How North American retailers can start preparing for Singles’ Day 2018

Experts say inventory planning, a successful mobile strategy and video content are all key to capitalizing on the largest online shopping day of the year.

by Azoya

November 16th, 2017; Internet Retailer

China’s Singles’ Day online sales event, held every year on Nov. 11 and by far the biggest online shopping day in the world, is having a growing impact on international e-commerce.

“International brands came out in a much bigger way this year than in any past year,” says Nathan Isaacson, global senior manager of e-commerce for athletic footwear manufacturer New Balance, which has been participating in Singles’ Day since 2011. “This year we saw a level of participation, competition and dynamic deal offering that was unprecedented.”

Singles’ Day this year generated $38.23 billion in total sales, with almost 70% of that on Alibaba Group’s  Tmall, Taobao and AliExpress marketplaces and more than 16% on rival Singles’ Day sales this year grew 43% compered to $26.64 billion sold online on the day last year. $38.23 billion is more than 5.5 times the online sales of Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2016 combined in the U.S.

Not only were overall sales up, so was the number of international brands selling in China on Singles’ Day.

Alibaba reports that 60,000 international brands took part in the 11/11 event this year, up from 11,000 in 2016 and 5,000 in 2015. Alibaba does not break down overall sales by country, but said the U.S. was one of the top countries selling into China on the holiday.


Social and mobile strategy

Don Zhao, founder of Chinese cross-border e-commerce service provider Azoya Group, says a retailer must be savvy on mobile and social media. Alibaba reports that mobile accounted for 90% of total sales on Singles’ Day, compared with 82% last year.

“In China, mobile commerce is intertwined with social media, such as Weibo and WeChat, Youku &

Tudou,” he says. “[Retailers need to] create and deliver dynamic campaigns across social networks, use audio and video content, and HTML5 games to make your marketing interactive and engaging to encourage customers to shop.” HTML5 refers to a type of programming language, and games built with it work on many kinds of devices, such as smartphones, tablets, PCs and smart TVs.

Zhao cites cosmetics retailer Feelunique as an example of a retailer that offered a particularly effective game.

“It was being promoted through Feelunique’s WeChat and Weibo account, it can be viewed and interacted with on a desktop computer, tablets and mobile phones,” he says. “Feelunique’s social media followers can pick a color from different licksticks to color the model’s lips in 10s. Once completed the user will gain a coupon to purchase lipstick from Feelunique. This stimulates consumer to visit the company’s official website and purchase.”

Marketing programming for Singles’ Day is only one part of the equation, however.

Zhao says U.S. retailers and brands looking to make a splash on Singles’ Day 2018 need to position inventory and work with their cross-border e-commerce providers well ahead of time to make sure they are prepared for a drastic spike in web traffic and sales.

“Communicating with suppliers and carriers at least eight weeks in advance can greatly reduce the risk of inadequate stock volume and delayed shipments,” Zhao says. “Canceling or delaying orders due to product shortages or insufficient fulfillment resources could cause customers to feel dissatisfied by the shopping experience, which could damage your brand image.”

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