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Event marketing & the world’s biggest online shopfest: China Singles’ Day

By / / In Insight /
It takes place after Halloween and just before Black Friday/Cyber Monday; this major event marketing opportunity has taken off in China, with e-retailers battling to provide the best discount deals for the world’s largest audience – China Singles’ Day, 11/11, is a vast e-shopfest . . . here’s how it works:
event marketing

No sooner have the ghostly outfits of Halloween been packed away for another year than thoughts turn to other major marketing events in the run-up to Christmas.

In the western world, the massive Black Friday/Cyber Monday spendfest is looming and retailers are gearing up to deal with the surge of consumerism that post-Thanksgiving holiday creates – not just in the USA, but increasingly farther afield, as consumers bid to fill their Christmas stockings at knock-down prices.

But did you know there is another – even bigger – event before that? In China, Singles’ Day has become the ‘world’s biggest online event’.

Morphing far beyond its origins as a party and gift-buying time for young, single, university students, in 2009 e-commerce giant Alibaba took ownership of this November 11th event by trademarking it.

event marketing

The Global Web Index places the Chinese consumer at the top of the world chart for shopping online and, below, shows how e-retailers can reach consumers on Singles’ Day, 11/11.

And, as Doreen Wang (pictured below) – global head of BrandZ, Kantar Millward Brown – explains, it has since rocketed in popularity: “The magnitude of China Singles’ Day, driven by the engagement and passion of millions of consumers, is off the scale. In 2016, Chinese shoppers spent $17.8billion in 24 hours. That compares to $3.34billion for Black Friday and $3.45billion for Cyber Monday.”event marketing

And she added that this year’s event promises to be even larger, with the Chinese government getting involved in polishing the customer experience: “A champion of innovation and all things e-commerce, the government is backing the event. After last year’s Singles’ Day, the Minister of Commerce publicly promised State Council support for e-commerce innovation and online-to-offline integration, so that the customer experience is seamless.

“China is also committed to leading the field of online finance as the country moves from cash to mobile payments. (Figures from GroupM’s E-Commerce Insights for last year’s event showed that mobile purchases already accounted for 82% of revenue.)”event marketing

Online event marketing tills ring out

Wang said brands are battling with their competitors to do the best business: “This year, more e-commerce players are jostling for position. Brands have prepared early, many with their eye on levelling the playing field with Alibaba. has entered into a traffic-sharing deal with TenCent and a partnership with Walmart, while social and gaming platforms have integrated to support Singles’ Day.

“While the virtual tills never stop ringing during the greatest e-commerce discount festival on earth, retailers face a difficult balancing act. Singles’ Day is perceived as a great initiative for brands to drive up penetration as well as providing good opportunities for new and start-up brands.

“For example, last year Uniqlo hit $20 million sales within two minutes and, over the course of the event, local snack brand Three Squirrels reached $100 million in sales.”

BrandZ has produced an infographic (see below), showing the top 100 most valuable Chinese brands, and this video:

event marketing

BrandZ’s report into the Top 100 most valuable Chinese brands is available here.

Reaping the rewards of event marketing, long-term

But what about repeat purchases, brand love, the customer relationship? In the midst of the Singles’ Day ‘double-eleven’ buying frenzy – held on the 11th day of the 11th month – loyalty is at the back of the queue; consumers are only interested in discount deals and Chinese e-commerce players must provide them.

Wang concluded: “To reap long-term rewards requires that they embrace the global reach afforded by the phenomenon that China Singles’ Day has become. At the same time, they need strong digital CRM systems so that customer loyalty programmes kick in after the event, as well as robust omni-channel integration strategies, to optimise the significant role played by offline channels in China.

“This must be reinforced with a focus on purpose, innovation and delivering a unique brand experience to consumers so that shoppers select their brand over a competitor’s, regardless of whether the price is discounted.” 

The message is clear – e-retailers must balance the buying frenzy that is Singles’ Day with customer loyalty programmes that will support a relationship going forward . . . and without the discounts!

Sally Hooton
Author: Sally Hooton
Editor at The GMA |

Trained as a journalist from the age of 18 and enjoying a long career in regional newspaper reporting and editing, Sally Hooton joined DMI (Direct Marketing International) magazine as editor in 2001. DMI then morphed into The GMA, taking her with it!

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