Three reasons U.S. retailers should embrace Singles Day

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Three reasons U.S. retailers should embrace Singles Day

By Dan Berthiaume - 10/25/2019
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There is no reason why the U.S. should miss out on the world’s biggest e-commerce event.

Invented as an ironic celebration of singlehood by Chinese college students in the 1990s, Singles Day has evolved into a 24-hour online sales extravaganza that leaves Prime Day in its dust. Spearheaded by Chinese e-commerce juggernaut Alibaba and observed every Nov. 11, Singles Day is estimated to have generated $31 billion for Alibaba in 2018. For comparison, Amazon is estimated to have earned about $5 billion during Prime Day 2019.

While Singles Day has been spreading throughout Asia and even into Eastern Europe, it is not a major event in the U.S. Here are three reasons U.S. retailers should embrace singlehood on Nov. 11.

Chinese consumers are here
Major U.S. retailers, including Walgreens and Neiman Marcus, accept Chinese mobile payment solution Alipay in select stores. Neiman Marcus also plans to conduct Alipay transactions online. These chains have a very practical reason for doing so.

There are more than 4 million Chinese travelers in the U.S. at any given time. This figure does not take into account Chinese nationals working or attending college in the U.S., or the millions of Americans of Chinese descent. A U.S. retailer that ran a Singles Day promotion would start out with a substantial base of customers who are familiar with, if not actively interested in, the holiday.

The ‘holidays’ ain’t what they used to be
One factor that may dissuade U.S. retailers from observing Singles Day is that Nov. 11 is close to Black Friday, and may cannibalize holiday sales. However, the “holiday season” is far less cut-and-dried than it used to be.

Holiday shopping is now a six-month season, according to a recent study by Bazaarvoice. Almost 20% of respondents reported having started their shopping as early as mid-summer, while 29% planned to start in early fall. 

By the time Nov. 11 rolls around, a lot of online consumers have already done some or all of their holiday shopping, and may be ready for another reason to make purchases. Online discount platform RetailMeNot has already partnered with major retailers including Amazon and Home Depot to launch its own early November retail holiday, “Cash Back Day.”

Early mover advantage
Of course, there is no guarantee that a U.S. e-tailer who launches a Singles Day promotion will have success. But if Singles Day does take off, history suggests it will gain traction quickly. When Prime Day launched four short years ago, only seven other retailers offered competing mid-July sales events. In 2019, more than 250 retailers were expected to join the fray.

Singles Day pioneers will gain the early mover advantage of cementing their brand in consumer minds as shopping destinations for the holiday. They will also have an edge on later-starting peers in obtaining behavior and purchase data and learning how to optimize their systems to handle Singles Day-specific surges in online traffic and transactions, as well as supply chain volume. 

And if your Singles Day promotion fizzles? Coca-Cola survived New Coke; you can survive this one.

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