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‘Singles Day’ Is Another Chance For Ecommerce To Shine

November 11, 2020 Sarah Cavill

Shutterstock_1508266208 Online shopping of China, 11.11 single's day sale concept. Top view of green pastel torn paper and the text 11.11 single's day sale on a red background.

Although Singles Day originated in the early nineties, the unofficial holiday’s popularity really took off in 2009 when Chinese retailer Alibaba turned November 11 into a retail bonanza. Since then, Singles Day has become a huge retail event in China, and more recently around the world. In 2014, Singles Day helped Alibaba break the Guinness World Record for highest online sales in 24 hours. Recently, other major retailers in China, including JD.com, a Chinese ecommerce company, have become major players on Singles Day.

This year, Singles Day kicked off early, and, according to CNN Business, is already seeing record-breaking sales. “Alibaba said early Wednesday morning that the annual sales frenzy has so far pulled in 372.3 billion yuan ($56.3 billion). The total includes the first 30 minutes of the event, along with an earlier three-day period that was added to boost post-pandemic sales,” reported Sherisse Pham for CNN Business. The article noted that analysts estimate JD.com seeing sales of $41.7 billion, 35% growth year over year (YOY). 

Limitations on travel and in-person shopping caused by the pandemic have led to massive increases in ecommerce and mobile sales around the world. Online shopping is increasingly becoming consumers go-to for everything from high-end purchases to basic essentials. Singles Day is another opportunity for brands to get in front of consumers, who are not only doing their holiday shopping, but may also be itching to buy themselves something nice after a long year.

‘Singles Day’ Will Likely Be A Mix Of Luxury Sales And Practical Items

Shutterstock_1198302673 Online shopping of China single day sale concept. Shopping bag and gifts boxes with message tag.

Tmall, Alibaba’s retail sales platform, has introduced 2,600 new overseas brands for Singles Day this year in an effort to capture sales from Chinese shoppers who aren’t currently able to travel because of COVID-19. “There is no global travel, so Chinese people stay within mainland China but they still prefer to buy all kinds of high-quality products overseas. I think Singles Day is the best timing for them to buy a lot of things,” said Alvin Liu, the president of Alibaba’s Tmall import and export business. Many of the overseas products expected to garner attention from Chinese consumers are from luxury brands, which may benefit from pent-up demand that has grown during lockdowns. “Luxury brands have also risen to the occasion, with an estimated doubling in the number of luxury brands participating in Singles Day,” said Michael Norris, an ecommerce consultant in Shanghai.

Other trends anticipated for Singles Day this year are purchases of more Chinese goods and more practical items, particularly since many shoppers are still focused on safety and being prepared given the events of the last year. According to a BBC article by reporter Justin Harper, “robot cleaners, vacuums and toolboxes” will be big sellers this year, along with toilet paper, soap and beauty products. The likelihood of consumers indulging in coveted items or stocking up on necessary essentials is high this year, especially with the added convenience of ecommerce. Brands including L’Oreal, Vinda and Unilever are expected to have strong Singles Day sales performance. 

Live Streaming Is An Essential Digital Tool For A Successful ‘Singles Day’ 

Marketing promotions for Singles Day run the gamut, including sales codes, vouchers and exclusive launches. However, many brands feel that live streamed events, such as fashion shows, are what really make the difference on Singles Day. Live streaming has become a fixture of Singles Day and a reliable digital tool to boost brand engagement and sales. The live streams in China typically feature celebrity influencers or brand experts, who are often highly trusted by Chinese consumers. The “instant information” and deep discounts offered via live streams are also prized by live stream shoppers.

During the pandemic, many Chinese shoppers increased mobile shopping, which in turn boosted live streaming sales, estimated to be more than $125 billion this year, up from $65 billion in 2019. In the U.S., live streaming is less popular, accounting for only about $5 billion in sales. As ecommerce and mobile shopping become more popular, however, it’s possible that American brands and retailers may test live streaming technologies that have been so prominent and effective abroad.

Technology Prepares Brands For Supply, Demand And Shipping Needs on ‘Singles Day’

Shutterstock_510763483 Woman packaging a Christmas gift for posting tying a red ribbon around an envelope on a giftwrapped box in a cardboard carton, high angle view

As with other ecommerce retailers this year, many Chinese companies like Alibaba have ramped up their technology and advanced planning to meet increased supply and demand. These new processes, which include alternative delivery and shipping options, are likely to persist as ecommerce continues to dominate. “The use of cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence, predictive algorithms and big data analytics will empower merchants with demand forecast data and allow them to accurately pre-stock their goods in the right quantity and location,” said James Zhao, general manager of global supply chain at Cainiao.

‘Singles Day’ Promotions Growing In Popularity With Brands And Retailers Outside Of China

Although Singles Day is predominantly a Chinese retail event, the holiday is starting to catch on among consumers in other countries. The potential global expansion of Singles Day presents a great excuse for consumers to shop ecommerce deals and brands to offer Singles Day promos. At Refinery29, Karina Hoshikawa recently reported on all of the brands and retailers participating in Singles Day promotions, including Farmacy, bareMinerals and Net-A-Porter. 

By tapping into a growing cultural phenomenon like Singles Day, and capitalizing on the increasing reliance on ecommerce, brands can capture new audiences ahead of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Excitement about the upcoming holidays and the desire to shop for deals are likely to drive many shoppers to ecommerce brands and retailers on Singles Day and into the future.

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About the Author

Sarah Cavill

With more than 20 years of writing, editing and reporting experience, Sarah Cavill brings to Digital Media Solutions (DMS) a fine-tuned and diverse set of skills. Her work has been featured in notable publications including The Daily Muse, CBS Local, Techlicious and Glamour magazine. Sarah has a passion for current events and the deep-dive research that goes into the content development and brand identity of DMS Insights. In her role as Senior Marketing Communications Writer, Sarah contributes to the pitching, researching and writing of multiple stories published each week surrounding digital and performance marketing innovations in pop culture, news, social media, branding and advertising.

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