Falling on the 11th November, Singles’ Day has fast become the biggest shopping day in the world. Last year, a record-breaking $17.8 billion of sales were made during Singles’ Day which was up from $14.3 billion last year. To put this in perspective, online sales in just one day in China exceeded Brazil’s total projected e-commerce sales for all of 2016.

The sheer scale of the market, combined with Chinese consumers’ increasing appetite for British goods, has opened up a significant new sales avenue for UK retailers who opt into this multi-million-pound shopping event. In light of this, we have put together this blog post to provide some insight into why British retailers should be taking advantage of this key shopping day:

What is Singles’ Day?

Singles’ Day originated from China and started as an ‘anti-valentine’s’ celebration for single people back in the 1990s. Every year, it’s celebrated on the 11th November (11/11) as the ones represent single people.

In 2009, Chinese ecommerce giant, Alibaba, started to capitalise on the event by launching its ‘Double 11’ deals. Since then, other retailers have followed suit and the event has evolved from a national celebration of single status to a global shopping event. The day is now promoted as an occasion to treat yourself to a gift, regardless of your single status.

What is the opportunity for UK advertisers?

The evolution of Singles’ Day from anti-valentine’s day to a shopping holiday has seen it turn into a high growth seasonal opportunity which is growing every year. In 2016, more than, 40,000 merchants globally participated in Singles’ Day, which drove more than $17.8bn (£14.2bn) in 24 hours with sales increasing almost 25% YoY.

Within our UK network, we have seen a significant appetite for high-end luxury products, apparel, and accessories and toys during Singles’ Day 2016 with department stores, travel and home improvements seeing an average AOV increase of 117% YoY.

The decreasing value of British pound means that Chinese shoppers are increasingly looking to shop from UK retailers – especially when it comes to luxury products which are priced higher in China. Across the Rakuten Marketing Affiliate Network, we have seen a correlation in the between lower GBP and UK growth in sales in China over the past 12 months as demonstrated by the graph below:

What are the benefits of taking part?

Build brand awareness and reaching new customers

Singles’ Day presents a unique opportunity for advertisers to engage and tap into an affluent consumer in Asia Pacific (APAC) and also within the UK. Running a unique discount code during this time can provide an incremental sales lift to a brand both during Singles’ Day and thereafter as you can continue to engage and market to these new audiences.

Take control of your brand and product

Brands that don’t offer any form of official distribution for online sales will continue to have their online presence and brand equity hijacked by third-party sellers. Recent research by L2 found that luxury brands can be easily found online in China whether they choose to be or not. We recommend you review what APAC exposure your products may have which you are not tracking. The benefit of selling through the affiliate channel means you have greater control over the content and merchandise available.

You don’t need to ship to China

An increasing appetite for UK products from Chinese consumers has meant they have developed innovative ways to shop with international merchants regardless of whether the brand has developed the technologies to ship to their region. These include shopping trips abroad, personal shopping and freight forwarding. You can read more about these methods in detail here.

Low Return Rates

As Chinese consumers know they will need to return items through freight-forwarders at their own expense, they are likely to have thoroughly researched and committed to their purchase.

Publishers do the hard work

Working through the affiliate channel means trailing an offer is risk-free as you only pay on the sales that you make. Publishers will do the leg work to engage consumers through a digital landscape differs greatly from ours. Within our network, we have found that the best performing publisher models during Singles’ Day are as follows:

  • Shopping & comparison which drove 31% of sales
  • Cashback & loyalty sites which drove 23% of sales
  • Sub-networks which drove 20% of sales

Activate the Chinese diaspora

As well as targeting consumers in the APAC region, you should also look to Asian consumers within the UK. The Asian ethnic group is second largest in the UK, including more than 300,000 non-EU international students. The devaluation of the British pound and a simpler Visa system has led to a record number of Chinese tourists coming to London in 2017 with the purpose to shop. Chinese tourism is worth nearly £500 million to the UK, with the average holiday lasting 10 days and each tourist spending an average of £2,688.

How to take advantage of Singles’ Day 2017

Plan well in advance

Advertisers looking to take advantage of Singles’ Day this year, need to start planning now to reap the results. You should communicate your plans for Singles’ Day to key publishers in good time, so promotions can be promoted via dedicated content such as a blog post, newsletter or throughout the event via social media.

Offer the best discount that you can afford

We recommend running an exclusive offer that’s the same caliber as a Black Friday level offer. Strong deals are what attract consumers to make a purchase on Singles’ Day – especially when there may be high shipping costs associated with a purchase.

Choose your discount carefully

When choosing a promotional discount – there are certain factors you should take into account. The number four signifies death so discounts such as 40% and 44% should be avoided. However, the number eight signifies good fortune so it could be beneficial to factor that into your promotions. You could also consider running a vanity offer such as 11%, 22% and so on, to coincide with the theme of the event. Colours such as gold and red also have positive connotations and are often used in promotional events in the APAC market.

Timing is key

Ideally, the offer should run for the duration of 11/11, taking into account the different shopping time zones. Across our network, in the four days leading up to Singles’ Day we have seen an increase in Chinese click volumes coming from Chinese IP addresses, but a relatively low conversion rate until the day itself. We believe that Chinese shoppers are making informed purchases and waiting to see which retailer will be stocking their favorite products during the event.

Site wide promotions 

If exclusive offers are a bit trickier to run on the day, we still recommend a site wide promotion that could potentially be distributed to the wider affiliate channel. As a guideline, most Chinese retailers offer 50% off over this period. International advertisers can take advantage of this if they compete with these localised offers. In addition, offers such as ‘buy one, get one free’, gifts with purchase and free domestic shipping within the UK/Europe or US are always well received and can add additional value.

If you’d like to learn more about how you can benefit from a Singles’ Day promotion, please do get in touch with your Account Manager.