What Can Retailers Learn from This Year’s China Singles’ Day?

11 November was the biggest shopping day in the world: China Singles’ Day. This year’s sales amounted to USD$25.3bn (£19bn) according to Alibaba – USD$7.5bn (£5.66bn) more than in 2016. The event is getting bigger and bigger each year. So, with Black Friday and Cyber Monday around the corner, Abi Jacks, director of marketing, UK at Rakuten Marketing, writing exclusively for RetailTechNews, asks what retailers can learn from China Singles’ Day, in order to make these other discount days a shopping success.

The value of cross-border commerce

It’s important to note that 27% of all sales made on Singles’ Day in 2016 were international, amounting to over USD$4.8bn (£3.63bn). Chinese consumers are increasingly sophisticated about foreign brands; and the foreign brands are getting better every day in connecting with Chinese consumers.

Chinese consumers have developed ways to shop with international retailers, regardless of whether the brand has developed the technologies to ship to their region. These include shopping trips abroad, personal shopping services, and freight forwarding. A record number of Chinese tourists have visited London in 2017 with the purpose to shop. Chinese tourism is worth nearly £500m to the UK, with the average holiday lasting 10 days and each tourist spending an average of £2,688.

As we turn our attention to Cyber Week, UK brands should think globally; they’re missing out on a huge opportunity otherwise. The power of cross-border commerce means it’s easier than ever to facilitate international sales; while working with publishers and influencers in the local market allows brands to test the water with their products. They can use their audiences to gauge reaction.

‘Brand Britain’ 

The reason these peak shopping days are growing in international popularity is because the British pound has dropped in value and so consumers can purchase luxury products in the UK market for less than they would at home. There has also been a rise in popularity and interest in British culture, particularly in the US and China, because of social media, the internet, and popular televisions series, such as Sherlock and The Crown.

‘Brand Britain’ is driving shoppers to look for discounts from UK retailers; Topshop, for example, saw a 900% increase in sales on China Singles’ Day. If brands target the international market during Cyber Week they could see equal success. They need to celebrate Brand Britain and emphasise the value of their luxury products to appeal to shoppers across the world.

Retarget those research-driven shoppers 

Rakuten Marketing sees within its network that visits from Chinese consumers increase steadily in the lead up to Singles’ Day, but conversions aren’t made until the day itself. Consumers are increasingly researching purchases ahead of peak discount days in order to decide which products to buy. They are not afraid to move from site to site in order to find the product for the best price.

Brands need to carefully plan their retargeting efforts, reminding shoppers of a product they have expressed interest in and highlighting when it has been reduced as part of Cyber Week in order to move the shopper down the funnel towards conversion. Only through tailored communications will they be able to stand out from the competition.

Use discounts to drive longer term loyalty

Another way to stand out from the competition is through customer experience. Shoppers want to be able to depend on customer service when they purchase online. For example, they are likely to pay a higher price if they are confident delivery will be straightforward from a trusted brand. Retailers need to ensure that they have a single customer view of shoppers’ journeys in order to ensure that once they’ve delivered a great discount they follow up beyond the buy to drive loyalty and encourage return visits at other times in the year.

Ultimately, the success of Singles’ Day globally should prepare retailers for an international outlook on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, too. There is a unique opportunity for advertisers to engage and tap into shoppers looking to purchase; and added to that the appeal of British brands means retailers here have a chance to expand their customer base. Through smart adoption of tailored Black Friday and Cyber Monday campaigns, great customer experiences, and by ensuring they remain front of mind, UK marketers can reap the rewards of these hugely influential discount days in order to break into new markets.