Singles' Day, also known to some as 11.11, has gradually become as popular as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Last year, over 5.1 million online transactions were made in Southeast Asia between 1 October to 31 December, according to Criteo.
Retail sales peaked on 11 November 2016, with a 254% increase, while average online traffic on retail companies' websites jumped by 59% on the same day. Shoppers also began making purchases from as early as 7 November, resulting in a 29% increase in sales.
According to the latest Singles' Day statistics from Meltwater, Lazada topped the ranking of brand mentions between 4 November to 10 November 2017, accumulating a share of voice of 65.98%. Shopee (24.35%) and ShopBack (4.15%) were also among the top three.
In a statement to Marketing, Mimrah Mahmood, regional director, media solutions, Meltwater Asia Pacific, said that Singaporeans are increasingly taking their shopping experience online. This trend is spurred by the availability of mobile devices and mobile data that allow for shopping on the go.
"Brick-and-mortar retailers need to realise that the e-commerce trend presents a great opportunity for them to start thinking about the importance of a digital strategy, and leveraging technologies such as data analytics and social media to provide a holistic approach to the customer's buying journey and deliver more value," Mahmood said.
As for Lazada, its top three sources of mentions came from forums (35.6%), Facebook (35.34%) and Twitter (22.51%). Some of the trending themes for Lazada included "Lazada gift card", "Taobao/Lazada" and "Lazada Online Revolution". Meanwhile, Shopee received the most number of mentions on Facebook (57.45%), Twitter (24.82%) and blogs (7.09%).
"Leading up to Singles' Day 2017, we have seen Lazada emerge as the brand with top mentions with over 65% share of voice in Singapore, a strong indication of their brand visibility and marketing outreach efforts. It was also interesting to note that Qoo10 had barely gained any social media traction in comparison, and Amazon Prime's strategy to only start their marketing push today," he added.
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As the founder of the Singles' Day, Alibaba aims to be keep consumers constantly interested in the campaign by focusing on new ways of engaging with customers and using retail as entertainment. Known as "New Retail" strategies, Singles' Day now incorporates elements such as a VR shopping channel on Taobao's mobile app; "Catch the Tmall cat" AR game; live-streaming with over 600 international brands and real-time interactivity with over 7.4 billion customers during its 11.11 Countdown Gala Celebration.
Alibaba's spokesperson said that brand awareness through this day is also a priority for the company, having seen "tremendous" growth in China and the Asia Pacific region from 27 merchants in 2009 to more than 140,000 in 2017. In 2016, it garnered US$17.79 billion in sales on Singles' Day.
Separately, a spokesperson from Qoo10 told Marketing that the company hit a peak of SG$3.5 million during last year's Singles' Day and it is expecting at least a 20% growth this year. It began planning for Singles' Day a month ago, kicking off the year-end shopping sales and buzz in October during its 10.10 Shopping Evolution. The spokesperson added:
Our goal is to localise the year-end shopping to 10.10, which we can call our own, instead of 11.11 or Black Friday/Cyber Monday, which originated from China and US respectively.
"It's the first time this year that Qoo10 has ventured into offline events, bridging the gap between the online-offline experience for our merchants and customers," she said. She added that its merchandising specialists are continuously seeking new products and brands to work with, and that Triumph and American Tourister have also come on board for Singles' Day.
In the lead up to Singles' Day and in celebration of 10.10, Qoo10 held an event at Plaza Singapura targeted at digital products, using its e-payment channel Qpay to enable seamless and cashless payment transactions.
The company also launched MameGo!, a GPS-enabled mobile game similar to Pokemon Go!, which issues three Mameballs to Qoo10 shoppers daily. Shoppers can catch the Mamemons, which can be exchanged for discounts, coupons or Qpoints. According to the spokesperson, an average of 30,000 Mamemons were caught at Plaza Singapura during the event week.
Qoo10 continued the momentum with discounts, coupons, daily free giveaways and an event at Suntec City which runs until 12 November. Approximately 20 merchants are participating in the event, including LINE Friends, Kinohimitsu and CNP Laboratory. Qpay and MameGo! are also implemented to ensure a seamless online to offline experience for customers.
Qoo10 was not the only company that benefited from Singles' Day. Last year, ShopBack accumulated approximately SG$1.5 million in sales in Singapore, with a 37% increase in first visits and seven times more web traffic across desktop, mobile and tablet, as compared to usual periods.
Right next door, ShopBack Malaysia saw a sales of SG$972,000 during the annual event, accumulating 42% more first visits and six to seven times more web traffic. While Indonesia only garnered sales of SG$380,000, it saw the most first visits among the three countries (67%) and six times more web traffic.
"This year, we are expecting to at least double the amount of sales closed for merchants across the board," ShopBack's spokesperson said.
Also jumping on the Singles' Day hype is foodpanda. While Laura Kantor, head of marketing, foodpanda declined to comment on the expected return on investment for Singles' Day, its objectives for this event do not differ from any other campaign.
"Sales, loyalty, retention and branding are still our core drivers. With our recent rebranding, we are also focused on continuing to drive awareness of our brand new identity and app," Kantor said. As foodpanda's marketing efforts are planned quarterly, the company identified opportunities for Singles' Day around mid-August. This year, it partnered with Taobao for Singles' Day, allowing the first 100,000 customers to receive a RMB100 voucher in their delivery bag.
"This ensures we are not bombarding our customers with tactical offers and are leveraging on existing partnerships and campaigns," Kantor said.
New merchants, new customers
"We are always looking to add more merchants to Tmall and Taobao, especially as we see an increasing demand for quality products from overseas," Alibaba's spokesperson said. She added that accessibility is also a priority for Alibaba, with one of its showcases for Singles' Day this year being its "Buy Globally, Sell Globally" initiative. As such, Alibaba is bringing 100 Chinese brands overseas during the event, offering special promotions targeting over 100 million overseas Chinese consumers in Southeast Asia and worldwide.
This year, Alibaba also launched its sea freight shipping service, enabling Singaporean customers to easily purchase large items such as furniture, which previously would have been tough to do. "By consistently delivering a seamless and pleasant customer experience with a diverse range of products to choose from, accompanied by promotions, discounts and convenient shipping options, we are confident consumers will remain as excited about the yearly 11.11 Global Shopping Festival as we are," Alibaba's spokesperson added.
"New merchant partners always help keep consumers interested," ShopBack spokesperson's said, adding that Lazada, Qoo10 and Shopee have also partnered with ShopBack Singapore for the first time to offer discounts, promotions and cashback to consumers.
Just a marketing gimmick?
Xiaofeng Wang, senior analyst, Forrester, said that whether or not Singles' Day is seen as a marketing gimmick by consumers depends on whether they are able to obtain value from it.
"Consumers are concerned about things such as the discounts and promotions offered as compared to non-festive seasons, as well as product options, delivery speed and return policy," Wang said. She added that the overall shopping experience is also of concern to consumers, as they take interest in the how effective and enjoyable it is.
Wang also said that brands should plan for Singles' Day at least two to six months before the event, as there are many aspects that need to be considered. These include the type of products to be sold, marketing strategies, balancing between new customer acquisitions and loyal ones, as well as differentiating themselves among the competition.
Delivering a personalised and consistent great shopping experience will be the key to success for retailers.
"Ultimately how well brands and e-commerce players can benefit from this shopping festival will depend on the customer experience that they can provide. E-commerce players have been investing in data and analytics capabilities, logistics and payment services to be better prepared," Wang added.
Also weighing in on the issue is Andria Cheng, analyst and editor-at-large for eMarketer Retail, who said that the global marketing hype of Singles' Day will likely translate to record cross-border e-commerce demand.
"For new international brands eyeing the China market, this event will continue to mark Alibaba’s biggest pitch and showcase for them to get on board its platform and test the waters regarding Chinese consumer demand and promise. The fact that more than two-fifths of this year’s 140,000 brands at the shopping extravaganza come from outside of China speaks to the continued international hope and bet that Chinese consumers will pick up the slack left by many brands’ own slowing domestic growth," Cheng said.
Agencies also want a piece of the Singles' Day pie
This year, Publicis Media collaborated with Alibaba for its 2017 Double 11 Global Shopping Festival, with preparations beginning three months ago. As Alibaba's first agency partner of the Ali Uni-Marketing offering - a suite of marketing services that leverages data to enable more effective targeting on its e-commerce platforms - Publicis Media assisted brands to utilise various Uni-Marketing products and technology to drive innovation and performance in the lead up to Singles' Day.
According to the press statement, Alibaba not only aims to expand the online retail scene, but also help digitalise the marketing of brands through internet technology and big data. Its Tmall Double 11 Global Shopping Festival is no longer focused on gross merchandise value, but instead strives for better customer service and helping Tmall shop owners to make their business more successful.
According to Mathias Chaillou, CEO, Performics Greater China, Singles' Day is a "fantastic opportunity" to engage consumers to the point of purchase with quality content through avenues such as key opinion leaders, live-streams and short video clips.