Now in its 13th year, Singles’ Day, or 11.11 as it is also known, is one of the largest physical retail and online shopping days in the world. Founded by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, the retail event has also been growing in popularity in other parts of the world. Despite Singles’ Day being of a relatively lower profile here in the UK, there are growing opportunities for UK brands and retailers to reach Chinese and Asian consumers both in China and elsewhere.
During this year’s promotions, Alibaba reported that consumers spent 540.3bn yuan (£63bn), and its rival JD.com, which started its own Singles’ Day sales events in 2017, brought in 311.4bn yuan (£36bn). For comparison, global consumers spent £8bn at this year’s 48-hour Amazon Prime Day event in June.
Looking closer to home, VoucherCodes.co.uk predicted that UK shoppers were set to spend £1.7bn on Singles’ Day this year. The Chinese and South East Asian communities in the UK widely recognize Singles’ Day, and often look for a similar experience here to what they would get back home, where the day is such a huge shopping phenomenon.
Now that Singles’ Day 2021 has passed, there are plenty of lessons learned from this year that can inform not only your plans for 2022, but also promotions for other upcoming shopping holidays.
1. Sales no longer the only pursuit
Apart from looking for bargains, active Singles’ Day shoppers also utilize the event to discover new brands and products. Certainly this year there was an evident transition from hard selling to discovery, with many retailers engaging with the micro moments of today’s consumers. Examples include Tmall hosting 11.11 Classroom and Douyin introducing the ‘Good Things Festival’ challenge to support new styles and brands.
It can be beneficial for brands that are new to the Chinese and Asian community or that want to bring a new collection or product line to them. Offering discounts for first-time email subscribers, gifts with purchases and free beauty samples are common approaches to initiating a relationship with those first-time purchasers.
2. Sustainable shopping
This year there was also a greater focus on sustainability. Our recent study at Croud of global fashion shoppers found that this is a major consideration when making purchases. It is likely that this will become an even more important part of key shopping holidays as more businesses and consumers pay attention to their production and consumption habits. ‘Not staying up all night’ also became a major slogan during this year’s Singles’ Day event, as consumers were encouraged to spend rationally, which also served as justification for retailers to start their promotion period much earlier.
3. Promotions starting earlier
Retailers including Tmall and JD.com started their Singles’ Day pre-sales period on October 20 this year, ten days earlier than they did in 2020. This is indicative of a wider trend of extending sales periods: Amazon Prime Day is no longer just one day, and Black Friday has turned into Cyber Weekend – or longer. This highlights the importance of spreading out media spend and back-weighting budget to get the biggest possible slice of spending when it counts.
4. Social commerce
It is impossible to ignore the growing opportunity of online social platforms, and this year’s event saw a continued diversification of the e-commerce landscape, with emerging platforms gaining more Singles’ Day shoppers and sales. Search demand for social commerce platforms such as PDD, Little Red Book and Douyin during the event increased this year, as did price comparison searches, according to Baidu.
Key to taking advantage of these social platforms is understanding the online behavior of a target audience – which platforms do they use the most? What are the available ad options across these platforms? Retailers can then use these insights to inform their advertising strategy.
5. Shopping small and locally
Smaller brands also made some decent cut-through this year, with more than 600 small and medium merchants making the leap from 1m to 10m yuan in turnover. Equally, Chinese brands such as Huawei and Perfect Diary had strong results, turning over 100m and 1bn yuan respectively. This suggests that domestic and smaller brands are in demand and have a great opportunity to piggyback off these kinds of huge shopping events.
As Singles’ Day catches on around the world and continues to grow, it’s another key date brands should include in their retail calendar – particularly as it can open up whole new customer bases in the Chinese and Asian community. But as these sales periods continue to extend each year, it’s imperative that brands also forward plan and ensure they don’t run out of steam by Christmas.
Ada Luo, head of APAC digital at Croud.