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Singles Day: The world’s largest online shopping event — now powered by livestreaming

For all the single people, did you know that there’s a holiday for you?

The 11.11 festival or Singles’ Day is celebrated in China and has become known as the largest online shopping event in the world. In 2021, China’s largest e-commerce giants, Alibaba and JD, hit a Singles’ Day sales record of $139 billion

By comparison, Alibaba’s Singles’ Day sales records alone exceeds Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales combined, two of the largest sales events in North America.

Chinese Singles Day sales vs Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales
Image via Statista

What is Singles’ Day?

The holiday falls on November 11 every year as the date 11/11 represents four singles standing together. 

Created in 1993 by a group of students in Nanjing University to celebrate being single, the event eventually spread through the university, and became widely recognized in China.

The Singles’ Day sales originally lasted for one day, but with the huge success of 11.11 in recent years, Alibaba extended the festival to start from late October until the 11th. This gives consumers more time to look for the items they want, place deposits during pre-sales, and secure purchases later at a discounted price.

Image via Alizila

How brands are embracing Singles’ Day

International brands are increasingly recognizing the potential success of Singles’ Day and are taking this opportunity to engage with Chinese consumers. However, it is important to note that Singles’ Day falls on significant holidays in Canada and USA — with Remembrance Day and Veterans Day. That’s why it is not as heavily advertised or celebrated in North America.  

During Singles’ Day 2021, more than 290,000 brands spanning multiple categories such as fashion, beauty, wellness, home, and electronics, participated.

In recent years, luxury brands have taken a leap into the e-commerce world.

Burberry Singles Day NFT
Image via Forbes

For the first time, Alibaba saw a record-high of more than 200 luxury brands participating in the festival via Tmall, which is Alibaba’s platform for high-end brands. 

That’s not all — brands such as Burberry and Coach created limited edition NFTs as part of Tmall’s Double 11 Metaverse Art Exhibition. Burberry launched 1,000 units of an interactive deer NFT which came with special edition scarves, listed for 2,900RMB ($453 each). They were sold out before the festival even started.

While special offers and discounts have always been the highlight of Singles’ Day, this festival would not have the success it has today without livestreaming

The power of livestreaming in China

Live commerce has dominated the retail industry in China, even beyond major shopping events such as Singles’ Day. According to a 2022 survey, 77% of Chinese consumers bought products during a livestream.

With the arrival of Alibaba’s Taobao Live in 2016, China’s live commerce market has grown rapidly within five years, and is expected to hit $423 billion in sales by 2022.

A livestream event is typically hosted by industry professionals or key opinion leaders (KOL) – otherwise known as social media influencers – who demonstrate the product and offer special deals, direct ‘buy’ links, and free gifts. Common platforms for livestreaming include WeChat, Weibo, Little Red Book, and Bilibili.

The back-and-forth interaction between consumers and influencers make livestreaming entertaining and unique – audiences respond through the chat function or reaction, and the KOL responds in real time. 

Live streaming is a significant driver for sales during Singles’ Day, and is extremely effective to boost customer engagement and sales. Alibaba’s Singles’ Day pre sales campaign generated $7.5 billion in total transactions within the first 30 minutes. 

Image via Alibaba Group Youtube

Beauty brands do particularly well on livestreams. For instance, Estee Lauder conducted a marathon 20-hour livestream with popular influencers, Viya Huang and Austin Li, that drove $28 million in sales and made them the top beauty pre-sale performer on Tmall.

While many brands in the US and Europe haven’t quite caught up with livestreaming, the ones that have are reaping the benefits.

Luxury brand, Diane von Furstenberg, reports that implementing livestreaming while engaging the Tmall audience has helped their brand grow significantly in China. China accounted for 20% of DVF’s global sales to 50% in just a few years.

DVF president and CEO Gabby Hirata shares: “Chinese customers crave immediate, authentic connection with brand owners and brand founders from [the] US and Europe.” 

But what about smaller brands looking to engage Chinese consumers?

Expanding into the Chinese market

There is a growing trend for niche brands and individual styles among audiences as well. Besides looking for discount offers, 36% of consumers also shop on Singles Day to support and explore new brands

Alibaba launched the Go Global 11.11 Pitch Fest for small and medium-sized brands to launch their products ahead of the 11.11 festival, and grow brand awareness among Chinese consumers.

In 2021, 18 brands from the U.S and U.K were selected to launch on Tmall and received marketing advice, tools, and resources. Each brand also received a dedicated livestream session ahead of 11.11 to help promote their products. 

Alibaba Group president Michael Evans adds, “China remains an incredibly important market for brands to find growth today but also for growth in the future.”

With Chinese consumer behaviour and programs such as the Go Global Pitch Fest, there is a clear opportunity for small and medium-sized businesses in the Chinese market.

So how can you utilize Singles’ Day in your marketing strategy to reach the Chinese audience? With more than a decade of experience working alongside English and Chinese brands and audiences, a marketing agency like Sageus Strategy + Digital can help you deliver strategies and messaging that resonate with cultural audiences.

Stay tuned for our next post.

With more than two decades of combined experiences working alongside global brands and organizations, Sageus Strategy + Digital focuses on getting to know your business, and help you connect with your audience.

Headquartered in Canada, and committed to making a global, cross-cultural, sustainable impact — we’re your one-stop firm for cultivation and growth, in all areas of branding and marketing. 

Connect with us at sageuscollective.com/connect and learn more about what we do! Stay tuned for our next blog post, and follow us on Instagram, LinkedIn, or Facebook — so you won’t miss out on any updates from our Sageus Strategy + Digital Team.

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Sageus Collective is a cultural leader in building digital platforms for creativity, growth, and connections. As one of its divisions, Sageus Strategy + Digital is a brand strategy and marketing agency connecting North American and Asian communities.

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