Gearing up for the largest ecommerce event of the year: China’s Single’s Day

Consumers in the UK, US and Europe may be looking forward to picking up discounted goods in the run up to Christmas in the Black Friday holiday sales in late November. But many would have no idea that the largest ecommerce event on the planet is happening across the world.

11 November is China’s Single’s Day. Spearheaded by ecommerce giant Alibaba, the holiday began as an ‘anti-Valentine’s Day’ in 2009, the event has grown into a global online shopping extravaganza.

“In the UK and US, Black Friday has grown to dominate the retail calendar, but nothing compares to China’s equivalent,” said Hugh Fletcher, Global head of Consultancy and Innovation, Salmon.

For 24 hours, consumers can buy goods at highly discounted prices from a variety of companies through the Alibaba-owned platform. The event is bigger than black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.

“Each year, Singles Day is bigger and more grandiose than the last,” said Fletcher. “When it started back in 2009, it generated just $8.6m in sales, but in 2016 this figure reached $17.8bn; 18 times larger than last year’s Prime Day. What’s clear is that Singles Day, as well as Black Friday, offers a multitude of opportunities for retailers to generate sales and customers, but only if they prepare for it properly.

Alibaba says this year will see over 15 million products available from over 140,000 brands, including 60,000 international brands.

Huge opportunities

Alibaba founder Jack Ma told CNN in 2016 that the plan is to make Single’s Day a global event. With so many potential Chinese consumers eager to make purchases, it would seem likely that retailers in the UK will begin taking increasing notice of the event.

Really cracking into the market will, however, require making some changes to make it easier for Chinese consumers to purchase goods.

Nir Debbi, CMO and Co-founder of Global-e, said:

“Our research found that just 26% of UK retailers offer Chinese shoppers the ability to pay in Yuan. This means that in many cases retailers are putting the onus on shoppers to estimate the cost themselves and this can often deter shoppers from making a purchase or becoming a repeat customer.

“Almost 80% of Chinese shoppers prefer to purchase using their local payment method. Accepting leading Chinese payment methods, such as Alipay and WeChat, and giving shoppers the ability to pay any taxes of customs at the checkout so they are not hit with an unexpected bill at a later date are crucial steps for online retailers looking to sell to China.”

Even retailers who do not participate directly in these huge ecommerce events can still benefit from them, especially as they become an ever-more prominent figure of the commercial calendar.

“Even those that don’t want to participate need to be ready for the influx of customers that they are likely to receive both online and instore, as consumers will be in a mood to shop,” added Fletcher.

“The retailers who ‘own’ events like Singles Day and Black Friday, capitalising on the customers’ need to grab a bargain, are the ones that will reap the financial and loyalty successes that will surely come with it.”

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