands new to Single’s Day to take cautious steps, particularly with key mainstream events such as Black Friday around the corner. Nevertheless, there is still a lot of potential here that European brands can benefit from exploring.

This year, we saw more European brands make their Singles’ Day campaigns more widely available to their online consumers. Brands such as Hugo Boss, Lookfantastic, Coach and Asos had dedicated landing pages or banner placements to promote Singles’ Day deals across their websites. Hotukdeal, the UK’s flagship discount community, also dedicated a category page to promote Singles’ Day deals that were widely available.


Could it thrive in the west?

Singles’ Day has been linked to at least £1.44bn in Europe this year – which is no small amount. It’s assumed this revenue is driven chiefly by Chinese expats living in Europe – people like our colleague, senior digital account director at Croud, Xixi You, who said: “I joined a Chinese community group chat in Manchester – people in the group have been actively sharing deals for Singles’ Day in the last few days, ranging from beauty products to luxury items.”

It’s undeniable that there is a wider market for Singles’ Day in the UK, however with Remembrance Day falling on the same date in the UK and Veteran’s Day in the US, this can be seen as a perceived barrier for brands in whether promotions may be well received.

What does Singles’ Day mean for your brand?

Singles’ Day promotions are no longer exclusive to South East Asia. With more brands in the UK opting to advertise across this holiday season, it bears the questions whether we can expect to see Single’ Day form part of key marketing dates for the western community. If Black Friday is anything to go by, new traditions can very easily become a consumer staple, especially when there are deals involved.

Preparing for 2021

With Singles’ Day promotions this year only showcasing the lucrative potential of this holiday season, we can expect more European brands to consider leveraging this event within their marketing calendar next year. Here are a few suggestions of ways brands can begin marketing activity towards Single’s Day in 2021:

1. Collaborate with a partner

Partners such as Dealmoon are able to release exclusive discounts to its subscribers. Therefore, collaborating with such partners will allow you to leverage their audience insights to better inform your approach and product offering to appeal to your target audience.

2. Consider email campaigns

Utilise your existing consumer data to identify a target audience pool that you believe will be most interested in Singles’ Day promotions. Leverage email marketing to reach out to this audience group and tailor your messaging.

3. Utilise all digital channels

Open up your Singles’ Day promotions to your wider audience using key digital channels. For example, consider setting up a dedicated landing page for Singles’ Day promotions across your website, or plan regular activity across your social media profiles to better reach your wider consumer audience.

To find out more about Singles’ Day and how Croud can support your international marketing strategy, get in touch.

Ada Luo is regional account director at Croud.


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