Ecommerce lessons from the East
A round-up of Singles Day trends that brands can apply to their own ecommerce calendar moments
Ecommerce festivals are now a well-established part of brands’ annual calendars. From USA’s Black Friday to Australia’s ClickFrenzy and Indonesia’s Festival Belanja Online, every market seems to have one.
China’s Singles Day (11 November) again broke all sales records as Alibaba, the nation’s biggest e-tailer, reportedly sold more than $38 billion worth of stock – up 26% on the $30.8 billion it earned in 2018. As a point of comparison, Amazon sold $5.8 billion on its annual Prime Day in July this year.
While the ecommerce festival has reaped massive rewards for domestic brands in the past, this year was different. Just like Black Friday and Cyber Monday (now major ecommerce moments in overseas markets such as Singapore and Australia), Singles Day crossed borders at scale in 2019, reaching consumers across the whole of South East Asia and beyond.
As awareness – and access – increases outside of China’s unique digital eco-system, we can identify a number of Singles Day trends that brands can reapply to their own ecommerce calendar moments.
Ecommerce sites as search engines
Firstly, in common with search in the west, ecommerce is becoming the first port of call for Singles Day consumers researching potential purchases. Significantly, the first step on the customer journey is now where they might also make their final move.
Across South East Asia, being present on shopping sites like Lazada and/or Shopee is just as important – even when brands have their own ecommerce websites. The same is happening with Amazon in India and Japan.
To stay ahead of the game, the smartest brands are beginning to invest in point of purchase on ecommerce sites year-round. For example in South East Asia this year, adidas used performance campaigns to drive traffic to its dedicated Lazada brand site.
Premium brands are finding a new audience online
Events like Singles Day have been traditionally regarded as performance moments, but they now draw more premium brands, attracted by the huge audiences. Many brands don’t offer significant discounts (they’re still selling luxury items, after all), but hit record level sales simply by riding the incredible volumes of traffic.
The upshot is that ecommerce festivals have become both brand and performance events. This year, one consumer electronics brand saw its biggest-ever sales day in two markets thanks to smart Facebook campaigns, while also working with e-tailers as a key strategic sales channel.
Other brands have used Singles Day to launch new products. Electronics brand Xiaomi pushed new products on Lazada, including smartphones, TVs and other gadgets, with a brand event supported by a fully integrated online and offline co-branded marketed campaign.
For MediaCom, the biggest innovation of 2019 was Facebook’s Collaborative Ads, which – for the first time – allowed us to take small slices of brand content and tie them into e-retail partner sites, delivering on both measures. By combining data and brand, it was the perfect solution for Singles Day. We helped adidas leverage this feature to drive traffic to its Thai Lazada shop, with encouraging results.
Mobile now leads the way
Another takeout from Singles Day 2019 is that 90% of sales were made on phones. This is a significant behavioural difference to the US, where many people still shop on desktop. In fact, Adobe predicts that Christmas Day 2019 will be the first time mobile transactions will be equal to desktop in this market.
There are a few reasons why people in China shop this way. One is that brands have developed more sophisticated ways of capturing their attention – and their money. Livestreaming, for example, is an important sales channel. A growing number of brands now work with influencers to showcase their products (which consumers can buy without closing the stream). During Singles Day 2019, Alibaba reported that more than half of the merchants on Tmall used livestreaming – selling more than 10 billion RMB by 8:55am local time.
It’s an obvious battleground for cosmetics brands, and this year, some Western brands joined the party. Kim Kardashian West, for instance, appeared alongside China’s top fashionista Viya – who has more than nine million followers – to talk about her new perfume. The result? Kardashian sold 15,000 bottles in minutes.
The next major ecommerce day in China is ‘Double 12’ (12 December), a day which typically profiles small and medium-sized brands that may have been lost in the madness of Singles Day. Whether sales hit the same heights remains to be seen but, no doubt, the smartest global brands would do well to look to this region for inspiration for their own ecommerce campaigns.