Executive Series

Singles’ Day is Coming and it Will be Big!  

Singles’ Day is just around the corner. It’s the largest holiday shopping event in the world, bar none. Last year spending topped $25 billion — that’s four times the size of Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined. And with 1 billion individual sales predicted in 2018, revenue will reach the stratosphere.

So what exactly is Singles’ Day, and why haven’t most Americans heard of it? The holiday began in 1993, when a group of bachelors at China’s Nanjing University wanted to create an anti-Valentine’s Day. The date 11/11 was chosen for its collection of lonely ones. It soon morphed into a day to celebrate singledom for all genders. In 2009, Alibaba got in on the action, launching a 24-hour Singles’ Day bonanza, with special deals for singletons. The shopping holiday was destined to be huge — China has 400 million millennials, five times more than in the US (and 74 million more than the entire US population).

The annual event kicks off at midnight on November 11, and runs for 24 hours. Like Amazon Prime Day here in the US, the event features steep discounts that are driven by the main Alibaba-owned platform, Tmall.

Due to China’s relatively new consumer market, Singles’ Day is brand-focused, meaning an important goal is to introduce the consumer to new brands and products. Alibaba encourages brands “to launch their latest products and try out their most creative marketing campaigns. It’s the Super Bowl for brands.” Consumers don’t need to buy any kind of membership in order to participate in Singles’ Day deals, nor do they even need to go online. This contrasts with Amazon Prime Day, which is focused on selling Amazon house products, and requires an Amazon Prime membership.

It’s hard to overstate just how big a deal Singles’ Day is in China. Alibaba flies in celebrities to perform at a televised gala in the hours leading up to the stroke of midnight. In fact, Singles’ Day is quickly become a popular date for couples to tie the knot.

It was only a matter of time before the holiday spread beyond China, first into Southeast Asia and Japan. Last year, retailers in Germany, Holland, Sweden and Turkey hosted Singles’ Day sales. Is it coming to the US? When publications such as Retail Insight ask are western countries missing out, the answer is probably yes. Maybe not this year, but soon.

As a retailer there’s a lot you can do to leverage Singles’ Day 2018. For instance, you can offer existing customers special deals for Singles’ Day, and encourage them to visit your site. And just as we advised for Amazon Prime Day, you don’t need to offer your top selling or evergreen products on Singles’ Day; ancillary products are a great option for impulse buys.

If you have the wherewithal — meaning you sell via Tmall and you can ship overseas — it’s a good time to alert consumers that they’ll find deals on your site. Chances are, you’ll get a surge of customers new to your brand.

Start of the Holiday Season

Or, you can approach Singles’ Day as the new start of the Holiday Season, and promote special deals on gift ideas. For retailers who invest in paid search, this can be the gift that keeps on giving.

Let’s say you promote a great gift idea in paid search, which attracts the attention of a new customer who comes to your site and converts. She then gives the gift to a friend or family member, who is then made aware of your brand. Now let’s say that person visits your site to purchase a gift for one of their friends or family members. Gift buying is a great way to double or triple the brand awareness impact you get from advertising and media spend.

Singles’ Day as a shopping event is less than ten years old. But it’s success has been fast and furious, and will continue to smash records. No doubt US retailers will want in on the action, and it will soon become the official kickoff of the holiday shopping season.

Phillip Jackson

A multi-instrumentalist, Phillip is an avid collector of vintage guitars, keyboards and amplifiers and has a home studio located in West Palm Beach.