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Singles Day 2020 – will it be the biggest ever?

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eBusiness Institute Team

Despite being launched into the turmoil of an ongoing global pandemic, we can still expect Alibaba’s Singles Day 2020 to be phenomenal, as the world’s largest shopping bonanza aims to hit unprecedented heights.

Singles Day 2020 Example 1
Singles Day 2020 is almost here – Image source: Alamy

The history behind the event

Singles Day was launched in China in 2009, as a festival in celebration of being single, or ‘bare sticks’, as unattached people are referred to in China. Hence it falls on the 11th day of the 11th month, the numbers being a representation of 4 bare sticks.

In that first year 27 brands participated, generating sales of $7.8 million[1]. By 2019, it had grown to include 200,000 brands from 78 countries with a staggering sales turnover of $38.4 billion[1], making it the largest online and offline shopping day in the world by far. This year’s event is expected to attract 250,000 brands (including 2,600 new international ones) and a participating audience of 800 million consumers[2].

All the elements are there to smash previous records, but are there any clouds on the horizon?

What effect might COVID-19 have on Singles Day 2020?

Whilst some brands are struggling to adapt in a world changed by a global pandemic and have undoubtedly seen a downturn in sales, others are coping well and realising growth. It all comes down to three key factors.

  • The product line(s) being sold
  • The size of the company selling them and their available resources – advertising budget for example
  • A full appreciation of the different tactics required in order to adapt effectively when planning for events such as Singles Day, Amazon Prime Day or Black Friday eBusiness Institute covered last year’s event, and we advised that Western brands should definitely pay attention to the opportunities offered by Singles Day 2020 and beyond.


One downbeat prediction is that the razzamatazz and hype of the renowned opening television star-studded gala, which last year included a performance by Taylor Swift, will be muted due to COVID-19. There will be fewer international celebrities and business leaders able to travel and physical elements of social distancing will be evident.

Having said that, the positives are all there for another tremendous result for the following reasons.

China’s economy has bounced back strongly and is now back to being stable, as seen by buoyant retail eCommerce sales and consumer behaviour.

The global physical restrictions put in place to help combat COVID-19, drove a surge of online shopping across the world, and this has been instrumental in the updating and expansion of many logistical chains as they adapted to cope with extra demand. Improved warehousing and faster delivery methods are now in place, ready and waiting.

Linked to that, brands have quickly realised that the easier and more flexible they make the customer shopping experience, the less likely consumers are to abandon their trolley and leave the website. Hence, we are seeing a range of consumer friendly options at checkout, such as the convenience of click and collect time slots.

Also, an increasing number of millennials are now in work and earning disposable income, making them the dominant buying force in China on Singles Day. They represent a mobile and internet savvy generation and huge numbers are using affordable smartphones to access the event. This younger generation, joined by a wider geographical spread of shoppers away from the two main cities, are more engaged than ever, and it is they who are buying the bulk of Western imports.

Add to that the fact that November is a discount laden month, the start of the holiday shopping bonanza in the run up to Christmas throughout the retail world, and that sets the bar high for sales expectations.

All these positives are not restricted or unique to China of course and Singles Day 2020 is definitely going global, as discussed in our article which looks at the growing links between China and the Western world.

Mobile optimisation is king

Whilst large numbers of sales on Black Friday and Cyber Monday were made by consumers using mobile phones, on Singles Day 2019 90% of sales were conducted using smartphones[3].

We’ve said it before and we can’t emphasise enough, brands must ensure their online content is mobile optimised if they are to stand any chance of success during the main annual sales events, even more so if participating in Singles Day 2020.

Singles Day 2020 Example 2
What’s in it for western brands – Image source: Forbes

What’s different about Singles Day and how can brands prepare?

Singles Day certainly hits the ground running. The excitement generated by the glitzy opening launch show is maintained throughout by over half the merchants using livestreaming as a more entertaining and effective way to showcase their products – and traffic from livestreaming is straightforward to convert into sales. 

Livestreaming promotes in real time and helps brands to personally engage with the consumer and to stand out from the competition, making it a powerful yet inexpensive key marketing and communication tool which definitely helps brands reach their online audience.

Singles Day 2020 Example 3
Promoting products by livestreaming is effective – Image source:

“Like this lipstick? It’s discounted for the next hour only, but click the link NOW and it’s yours”.

As easy as that.

As China reaches out to attract more key Western brands, Alibaba’s retail website Tmall will help brands to operate throughout Singles Day 2020, which is promoting more English language livestreaming as part of that engagement.

Just as important as effective marketing, endorsements are a large influencer in the Chinese purchasing process. With consumers spending 44% of their time on social media channels[4], if your brand has a celebrity promoting how good your products are, it carries a lot of weight.

Is your Product eContent really performing to its full potential?

One key underlying factor towards success however, whether on Singles Day or any other day, is the quality of Product eContent. It must be informative, attractively presented and engaging, using consumer friendly language. It must deliver the same level of customer engagement as it would in the physical world, by reaching out to the senses which would be used there by the consumer. In this way your Product eContent will stand out from the ever-growing number of online competitors.

Leveraging the eBusiness Institute Gap Analysis, will help ensure your brand’s readiness for online success. It highlights weaknesses in a brand’s existing eCommerce content and provides the basis for a powerful new content approach that generates more sales and greater customer loyalty.

In conclusion

Singles Day will become increasingly important for brands outside of China, but like any eCommerce operation, preparation, strategic planning and Product eContent must be spot on. Discounts are important but they shouldn’t be the single driving factor for participation.

With forward planning, brands can preserve their margins by not subjecting their best selling lines to large discounts, only apply those to slow moving products or excess stock instead.

Apart from using Singles Day 2020 as an event to help brands bounce back from revenue downturns caused by COVID-19, it  is also a great way to launch festive wares or new products into new markets.

Get it right and it’s a sure-fire way to reinforce brand awareness and increase revenue streams in the lucrative Chinese and Asian markets.

To find out more about how eBusiness Institute can help your brand achieve success on this or any other day, don’t delay, get in touch with our team of experts right now.


This article was written and created by the eBusiness Institute team.

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