Much is made every year of Black Friday, but this is nothing compared to China’s Single’s Day, which took place last Saturday and is now the world’s largest retail event. With billions of dollars being spent on this day, experts are now speculating whether brands and retailers around the world can join the party.
Singles Day emerged from a student tradition in the early 1990s, but it was transformed into an online retail extravaganza by Jack Ma, founder of China’s biggest e-commerce portal Alibaba. A day for Chinese people to be proud of being single, Alibaba was inspired by the US’s Black Friday and saw the opportunity for ‘heavily’ marketing the best deals on 11th November. Since Alibaba’s first Single Day’s sale in 2009, the event been embraced by other Chinese retailers and expanded beyond mainland China into other countries in Asia.
This year, Alibaba saw a record breaking sales figure of over $25 billion USD. To put this number in perspective, it represents four times more than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined. Alibaba has turned the launch of the event into a huge televised star-studded gala, which is like the Academy Awards and Super Bowl rolled into one. Attracting global superstars such as Pharrell and Nicole Kidman, it’s hard to ignore the scale.
Other Chinese competitors such as JD.com have jumped on the bandwagon, closing the gap on Alibaba’s sales, with sales over $19 billion USD. Singles Day has been rolled out in Singapore, and Thailand, and there are now over 140,000 brands – including 60,000 international labels and a total of 15 million product listings – just on online retailer Tmall alone.
Given the way in which the world has embraced the very US-tradition of Black Friday and Cyber Monday – and with ever the expanding Chinese middle class – it’s highly likely that Single’s Day will go global.
What should brands do next?
While Alibaba chief executive Daniel Zhang, has stated that he wants to make Singles’ Day an international event, there’s no indication of when this might be or just how it’s going to pan out. But there are certainly things brands can learn now and be ready for Singles Day becoming a global event.
Stand out for optimum brand experience
During the Singles’ Day televised opening gala, there is a fully interactive countdown enabling viewers to use apps to ‘Watch Now-Buy Now’ and download coupons, raffle tickets and gift certificates, creating excitement and anticipation for sales to begin. Highlighting the importance of the consumer journey that supports Singles’ Day, brands need to think beyond just offering bargains. It’s not only about the sales strategy. For example, how can advertisers work with media owners to amplify their promotional activity? In China, WeChat and Weibo go all out in marketing the deals and also provide in-app purchase optionsIt will be interesting to see how the likes of Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat will interpret this. The opportunities for more innovative, collaborative efforts across these platforms are numerous. This year, 90% of Alibaba’s sales were from mobile and more people now expect to be able to purchase via e-payment methods.
Innovation in e-commerce
Alibaba continues to lead in innovation, utilising AI capabilities to offer consumers personalised experiences and intelligent product recommendations. Their investment in technology has been integral to their success. For example, they were able to deliver the first order in under 13 minutes, using smart data and logistics practices. Brands must be able to cope with the inevitable demand. For a successful retail event, advertisers need to understand their audience and provide shoppers with exactly what they want, when they want it.