Why Singles Day is the worlds biggest shopping day

Judging by the name, you’d think that Singles Day was just a 24hr Ben & Jerry’s fuelled Bridget Jones marathon, but 11th November is actually the world’s biggest shopping day of the year.

Chosen for the repetition of the very lonely looking number 1 in the date, 11/11/ is a mammoth day for retail. Alibaba supremo Jack Ma is the driving force behind the festival, in 2009 turning it from what apparently started as a bachelor’s celebration in the 1990s into what is now retails biggest day of the year.

In just 24hrs a record breaking $25.3 billion was spent last year through Alibaba alone. To put that into perspective, the total sales in the US for Black Friday & Cyber Monday combined is a mere $6.79 billion. Equally impressive is the rate of growth, with a 40% increase in sales compared to last year and no doubt 2018 will see the numbers rise again.

So, what has made this such a huge day? We take a look at 5 contributing factors that offer food for thought to Western brands:

There is an active Chinese community in the UK that are heavy shoppers

Research gathered from Global Web Index shows that compared to the rest of the population, the Chinese community in the UK are more than twice as likely to purchase the following online:

  • Shoes
  • Beauty products
  • Fragrances
  • Jewellery
  • Beer & spirits
  • Baby products

Compared to a regular shopping day the Rakuten UK network saw a 39% increase in sales, and in the days running up to the event there’s a notable increase in traffic coming from Chinese IP addresses as savvy shoppers research their purchases. Similarly, in 2017 the tea brand Whittard announced that Singles Day was bigger than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined in terms of their sales.

Build the Moment

Entertainment is a huge part of the festival, no doubt to build excitement to encourage lots of spending. 2017 kicked off with a televised gala which saw Nicole Kidman, Pharrell Williams and Maria Sharapova grace the stage. In the days leading up to the event brands build hype with interactive digital content, coupons and fashion shows. It works. In just the first 2 minutes of going live customers spent $2 billion.

Reports from the event show that Chinese shoppers are massively ahead of the West when it comes to payments. 1.48 billion payments were processed through Alipay during the 24hr frenzy, of which 90% were on mobile, compared to just 30% for Black Friday.

Varied Selection

Last year consumers had 15 million products to choose from, including 60,000 international brands from 225 countries and regions. The love for luxury goods and everything British, coupled with the low value of the pound should be enough to make brands take note of Singles Day and what can be made of the opportunity for themselves; whether they realise it or not, many Western brands are readily available in China either directly or through the use of a proxy or forwarding.

There’s potential for UK brands, but cultural considerations need to be considered

UK brands are starting to realise the potential to capitalise on Singles Day through listing their products on Alibaba and investing in advertising in the run up to the event.

Before jumping the gun, brands wanting to cash in on Singles Day will have to take note of a few cultural considerations when selling to the Chinese market. For example, the number 4 is signifies bad luck and so should be avoided, whereas the number 8 represents good luck and so is likely to attract consumers.

There is a growing interest in the UK for Singles Day

UK data from google trends shows that over the last 3 years interest in Singles Day is growing at a rapid pace, making a clear case for why brands should be aware.

This year will no doubt see more UK brands get on board with Singles Day to capitalise on the event in the same way that they have in the past few years for Black Friday. If the figures from previous years are anything to go by, Singles Day is definitely one to add to the calendar.