Brands gear up for marketing mayhem as record sales tipped for Singles Day shopping bonanza

China’s Singles Day shopping bonanza is more important for brands than Chinese New Year, with Saturday’s event set to be the largest yet, agencies have said.

And far from the Alibaba-inspired occasion being limited to one day, brands are essentially using it as a two-month opportunity to engage with customers and drive sales.

Singles Day, which takes place on November 11 each year – or 11.11 as it is written – was created as the antithesis to Valentine’s Day and last year generated sales of $18b. Brands are gearing up for record sales in 2017.

Mathias Chaillou, Greater China chief executive of Publicis-owned Performics, said consumers and brands have the retail festival “pinned down in their agendas”.

“When pre-sales opened on the October 20 at midnight, we saw consumers running to their shopping carts and favourite stores to purchase immediately,” he said. “Advertisers have anticipated that and, in fact, many brands started investing and activating their 11.11 strategies weeks before the official launch.

“The level of planning for 11.11 keeps getting more comprehensive and granular every year: budgets, SKU, promotional messages and commercial offers, content. All marketing levers are adapted and customized for Singles’ day.”

For Performics clients, 11.11 “constitutes more concentrated focus than Chinese New Year campaigns”, he added.

PHD Singapore associate director of performance Khaled Matar, said Alibaba will have competition this year from online retailer

“It is 2017 is shaping up to be the largest 11/11 day yet. The two major giants in China, and, are gearing up for a sales battle of epic proportions,” he said. “Singles day has become a huge contributor to the Chinese economy, with online shoppers spending $18 billion last year. It has quickly allowed retailers to establish a new consumption trend, turning an ordinary day into an extraordinary shopping event.

“This year, is looking to directly rival Alibaba, who has almost double the shoppers, by creating data sharing deals with some of China’s largest tech giants such as WeChat, Baidu and Toutiao.”

Matar said one of the key aspects of the festival is the way retail and entertainment have combined to create a “unique online ecosystem where shoppers are inspired to make purchases”.

Alibaba has looked to tap into the “retail as entertainment” theme by staging a fashion show streamed to millions of online shoppers who were able to make instant purchases of what they saw on the catwalk.

The retailer has also created almost 100,000 pop-up stores across China, using entertainment as a draw card.

But far from being a 24-hour event, Matar said it has essentially grown into an eight-week opportuniy for brands.

“Having a one-day event – especially one the size of 11/11 in China – is a major logistical challenge. While warehouse and shipping capabilities are drastically fortified for the big day, there is a peak capacity to what any company can handle logistically in 24 hours,” he said.

“In order to sustainably meet the demand being generated, brands have started to tease offers from 30 days ahead of 11/11 and continue sales through till 12/12, making the event a 2-month affair now.

“Last year saw a vast number of international brands, specifically fashion brands such as Victoria’s Secret and Macy’s entering the arena, a trend that is expected to continue. American brands in particular have realized the enormous potential of 11/11 in China, and are now vying for a piece of the pie.”

Ken Mandel, Publicis Media president of innovation and commerce Asia Pacific, said Alibaba has “effectively created another Christmas with Singles’ Day”. He added that its majority stake in Lazada has extended its reach beyond China.

“Through its majority stake in Lazada, they are extending the day outside of China with retailer traffic tending to spike for all e-commerce platforms – which means brands must take advantage of this yearly opportunity,” he said. “Singles’ Day is not only an online phenomenon as it extends to offline shopping, with Alibaba further pushing their O2O (online to offline) efforts.

“Retail has always been about seasonality and brands missing Singles’ Day would be like missing Chinese New Year.”

Asked whether it was getting for the even to be sustainable Chaillou said: “Consumer interest will likely not reduce future growth, but brands will need to think about the incentives they provide consumers. Over time, they might reduce those incentives, but right now the competition is fierce. If you don’t put forth a powerful incentive for consumer purchase, someone else will.”


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