The e-commerce giant, which operates the Taobao, Tmall and Kaola shopping platforms, among others, said it wanted to give sellers hurt by Covid-19 more exposure and opportunity to reach consumers.
These extended timelines represent a new strategy this year, according to Forrester senior analyst Xiaofeng Wang.
“Brands and retailers are eager to recover from the impact of Covid-19 and will double down on their investment on Double 11 to boost sales,” she said.
Their promotions are also more varied and complex, according to Wang, with exclusive offers for preorder (with a deposit), members-only offers, time- or category-limited red packets and instalment payment options.
Not just China
Singles’ Day, which is sometimes called Double 11 because it occurs on 11.11, has been an unofficial holiday in China since the 1990s. It was conceived as an anti-Valentine’s Day, when young people not in relationships would treat themselves to gifts, but after Alibaba held the first Singles’ Day sale in 2009, it became a major shopping event.
Over the years, it has grown into the world’s biggest shopping day, surpassing Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the US by a significant margin. And lately, it has started to catch on outside of China.
“Double 11 has become well-known among consumers, retailers and brands across Asia Pacific, especially in Southeast Asia,” Wang said. “Major marketplaces like Lazada, Shopee and Tokopedia have been investing in Double 11 for multiple years.”
Shopee COO Terence Pang told Inside Retail the e-commerce company is looking forward to a “strong performance” from Singles’ Day this year. Shopee sells online in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.
“We see three key growth drivers for 11.11 this year,” Pang said, citing increased e-commerce uptake among Southeast Asian consumers, more local businesses and entrepreneurs using digital platforms and major brands focusing on their online channels in the region.
“The global pandemic has led to the rise of new consumer habits, and these habits have persisted into the year-end shopping season,” he said.
Awareness skews younger
In countries like Australia and New Zealand, retailers and brands that target Chinese consumers have participated in Singles’ Day via cross-border e-commerce platforms like Alibaba’s Tmall Global for years.
Chemist Warehouse has one of the best performing stores on Tmall Global, and last year, it raked in over $20 million in the first three hours of the sale.
Some retailers have also held Singles’ Day sales in Australia and New Zealand, but they have been primarily targeted at Asian-Australians and tourists. When Superdry ANZ ran a local promotion last year, it advertised its discounts in English and Mandarin on Facebook, Instagram, WeChat and Weibo.
But lately, a new breed of ANZ retailers without a large Chinese customer base have started to co-opt the event as part of peak season more broadly.
Online surfwear retailer Surfstitch has been “playing with” Singles’ Day for the last two years, according to Richard Facioni, executive director of Alceon Group, which owns the business, and it has been getting “some reasonably good traction”.
“It wasn’t necessarily overseas students or customers, it was Australian consumers, and particularly younger consumers – Surfstitch does skew a little bit younger – who were aware of Singles’ Day,” Facioni said about the sale’s target audience.
A global phenomenon
However, the increasingly crowded promotional calendar has thrown a spanner in the works this year. Click Frenzy, a major Australian shopping event, is also scheduled for November 11, forcing businesses like Surfstitch to choose which sale to support.
“I guess you can segment your database and how your website presents, depending on who you’re targeting, but I think most people will just back one, and if you’re an Australian online retailer, you’re going to go for Click Frenzy because it’s the bigger of the two,” Facioni said.
“I think it’s going to take a bit of spend out of Singles’ Day this year from an Australian retailer perspective.”
Click Frenzy isn’t a concern in the US, though, and a growing number of brands and retailers in that market have started offering Singles’ Day discounts online. In 2019, they included Ralph Lauren, Rag & Bone, Club Monaco and Urban Outfitters.
Livia Wang, chief brand officer at Access Corporate Group, a global brand management company with 100 brands in the beauty, wellness and lifestyle sectors, confirmed that Singles’ Day isn’t just for China and Southeast Asia anymore.
“We are seeing the US, Europe, Russia, Brazil and other countries starting to introduce Singles’ Day special offers. In addition, more and more international brands are seeing opportunities and taking advantage of this event to reach consumers much faster,” she told Inside Retail.
“I won’t be at all surprised if Singles’ Day grows to be a global phenomenon in the near future.”
The key to success
Access Corporate Group is expecting to see an 80 per cent increase in GMV across its portfolio this Singles’ Day, as consumer spending bounces back worldwide and the company’s large network of influencers aligns with the growing focus on livestreaming.
“This year, more than ever is about truly connecting brands with consumers and providing consumers with unique experiences wherever they are. We do this by employing modern technologies and unique mobile features – livestreaming, interactive games, video marketing and digital storytelling,” Wang said.
“These approaches have long been deeply incorporated in our marketing and sales strategies and we will continue to evolve these in order to maintain the very close connections our brands have with our consumers.”
Forrester’s senior analyst agreed that livestreaming is the key to success on Singles’ Day, citing eye-popping past examples like the beauty brand Whoo generating RMB 100 million ($20.9 million) in GMV in six minutes.
“Because of Covid-19, brands and retailers have doubled down on e-commerce and livestreaming commerce to drive growth, and it will show strongly on Double 11 this year,” she said.
“Besides a staggering growth in livestreaming commerce GMV, we also expect more product categories and brands to adopt livestreaming, such as automotive, agriculture and even luxury.”