What We Expect From This Year’s Singles’ Day Shopping Extravaganza

November 9, 2020

It’s been eleven years since the launch of Singles’ Day in China, or as it’s more commonly known today, “Double 11”.

While it had humbler beginnings – starting with the playful messaging to single people looking to treat themselves with gifts – in many ways, Singles’ Day has grown to become the largest, most comprehensive global shopping event of the year. Especially given the heightened focus on online shopping and the digital brand experience throughout this year, many brands expect to see tremendous success on Singles’ Day.

We sat down virtually with two experts out of the agency’s APAC region, Gloria Tang and Claire Liu, to discuss some key topics around the 2020 “Double 11” day.

Q: Singles’ Day is often considered to be the world’s largest shopping event, but it is not as well known to consumers in the West. Do you see the event expanding significantly out of China this year, or in the future?

Claire Liu: Singles’ Day has been around for more than a decade, so it’s definitely a well- established event from a local perspective. In the beginning, it had a clear target audience of students and young, white collar audiences that were active online, open to new things, but were also price sensitive. A lot of this is still true today, and it’s made for a very effective opportunity to create a local “shopping carnival” in China.

Despite the fact that you see international media covering Singles’ Day more broadly, it’s not widely accepted or recognized yet outside of China. This is for a few reasons: one being, the product range offered by international brands, which isn’t necessarily reflective of local behavior or selling on key local marketplaces. The second reason is really around the price incentive and the proposition. The majority of Western consumers (and brands) primarily lean on Black Friday and Cyber Monday for the biggest shopping deals – even Amazon Prime Day. Double 11 hasn’t developed a unique proposition in the Western market yet, from my point of view.

Gloria Tang: I would agree, Singles’ Day is still largely an APAC-based shopping festival. We can see that some international brands did offer a special discount in prior years, but the target audience is still mainly local Chinese consumers, or Chinese consumers who are living abroad.

It’s worth noting how much Singles’ Day is expanding in China. 85% of consumers say that they’ve increased their spending budget for this year.

Q: A recent survey from AlixPartners found that 66% of Chinese consumers say they’ll be shopping for domestic brands during Singles’ Day, and another 57% of Chinese consumers plan to spend less money on American products than they have in the past. Do you think these stats speak to consumers’ desire to help the local economy’s recovery? Or do you think it has more to do with domestic brands becoming even more popular in China?

GT: I would say the desire to help the economy’s recovery isn’t the highest on the list in terms of motivations to buy domestically. I think it’s more reflective of the trend that domestic brands have grown far more popular in recent years, and domestic products have largely improved and gotten more competitive with their pricing. I think it also has to do with the type of products people are looking for. The most popular brands on Singles’ Day tend to only appear in limited categories where the Average Order Value is not as high – for instance, cosmetic products, underwear and beverage.

CL: It would be interesting to dig into the product categories for that survey. I would agree, domestic brands are becoming stronger and more appealing, and it’s definitely a factor. However, it’s also important to consider the impact of the tensions between China and the US, and the trade war, in terms of how Chinese consumers view American products.

Q: Do you think the emotional motivation of Singles’ Day as a day of pampering and treating one’s self will be even more present this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

CL: It could definitely be more of a factor in people’s motivation to purchase this year. Consumers tend to reward themselves with higher price items, so with the travel bans instated this year, we’ve seen the purchase pivot to online even more, and therefore we may very likely see a dramatic increase in Singles’ Day revenue. The increased number of big brands available on Tmall this year may also be a factor.

GT: Chinese consumers do have emotional motivations for this carnival, for treating themselves at the end of this difficult year. Not surprisingly, we can also see that they are showing more interest in nutrition and sports products, which reflects how the pandemic has impacted spending habits. It will be interesting to see what products people gravitate to, and if this trend will continue or whether people will want something different.

Q: Alibaba expanded this year’s Singles’ Day to two events: Nov. 1-3 and the traditional Nov. 11. Do you think this strategy will ultimately boost or hurt sales in a market that has several other ecommerce shopping holidays?

GT: It’s only going to boost sales, in my opinion. It gives consumers more time to research and ultimately make their purchases.

CL: It’s not the first time the event has been expanded. I think the goal is to ultimately bring forward the day and introduce the “deposit” system to ease the pressure of warehouse logistics and inventory management, which has of course been a bit of a headache in previous years, and this year especially. The other thing to note is that this year, a lot of stores have excess inventory, so a longer discount period will help them increase sales.

Q: How are you seeing brands approach marketing for Singles’ Day this year? Are there any other nuances this year that are important to call out? 

CL: This year is a booming year of e-commerce live streaming, and we’ve seen more brands be more willing to adopt this approach. Live streaming is on 24/7 on Taobao, and the user base is still growing.

GT: I would agree, live streaming and short videos are the two huge themes for 2020. The pandemic encouraged Chinese users to spend more time on these channels, which create great opportunities for brands to get exposure and conversions.

Q: From what you know today, what’s different this year about Singles’ Days than in years’ past, if anything?

GT: There are four main differences this year that I like to break out into key themes:

  1. The New Scene: more content-based, interactive experiences
  2. The New Supply: brands are continuously providing more tailored products to stimulate conversion
  3. The New Audience: Generation Z is an unignorable force driving sales, and brands are starting to figure out how to cultivate loyal Gen Z audiences to increase Customer Lifetime Value
  4. The New Platforms: more media and more platforms are becoming important and are taking part, such as TikTok, Tencent (WeChat), Suning and more.

And Gloria Tang
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