Make a wish at 11:11 on 11/11 for the biggest global retail event, ever! Nicknamed ‘Singles Day’, as a Valentine’s Day counter-holiday, the 11/11 sale is one of the most looked-forward-to events in China. Started by none other than the world’s leading online marketplace, Alibaba, Singles Day enjoyed bigger profits and numbers as more customers ended up staying home during the pandemic. 

How did Singles Day 2021 match up to previous 11/11 sale days? This year’s  

gross merchandise volume (GMV) hit $84.5 billion, according to an article by CNN. The mind-boggling figure shows a slight increase compared to 11/11/2020, at a growth rate of 8%. Apparently, Beijing’s clampdown on tech affected revenues slightly, but Alibaba’s Jack Ma is taking notes to ensure an even better turnout for the following year.  

The New Rule of the Game 

Being fast may not be a synonym for being perfect 

During the 2021 Double 11 shopping frenzy, Alibaba had launched a “Metaverse Art Exhibition” on its Tmall and Taobao mobile app. The exhibition comprised eight limited collections as non-fungible tokens (NFTs) from acclaimed brands, such as Burberry and Kiehls. The idea was to offer customers a digital collection or NFT whenever they purchased a physical product like a Burberry scarf. Then there was the “Metaverse symphony”. The idea behind all such initiatives was to test the waters on Single’s Day by launching something new. Double 11 worked like a test bed for brands like Alibaba. 

Loyalty is the new buzzword  

Boosting short-term sales and acquiring new customers overnight is gradually becoming a thing of the past. This Single’s Day brands like Alibaba and JD were more focused on long-term goals such as customer lifetime value and Net Promoter Score. Mature brands differentiated this Single’s Day with exclusiveness instead of discounts. Such steps would help retailers throughout the year and not only on the biggest days in the global retail calendar. 

Sustainable commerce  

Consumers today are more eco-conscious. Hence, brands are putting all their attention on green consumption. In such an effort, Tmall offered $15.7 million worth of green shopping vouchers on Single’s Day 2021. Also, their logistics partner has promised to introduce package recycling across 60,000 post pickup points and expects to recycle around 70% of its handled package. 

Alternative finance options 

Since brands today are keener on maximum inclusion; 2021 Double 11 saw a raging growth of alternative financing options commonly known as ‘balance payers.’ The aim is to attract new customers by giving them payment flexibility. In this scheme, buyers have to pay some installments ahead of Single’s Day and they have to pay the remaining balance later. The concept is like ‘Buy Now, Pay Later’, which is quite common in the western world. 

Why being single matters 

Although Singles Day started out in China, it’s slowly gaining momentum across Asia Pacific, making it a viable region for ecommerce businesses to promote sales at. It’s even made its way across to the UK and the US. And global statistics point towards 11/11 November sales becoming a worldwide phenomenon.  

Currently, ecommerce merchants would be wise to invest in the Asia Pacific market, where disposable income is growing, and customers are looking for better deals and improved products. China did bring “Made in China” to the world, but customers in China look towards designer brands and trending products at better prices.  

One at a time  

Ecommerce brands can jump in on the fun, one by one. As with all fruitful sales campaigns, it’s wise to join after creating a strategy. Discounts alone don’t entice and retain customers, surprisingly. A multipronged customer experience is much more important than a flat 50%. This goes beyond sales alone and focuses on other aspects of online shopping experiences. As always, the mantra is to retain customers, and not just lure them in. Here are some things that ecommerce brands can keep in mind when planning for their sales days in the coming year: 

Loyalty  

Sure, a good sale brings the customers in, but is it the only way to celebrate Singles Day? A Forbes article shares that discounts aren’t the only facets to include in a Singles Day sales campaign. Established brands eschew discounts in favor of “exclusivity rather than discounting, rewarding the most loyal customers with member-exclusive promotions and offering repurchase coupons”. While newer and younger brands bank on discounts, older brands that have been around for years know that a good mix of customer loyalty and sales makes for a great customer experience 

Discounts   

Is it any surprise that sales attract the largest number of customers? We all love a great bargain, which is a great thing for ecommerce brands to incorporate in their Singles Day sales. Chinese companies shares in the US jumped up by 5%, the highest since October 7, 2021, a Bloomberg report on the 11/11 sale finds.  

Online shopping is enjoying a resurgence as more customers are spending longer periods at home. It’s imperative that retailers make hay while the sun shines, as the world slowly starts easing into a new normal. Once things have settled down globally, online shopping may see a temporary lull while customers go back to work full time and learn how to adjust to a changed world.  

Diversity  

Singles aren’t just young Gen Z looking for the latest oversized sweaters for their lit fit! Senior citizens need to be included too, because a Forrester report states that the pandemic helped senior citizens shop online easily. This “new shopping habit is likely to stay” it seems. Forrester data also notes that nearly ¾ of consumers ages 65 and older in China will be shopping more online.  

Making a wish come true for retailers 

As retail experiences change to keep up with the times, and with discerning customer tastes, ecommerce merchants will need to step up their game. Retailers can look towards incorporating personalized shopping experiences to customers, probably integrate an omnichannel shopping experience for them, and maybe even align with Facebook’s MetaVerse?  

The (online shopping) world is changing, and being improved upon every single day. Singles Day is here to stay, and retailers can enjoy spikes in revenues, profits, and sales on 11/11.

Jitender Guliani