What Black Friday? Why Singles Day Matters

You think Black Friday is big? Well, Singles Day in China even bigger – by a long shot. And Singles Day 2020, which happened on November 11, set a sales record. Let’s take a closer look at Singles Day and why the 2020 event matters to U.S. retailers as the holiday shopping season hits its stride. 

What Is Singles Day?

Singles Day is an annual shopping holiday in China. Also known as Double 11 (because the event is held on November 11), Singles Day was originally conceived as a celebration of people who are not married. It has become the largest retail shopping day in the world – bigger than Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday events combined, according to Adobe Analytics. In recent years, global giant Alibaba has been responsible for elevating the importance and reach of Singles Day. That’s because Alibaba is so big and influential that retailers rely on the platform for Singles Day sales. In addition, by hosting Singles Day on its platform, Alibaba has made Singles Day a bonanza for ecommerce.

Why Does Singles Day 2020 Matter?

Alibaba set a new record for Singles Day sales of $74 billion, with more than 250,000 brands and 800 million consumers participating. All eyes were on Singles Day 2020 for these reasons:

  • The Singles Day results are a strong barometer of consumer confidence during the COVID-19 pandemic. And the success of Singles Day says consumers in the world’s largest retail market are confident and willing to spend. Although China is a different market than the United States, the success of Singles Day could be another positive sign for U.S. retailers gearing up for the 2020 holiday season. This is especially noteworthy given the fact that in October, Amazon Prime Day sales surpassed 2019 Prime Day totals, setting a record, reflecting an overall growth in U.S. retail sales
  • Singles Day 2020 underscores just how big online retail is getting especially during the pandemic. As Alibaba co-founder and Executive Vice Chairman Joe Tsai said on a livestream, “Businesses will have to deal with what happens when nobody comes into stores. I don’t think things will return to the normal brick and mortar world.” It’s an overstatement to say that no one will return to stores — people continue to visit brick-and-mortar stores in China as they do in the United States — but Singles Day demonstrates that the surge in online retail is a global phenomenon. As Nielsen reported in recent research, during the pandemic, 44% of global consumers said they were shopping online each week, with 23% reporting shopping online multiple times each week.
  • Singles Day may also create the template for holiday sales in the United States. In 2020, Alibaba celebrated Singles Day over a period of days, with some sales beginning as early as November 1. Extended Singles Day probably helped boost sales. This development is significant because retailers are adopting a similar strategy right now with Black Friday. Walmart, for example, started Black Friday sales in early November. Many other major retailers have also started Black Friday deals earlier than ever before, a trend in part due to the pandemic at hand but also the increase in ecommerce. If Singles Day is any indication, this strategy might pay off for U.S. retailers.
  • But Singles Day matters for an even bigger reason: it’s an experience. Retailers increasingly tap into the power of digital to engage with shoppers. For instance, retailers typically use livestreaming to sell their products – including video sessions with celebrities, industry professionals, or key opinion leaders who demonstrate products and answer consumers’ questions in real time. Singles Day 2020 was no different. More than 327,000 viewers watched as Zhao Daxi, a popular female livestreamer, tried on winter coats and discussed where to find them. Cartier hosted a livestreamed jewelry show, unveiling more than 400 timepieces and jewelry items. Cartier’s livestream, according to Alibaba, attracted 770,000 viewers in just two hours. Refrigerator seller Rongshen hosted a virtual 3D room where people could use a 360-degree view of a kitchen to envision how a refrigerator would look in a residence.Uncle Bud’s, which makes hemp and CBD topicals and lotions, featured a livestream hosted by retired NBA star and brand ambassador Magic Johnson. According to Coresight Research, the livestreaming market in China will bring in about $125 billion in sales this year, up from $63 billion in 2019. 

Questions for U.S. Retailers

Singles Day poses a number of questions for U.S. retailers:

It’s all about the experience. Always. If you’d like to learn more about how we can help your brand build digital experiences, contact Asher Wren to schedule a free consultation.