Online retailers are getting ready for the biggest shopping day in China—Singles Day, or 11/11—the annual shopping holiday that takes place on November 11th. After 2015’s whopping US$14 billion shopfest, how big will China’s Singles’ Day shopping spree be in 2016? This year’s online sales are likely to break all the records set last year.
What is Singles’ Day?
Singles’ Day is the equivalent of Valentine’s Day for singles in China where people treat themselves to gifts for themselves. Singles’ Day is an event that was embellished by an enterprising retailer―in this case, the Chinese eCommerce giant Alibaba.
Is there a place for North American retailers to participate in the biggest online shopping event in the world? Thanks to partnerships with Alibaba, international retailers can now sell directly to consumers in China. Read on to learn how U.S. companies can dip into China’s market.
The Social Sell
Alibaba greatly benefitted from the use of social apps during Singles’ Day. Understanding the dynamics of the Chinese social media landscape is incredibly important; it is so different from what Western retailers are used to doing as it’s heavily dominated by WeChat. Businesses are not going to be promoting sales via Twitter or via Facebook, or any of these social channels where retailers may already have a large following.
Through a new partnership with WeChat, Alibaba competitor JD.com was able to grow at a faster pace, with sales growing by 110% from 14 million orders to over 30 million orders on Singles’ Day. WeChat worked with JD.com to place specific advertisements in the app and offer its users exclusive coupons. According to Internet Retailer, 52% of first-time customers coming to JD.com on Singles’ Day arrived there from the social networks WeChat and Mobile QQ.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest have all experimented with “buy now” ads, but no retailer has had a huge impact from utilizing such technology. However, Chinese etailers have tapped into social selling well. For all retailers, social media can be a great way to build buzz. To use it effectively, you have to understand what drives consumers to spread word of mouth. What inspires consumers to buy cross-border in China is social. Sharing what you bought is important in China, as it’s a very social- and mobile-driven culture, and that tends to go along with people looking at influencers. When you look at brands that are highly valued in China, it’s clothing that people are going to wear and have photos taken in.
More and More Mobile
This is another major lesson that U.S. eCommerce retailers can learn from China’s massive sales day. Alibaba’s Singles’ Day mobile eCommerce figures are impressive—71% of transactions were on mobile. In contrast, mobile sales represented just 21% of last year’s Cyber Monday transactions (source: comScore).
In China, WeChat made it possible for users to seamlessly buy products within the app using Weixin payments. Likewise, U.S. retailers can improve mobile conversion rate by reducing friction points during the checkout process. Eliminate the pain of entering credit card numbers by allowing payments from PayPal or Apple Pay. Retailers could also redesign their websites to be as mobile-friendly as possible.
If your business is doing a huge online promotion, it is vital to have a robust mobile experience that gives your customers easy access to browsing and making purchases. People take their smartphones with them everywhere, and they will check them for deals and make purchases throughout the day if your mobile shopping experience is efficient. Chinese retailers have done a great job of effortlessly getting shoppers onto their mobile apps and sites, and making purchases easily and anywhere.
11 Interesting Facts about Singles’ Day
- Singles’ Day started as an anti-Valentine’s Day in 1993 by students at Nanjing University. In 2009, Alibaba co-opted the holiday.
- The date 11/11 was chosen on account of the numerals resembling “four lonely sticks”.
- On Singles’ Day 2015, $14.3 billion USD in sales were made. By comparison, Cyber Monday 2015 in the U.S. generated $3.19 billion in sales.
- The most popular categories were clothing and accessories, cosmetics and personal care, household products, appliances, and food and beverage.
- Mobile sales accounted for 70% of gross merchandise value in 2015, up from 42% last year.
- Interestingly, 60% of Chinese consumers who are buying on Singles’ Day are married, and a quarter are single. 11/11 has morphed into a commercial craze, and retailers’ deals appeal to buyers of all types.
- An agreement with China’s postal service will ensure that goods can be shipped to over 220 countries around the world.
- Some sellers are already listing Singles’ Day prices as early as mid-October, though deposits are only taken and goods shipped on the day itself.
- Many of the deals on Singles’ Day are tailored to unattached people. Despite the day’s origins as a celebration of singledom, many people use it as an opportunity to look for a match.
- In an interview with CNBC, Alibaba founder Jack Ma expects Singles’ Day to become a global holiday in the next five years.
- Dealmoon, a Chinese-American eCommerce site, is attempting to expose the holiday to an American audience.
Singles’ Day is a prime time for consumers who are actively going online to search for deals, trying to find new items, and with the right combination of promotions and low prices, retailers can attract new customers.