Chinese Singles’ Day : What Foreign Brands Need to Know About World’s Biggest Shopping Day
On November 11, China lived at the rhythm of the 10th Singles’ Day Celebration (光棍节 - Guānggùn Jié), the world’s biggest online and offline shopping day. That day, more transactions have been operated than during America’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday together. For brands eager to expand their activities into China, the so-called "Double 11" is the event to look after, not only for the opportunities it brings along, but also for the challenges companies face while trying to take full advantage of it.
For decades, China has been seen and treated as the manufacturer of the world. With the increase in education, and the rise of wages, the situation has already changed. Nowadays, brands have interest in considering its population as a market with high potential. Many companies have already taken the leap, paving the path for newcomers.
However, "making it in China" requires efforts from the brand's part: culture, habits, and consumption mechanisms are different from the ones in the West. At ASI Solutions, we are dedicated to making your Chinese expansion easy, providing you the solutions and support you need.
ASI Solutions has been helping foreign brands expand their activities into Chinese market for more than 10 years. Our expertise in global trade management and supply chain services enables us to provide you the solution your brand needs to succeed in Asia. From origin to destination, we handle it all, and even more!
The event started in 1993 in Nanjing as a celebration organized by and for students without a romantic partner. The number 1 resembling a person alone, the date 11.11 was meaningful for these young adults eager to counterbalance Valentine's Day.
Alibaba, the famous Chinese e-commerce platform founded by the no-less famous Jack Ma and which can be compared to Amazon, chose this date and symbol to organize large online sales on both its platforms Tmall (B2C) and Taobao (largely C2C).
However, if one wants to truly comprehend and take advantage of China’s Singles’ Day, the key is to look beyond the 24-hour online sales: its preparation begins way before, the strategies required are way different from the ones in the West, and the outcomes – both positive and negative – happen at a larger scale.
World's Biggest Shopping Day
Even if the event is not limited to online shopping, E-commerce platforms are the place to be on that day.
On November 11th, 2018, the combined sales on Taobao and Tmall (Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.) broke once again the world’s record: $30.8 billion have been spent online by Chinese consumers. In just one minute and a half, Chinese consumers placed orders worth $1 billion, their purchases reaching $10 billion in one hour. Last year’s record was surpassed in less that 18 hours.
Alibaba's direct competitor, JD.com, also broke its own sales record: going from $19.1 billion in 2017, to $23 billion in 2018's Singles' Day Campaign (which runs from 1-12 November). The company surprised the public with this year's figure, becoming a real challenger for the giant Alibaba.
Understanding the Scope of This Event (Alibaba)
Late October, the "See Now, Buy Now" show is broadcasted on 2 TV channels and Chinese equivalents of Youtube. Consumers can see and pre-order the items that will be on-sale on the D-day, before the payment is processed on November 11th. Alibaba claimed that the video has been seen more than 50 million times.
From November 1st until November 10th, retailers will run new sales on their online stores as to encourage consumers to continue adding products to their baskets.
A 24-hour-gala is also organized on November 11th by the E-Commerce giant, featuring international stars and the appearance of Jack Ma. Brands can participate in the event, the opportunities ranging from having their logo appear on screen, to presentation of their products on stage.
Key figures to understand the 24-hour-event (Alibaba's platforms)
Expanding Its Scope
- Alibaba’s subsidiary Lazada is aimed at internationalizing Chinese Singles’ Day: operating in Southeast Asia, it promoted the event in 6 countries (Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam). Such an initiative accounts for the company's will to increase the scope of event to other countries.
- Alibaba is promoting another orientation (not only for Chinese Singles’ Day, but more generally for its all activity): “new retail”. Comparable to an O2O strategy, it aims at bringing together the online and offline parts of Alibaba's business, involving physical stores and local services.
A Profitable Challenge for Foreign Brands
There is a noticeable shift in China toward quality over price, which we see in the growing number of consumers who are willing to pay more for branded & branded imported products
Lei Xu, JD.com CMO
The impressive GMV (Gross Merchandise Value) circulating on that day should not fool foreign brands into thinking that making the most out of the "Double 11" requires no effort from their part. Most of the ones already on the market argue they started preparing 2018’s 11.11 on 12.11.2017. Effective logistics and marketing require preparing well in advance.
- You will need visibility, and the means to achieve it should be in accordance with Chinese consumption habits. Note that Chinese consumers are essentially buying mobile phone users. Successful campaigns are thus run on Chinese social media and platforms:
- WeChat (an equivalent of WhatsApp with a feed similar to Facebook);
- Weibo (equivalent of Twitter);
- Youku (equivalent of Youtube);
- Tudou (equivalent of Youtube);
- And even Alipay (Alibaba’s payment platform) or TuNiu (online travel booking platform);
- One can obviously use Alimama services (for running ads on Alibaba’s platforms).
- Experts advise brands to run dynamic campaigns (especially interactive ones enabling the customers to involve) and create video content. On WeChat, brands have their own Official Account (to publish articles and interact with customers) and can run advertisement campaigns. On the other medias and platforms, banner ads and native contents is the way to go.
- Understand the mechanisms e.g. prices usually drop by at least 50%, which is quite unusual in Europe or the US; and Chinese consumers rarely use queries, making only relying on a .cn website for your sales difficult (the example of ASOS and the failure of its website is a case study one should pay attention to before entering the market). Capitalize on mobile users and adapt your strategy accordingly.
- Target young Chinese consumers, the population for which the Singles’ Day has been created in the first place.
- Focus on the right products: the most sold products during the first hours were dresses, wool coats, pants and hoodies, while Xiaomi, Apple and Dyson products were top 3 in early sales. In general, clothing, cosmetics and infants products are lucrative.
- "Double 11" is the occasion for brands to test their strategies and launch products specifically designed for Chinese market.
China Singles' Day embodies the potential the country represents for foreign brands. With the right preparation, tools and campaigns, one can ensure its success on Chinese market.
Our full range of dedicated E-Commerce solutions guarantee your activities run smoothly on the D-Day. We take care of the process from origin to your final customers' doorstep, including Pick&Pack and express delivery.