November 11th is the biggest shopping day in the world – China Singles Day. Abi Jacks, Director of Marketing at Rakuten Marketing UK looks at what this means for the UK and why should marketers care about it.
November 11th – it’s now the biggest shopping day in the world. In fact, last year $17.8 billion of sales were made on this day, known as China Singles’ Day, up from $14.3 billion in 2015. Cyber Monday and Black Friday online sales combined were actually just $6.37 billion in 2016, highlighting the huge spend Singles’ Day commands.
The phenomenon around Singles’ Day began when Alibaba started to offer shopping deals to celebrate the event, which originally had nothing to do with ecommerce. As a result of other retailers jumping on the event too it became a tradition for Chinese shoppers to purchase something for themselves on this day.
So is there an opportunity for UK brands to capitalise on this day, despite it being centred around a Chinese tradition?
The value of Britishness
The answer is yes. Firstly, there is appetite for British brands among Chinese consumers so they are willing to purchase from retailers here. The China-Britain Business Council (CBBC) suggested recently that this could be because of the success of popular TV Series like Downton Abbey and Sherlock, which has encouraged Chinese consumers’ interest in British culture. Secondly, the value of British pound at the moment means that Chinese shoppers can purchase luxury products for less than they can in China.
Carrying out these purchases is also easier. The internet means Chinese shoppers can access British brands and it’s easy to discover them. Recent research by L2 actually found that luxury brands can be found online in China whether they choose to be or not. If retailers don’t take care of how their products are being presented, they risk losing control and having their brand equity hijacked by third-party sellers.
Chinese consumers arrange shopping trips abroad, personal shopping services and freight forwarding in order to get their goods home. The fact that UK retailers don’t necessarily have to have the logistics set up to deliver to Chinese consumers proves the value of the British brand and the lengths these shoppers will go to buy UK goods. More and more Chinese tourists are visiting London to shop; in fact, Chinese tourists bring nearly £500 million to the UK, with the average holiday lasting 10 days and each tourist spending an average of £2,688.
Discounting and beyond
Black Friday built its success on discounting and Singles’ Day has done the same. However, increasingly, people now value quality over price with regard to their Singles’ Day purchases. When there are high delivery costs associated with buying the product, shoppers will think twice about purchasing unless the customer experience is as good as the discount.
Chinese shoppers are also considering the products they’re going to buy from before purchasing on Singles’ Day. Across our network, we tend to see an increase in click volumes coming from Chinese IP addresses in the four days before Singles’ Day. However we don’t see conversions until the day itself. This indicates that shoppers are researching brands and comparing the deals being offered so it’s essential that British retailers carry out brand building activity to drive shoppers to their store whilst they’re going through this discovery process.
Overall, the appetite for British brands among Chinese shoppers means there’s a clear opportunity for them to capitalise on Singles’ Day. However, it’s essential that marketers understand how they should present their products and brand to the Chinese population; they cannot use the same tactics that they do for Black Friday. For example, apps like WeChat and Weibo are more powerful than Facebook and Twitter. The level of spending on China Singles’ Day means it’s just a matter of time before more British retailers jump on this event and realise the power of the Chinese audience. However in order to do this successfully brands need to adapt their campaigns to celebrate their Britishness in a way that is culturally relevant to the Chinese community.
By Abi Jacks
Director of Marketing, UK
As Director Marketing, UK, Abi leads the marketing strategy for Rakuten Marketing in the UK. With over 15 years marketing experience in SaaS and Digital Marketing companies, Abi is focused on improving the digital marketing performance of brands in the Retail, Travel and Publishing mid-market. Before joining Rakuten Marketing Abi was on the DMA B2B Marketing Council and spent 6 years at marketing automation business Pure360 where she founded the Brighton Digital Marketing Festival and developed the email maturity model .