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. By 2019, it had grown to include 200,000 brands from 78 countries with a staggering sales turnover of $38.4 billion, 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.
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.
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.