What U.S. E-Commerce Retailers Can Learn from the Success of China’s Singles’ Day

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All the single ladies – and men – in China will be putting their hands up on November 11th and celebrating Singles’ Day, a relatively new holiday popularized by Alibaba in 2009.

Prior to 2009, Singles’ Day was considered a day for unattached individuals in China to celebrate their single status. In the early 90s, a group of students at Nanjing University decided to celebrate their singledom on 11/11 because it’s comprised of four single numbers. They would celebrate by having dinner with their single friends and some would even hold “blind date” parties in an effort to bid farewell to their single lives.

In 2009, Alibaba began promoting 11/11 as a day on which Chinese consumers – single or not— should treat themselves to something nice. Alibaba built momentum for Singles’ Day by turning it into a shopping festival. Today, it’s the biggest online shopping day in the world.

Last year, Alibaba broke its own sales record, generating sales worth $14.3 billion, a 60 percent increase from 2014. In comparison, comScore reported that the combined 2015 sales on Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday were $7.54– barely half of what Alibaba alone generated on 11/11.

What’s more is that 70 percent of Alibaba’s Singles’ Day sales were made via mobile. In contrast, 21 percent of Cyber Monday sales were made via mobile in 2015, according to comScore.

So what can U.S. e-commerce retailers learn from the successes of China’s Singles’ Day?

  • Offer deep discounts. Rarely do consumers get excited about a 20 percent off discount. One thing that the merchants selling via Alibaba’s online shopping site Taobao Marketplace and also on its third-party shopping platform Tmall.com do is discount items by 50 percent or more. While that may not be possible for every e-retailer, the takeaway is to provide consumers with a one-day discount that they’ll get excited about.
  • Tighten up your technology. In China, there are four to five times the number of shoppers compared to the U.S., which means bigger online traffic volume. Yet Alibaba was able to efficiently and effectively process 710 million payments over a 24-hour period on Singles’ Day, juggling as much as 85,900 transactions per second at its peak, according to research firm Gartner. In North America, it’s not uncommon to hear about some retailer’s site going down during Cyber Monday.  To compete like China, shore up your servers and run infrastructure tests of your e-commerce website, mobile site and mobile apps well-before Cyber Monday.
  • Master mobile. If you’re looking to boost your online sales and are participating in a 24-hour sales bonanza, like Cyber Monday, then you must have a strong mobile website and/or app. Your mobile website and app should make it easy for consumers to browse and make purchases.
  • Activate your affiliates. If you have an affiliate program, reach out to affiliates who focus on the Chinese-American market, such as Dealmoon and 55haitao. Coordinate with them about the type of offer that could get your brand featured on their site. If you are able to get a placement, make sure you have a strong offer and have the creative to back it up. If you want to feature a specific product on Singles Day, make sure you have enough inventory. Last year, one beauty brand put a product on sale on Singles’ Day and they blew out of their inventory within 2 hours. So be prepared for high demand.

For more tips and insights on how to make the most of Singles’ Day and other top online shopping holidays, reach out to our affiliate and digital marketing team.

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