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Singles Day kicks off, with new records inevitable

Alibaba’s giant digital shopping fest officially takes place Wednesday – although this year’s event has featured a 10-day lead in with deals and promotions aimed to ensure fresh records are set when the virtual registers open at midnight. 

Last year’s Singles Day – which nas now expanded to most online retailers around Asia and even beyond, achieved a new record of US$38.4 billion, with many of the deals, like cut-price new cars, lined up in advance and set to confirm at 12.01am. 

This year, Alibaba is promising 2 million new products ‘on shelf’, twice the number of last year – and 250 million brands. 

Pascal Martin, partner at OC&C Strategy Consultants, expects this year’s Singles Day will set another new gross merchandise revenue high, given the widespread migration of Chinese consumers online during the Covid-19 pandemic when many malls were shut for weeks across China. 

“Although the figures for foot traffic to malls has recovered a lot, it is still below last year’s level. With the event extending over 12 days (including the pre-sales period), this will probably include more product and service categories to its scope, and will most likely reach out deeper into lower-tier cities.”

Martin says Singles Day is a great opportunity for companies to launch a brand, or boost its awareness among a super-large audience. “And generally, brands that have been successful during Singles’ Day continue to perform well after the event during the rest of the year.”

He expects that Chinese domestic brands will benefit more than American brands given the ongoing US-China trade tensions.

“Every category is likely to see a boost in growth, but electronics, health and wellness may experience particularly high growth because they are easy to shop for from home. In general, as the festival’s audience expands to lower tier cities, there will be increased emphasis on value for money and relatively affordable products.”

Many more online retailers are joining the 11.11 festival each year, including Lazada, Shopee and retail brands themselves making it increasingly costly and difficult to stand out. 

“The bar is high with lots of creativity deployed in gamification, live-streaming, pre-order and instalment schemes, flash sales and exclusive product launches,” says Martin. “E-retailers must start planning long enough before the event, with a clear view on objectives, promotion mechanisms and how much will be invested for what purpose and results. And more importantly, making sure that inventory and logistics will be able to cope with the demand surge.”

Carousell’s own goal

In Singapore, local retail platform Carousell scored a marketing ‘own goal’ when it launched a publicity stunt on Orchard Road telling everyone it would not be participating in this year’s 11.11 event – helpfully reminding everyone that the event was on and they could shop their rivals’ sites. 

Carousell reminds shoppers its rivals will be online on 11.11 – but it won’t be joining them in.

In a linked Instagram campaign the company told customers: “We have amazing prices all year round”. 

“When 11.11 prices last all year, nobody misses out and everyone wins”.   

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