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How to cash in on China’s biggest shopping day

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With a unique language, language and business culture, it’s not surprising that China also has its own retail calendar.

Although Australians may shop up a storm during Boxing Day, and those in the US open their wallets on Black Friday, Australian exporters must understand the peak shopping and gift-giving dates in China to target their strategy – and Singles Day is one of the biggest.

1.     It gets its name from the loneliest number

Singles Day is celebrated on November 11 as this date – 11/11 - is made up of the number one. The unofficial holiday began at Nanjing University during the 1990s but it has spread across China. Singletons treat themselves to gifts and party with their single friends on this day.

2.     Singles Day is becoming mainstream

Singles Day transformed into a shopping festival after Chinese internet giant Alibaba offered large discounts on its e-commerce platforms during the holiday six years ago.

Impressed at Alibaba’s success, other retailers followed suit by running similar sales and promotions on this date. It is now the most important date for online retailers in China with Alibaba reporting 278 million orders on Singles Day 2014, equating to $12.3 billion.  

3.     It’s about treating yourself

Purchases on Singles Day are typically for oneself. The most popular brands during last year’s Singles Day belonged to clothing and technology, with budget smartphone maker Xiaomi, rival phone maker Huawei, and Japanese apparel retailer Uniqlo, achieving the highest gross merchandise volume. Purchases for the home are also popular, with Alibaba reporting 1.2 million home appliances, 3 million lighting products and 200,000 bottles of laundry detergent sold during the holiday in 2014.

4.     Presents on Singles Day are different to other gift-giving holidays in China

Other important dates for retailers in China, including Chinese New Year and the Mid-Autumn festival, focus on gifts for others – relatives, friends, and colleagues. Presents exchanged during these periods are often sweets, food, or wine, and usually feature beautiful packaging or gift sets. Some popular gifts during these holidays, which may seem unusual to some Australian exporters include packaged macadamia nuts and olive oil.

5.     Singles Day is an opportunity to keep up with Chinese retail trends

Australian exporters to China should take note of Singles Day and consider promotions, campaigns or other deals to make the most of this festival in China.

6.     The dangers of Singles Day promotions

Despite the appeal of joining in on Singles Day retail activities, offering Singles Day promotions could do your business more harm than good. With some brands pushing price cuts of up to 80 per cent, resellers often sell individual purchases at a loss, which could potentially damage your relationship with them. Despite the loss, the overall transaction could be profitable if the consumer buys other goods after being attracted to the discount.

7.     Singles Day could damage your brand

If your goods are positioned as premium items, large discounts could backfire and damage your brand, instead of attracting new customers and increasing consumer loyalty. When not done well, a Singles Day discount campaign could damage consumer relationships that took years to develop. For premium goods exporters, it may be more appropriate to offer a free gift with purchase instead of price cuts to celebrate the festival.

Singles Day celebrations are set to grow in popularity as e-commerce becomes more widespread. However, Australian exporters need to understand the opportunities and risks before they decide to join in on China’s unique shopping festival.

Benjamin Sun is a director and co-founder of Think China. He is a digital marketer and researcher with extensive knowledge on the Chinese digital landscape and online consumer behaviour.

About Think China

Think China is an Australian agency specialising in digital marketing and analysis. The team works across e-commerce, data research and analysis to help customers access the Chinese market, build their brand and develop deeper relationships with mainland consumers.

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