Retail Marketers, Are You Ready for Singles’ Day?

November 6, 2018 Ginna Hall

On November 11, the world’s biggest online shopping event will celebrate its tenth anniversary. It’s not Prime Day, Black Friday or Cyber Monday. This 24-hour extravaganza outperforms those sales by a factor of ten.

Welcome to Singles' Day. Also known as “bare sticks holiday,” the event started in 1993 as a way for university students to celebrate their solo status. The date 11/11 was chosen because it resembles four solitary sticks.

In 2009, Alibaba and its founder, Jack Ma, transformed the day from an “anti-Valentine's Day” for Chinese singletons into a global shopping festival. Retailers in China have made billions of dollars ever since.

Last year, sales on this one day climbed to $25.3 billion, almost $6 billion more than the five-day U.S. buying spree that begins on Thanksgiving, runs through Black Friday and ends on Cyber Monday. Inc., a small player in China, started Prime Day in 2015 to drive the same type of shopping frenzy. But while Amazon generated $1.5 to $2 billion in Prime Day revenue, Alibaba made $5 billion in the first hour alone.

Singles Day Shopper

24-Hour Discount Event Connects Online and Offline

The annual event kicks off at midnight on November 11 and runs for 24 hours. Retailers offer steep discounts that are driven by the main Alibaba-owned platform, Tmall. This year, Alibaba will offer discounts on over 15 million products from more than 140,000 brands, including 60,000 international brands.

Millions of shoppers countdown the night before by watching a televised four-hour star-studded gala. Last year, when Pharrell Williams performed alongside Chinese celebrities, the show attracted over 400 million viewers – three times the number who watched this year’s Super Bowl.

Alibaba is playing an active role in the digitization of the retail industry. To manage the high volume of deliveries, the company has opened its first automated, robot-managed warehouse. The company has also launched a “New Retail” strategy, which seeks to integrate online and offline shopping experiences for consumers across a number of products and services.

To this end, Alibaba is partnering with 52 shopping malls to set up 60 pop-up stores across 12 cities in China. 100,000 stores will also become ‘smart stores’ with tech features ranging from facial recognition-powered payment solutions, scan-and-deliver O2O shopping feature and AR beauty tutorials.

While China’s mainland dominates sales, Alibaba is trying to make the event more global. That means getting foreign brands involved in selling to the Chinese. It’s also working to promote its English-language websites such as wholesaling platform In 2018, Singles’ Day will include AliExpress, which targets consumers abroad, and Lazada, its Southeast Asian operation.

Singles Day vs. Black Friday

Five Steps for Retailers

As retail becomes more global, both customers and competitors will emerge from new markets. While high-profile selling seasons such as Singles’ Day or Black Friday can make or break a brand’s financial performance for the entire year, consumers behave differently during these periods than they do at other times of the year.

With these critical shopping days just around the corner, here are five ways marketers use the power of analytics to prepare.

1, Optimize for Mobile

Increasingly, consumers use their smartphones, laptops and tablets to research and purchase goods. This year, according to Statista, mobile retail sales will climb to over 39% of U.S. retail e-commerce sales and over 63% of global retail e-commerce sales.

The use of multiple mobile devices for browsing and shopping is only expected to increase. The ability to track the consumer’s path to purchase across devices is essential for maximizing the effectiveness of your campaigns.

Having a unified, cross-device view of the consumer journey not only provides insight into how content and/or ads seen on one screen influences actions taken on the other, but enables you to measure the contribution of each of these touchpoints to an ultimate conversion, so you can optimize your advertising spend across devices for the highest return.

2. Account for Seasonality

Since seasonal factors such as holidays tend to drive a natural increase in sales, marketers often struggle to understand the incremental performance of their seasonal advertising in driving total sales, versus what part of those sales would have occurred regardless.

Often, media that touches consumers lower in the conversion funnel, but do not add incremental new sales, are often hugely over-credited by last-touch metrics. Media spending decisions are biased as a result.

By understanding which combinations of tactics truly drive incremental sales over and above the natural increase during these critical shopping days, marketers can greatly improve their decision-making.

3. Test Early and Often

During the holiday season, the amount of advertising “noise” can drown out the ability of a consumer to respond to a new message. The best time to stimulate incremental demand may be before or after – rather than during – the Black Friday-Cyber Monday period.

Your success depends on the ability to create an omni-channel experience that delivers the right marketing message, to the right person, in the right channel, and at the right time. Testing and assessing content, creative, messages, offers and channels, as well as understanding the time-lag effects on media, are more important than ever during this time.

By applying advanced measurement techniques, marketers can not only identify which creative and messaging variants will have the greatest impact, but can also get an accurate picture of the time lag at which certain marketing tactics produce conversions.

4. Take Aim at Online Ad Fraud

The holiday period is ripe for online advertising fraud, as bad actors look for their next big score. To neutralize the threat during the seasonal rush, marketers need to evaluate advertising effectiveness based on attributed and lower-funnel metrics such as revenue. Traditional metrics such as CPM and CPC are particularly susceptible and easily mimicked by fraudsters.

Only when marketers use more down-funnel metrics to measure advertising effectiveness can they ensure that real humans are interacting with their brand and their marketing dollars aren’t being wasted during the busy holiday season.

5. Understand how Offline Impacts Online (and Vice Versa)

The online/offline challenge also comes into play during the holiday period. For example, marketers need to think about how online advertising can help drive in-store traffic and conversions on Black Friday, and how people who purchased in-store on Black Friday can be motivated to go online and buy more when Cyber Monday rolls around.

By leveraging advanced measurement technology, marketers can ensure that their strategies across different channels complement each other during this critical selling period. These analytics can not only provide marketers with visibility into all the online touchpoints that contributed to a conversion, but also link those offline conversions with online stimulations.

When combined with insights about which messages, creatives, placements, and offers work for their desired audience, marketers can adjust their campaigns to optimize performance and maximize marketing effectiveness.

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