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Singles’ Day In 2021 Sees Emerging Trends in Chinese Retail Landscape

By 11 November, 2021June 30th, 2023No Comments

Young Chinese woman shopping online in a cafe

The world’s biggest online shopping day, Chinese Singles’ Day, is coming closer. The shopping season has witnessed significant sales rise every year since its first celebration. Singles’ Day in 2021 will likely be no less impressive, as domestic and international demands grow and leading retailers bring further innovative sales strategies.

Singles’ Day is an unofficial Chinese holiday that turned into a massive shopping season by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba on November 11, 2009. Over the years, what used to be a one-day event transformed into a month-long bargain-hunting frenzy with pre-event promotions starting as early as October 17.

In 2020, over 250,000 brands (of which 31,000 were from overseas), 5 million online retailers, and 800 million consumers participated throughout the shopping festival. Despite the ongoing COVID pandemic, Singles’ Days sales reached record-breaking amounts. In 2020, Gross Merchandise Value (GMV) during the whole running period of Singles’ Day promotions was 860 billion CNY (US$133 billion), almost double that in 2019. US’s largest shopping weekend, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, fades in comparison to Singles’ Day.

Graph showing China Singles' Day GMV vs. USA Black Friday

2021’s Singles’ Day has been equally promising. Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. kicked off its promotions for the annual Singles’ Day shopping festival on October 20. Alibaba’s subsidiary, Taobao, experienced a 20-minute system crash on the day, attributed to heavy traffic generated by “overenthusiastic” consumers. China’s top live streaming salesman, Li Jiaqi, sold goods worth US$1.9 billion on Taobao’s marketplace on the day. Another top live-streamer, Viya, sold about US$1.25 billion worth of goods in a show that lasted 14 hours.

Emerging Trends in Chinese Singles’ Day

According to Bain & Company’s recent survey of 3,000 Singles’ Day shoppers in 2020, 95% of the group stated their intention to participate in the event again in 2021 while over 50% said they were planning to spend more than last year. Only 8% said they were planning on reducing their spending level. The average expected expenditure during the festival per customer is US$329, where women are more likely to spend more than men.

Increasing Participation in Lower-Tier Cities

In recent years, there has been a strong e-commerce penetration rate of lower-tier cities in China, which are expected to deliver a 34% GAGR during 2019-2021F, according to DBS Asian Insights. Tier 3 cities and below are expected to account for 43% of China’s e-commerce retail GMV in 2021F, up from 38% in 2019. The main drivers for this growth are the rising rate of online penetration and increasing consumption power.

Graph showing China E-commerce Retail GMV Breakdown

Global Trends in Singles’ Day

Data from advertising company Criteo show a 600% increase in sales in Malaysia on November 11, 2020, compared to the month before, while Thailand reaped more than a 300% increase in sales. The whole Southeast Asia region recorded a spike in sales growth on the day. Australia has its own shopping event, Click Frenzy, which happens one day before Singles’ Day. The sales growth on Singles’ Day 2020 in Australia was close to that of Click Frenzy with a 46% increase over the average of October. LATAM countries also witnessed significant sales growth on Singles’ Day. Sales rose by 127% in Mexico and 49% in Brazil on November 11, 2020.

Graph showing November 11 sales spikes worldwide

The event also had a strong foothold in European countries where sales increased by 89% in Norway, 68% in Italy, and 43% in Germany during the season. E-commerce giant Alibaba is investing further in Europe, competing with Amazon on the same ground. According to Euromonitor International, Alibaba was among the top three online sellers of consumer goods in eastern Europe in 2020. In western Europe, Amazon is the top seller, yet its market share remained at 19.3% in 2020, showing no growth during the pandemic. On the other hand, Alibaba’s market share increased to 2.9%, marking a 2% increase from 2019. Riding on the growth, different business units of Alibaba have announced their expansion into Europe during the weeks leading up to the Singles’ Day shopping festival.

Graph showing November 11 sales spikes in Europe

Singles’ Day marks the growing importance of Chinese e-commerce in the retail landscape nationally and globally. Beyond its enormous market size and super-fast growth, China’s e-commerce is powering retailing innovations, digital marketing, and cross-border e-commerce. The once unofficial holiday is now full of domestic and international sales opportunities for interested retailers.

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