Selling to China on Singles' Day: how to prepare

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If you’re an e-commerce business looking for lucrative sales opportunities, then November should be highlighted in your calendar. The month hosts both Singles’ Day and Black Friday, which have become synonymous with a huge peak in online spending. First up, Singles’ Day…

China's Singles’ Day on November 11 is the biggest shopping day in the world.

The holiday was initially conceived by Chinese university students wishing to celebrate their single status – with the date, 11/11, chosen because of the number 1’s symbolism for a lone individual. In 2009, China’s leading e-commerce marketplace Alibaba1 began marketing Singles’ Day as a special sales event. Since then, it's become an annual bonanza where it’s not unusual for sales to reach ten times that of an average shopping day in China. 

In 2019, Alibaba’s Singles’ Day sales totalled 268.4 billion yuan (US$39.78 billion), and its closest competitor JD.com2 hit sales of 179.4 billion yuan (US$26.59 billion) by the afternoon3. 2020 is set to be even bigger; industry forecasts predict sales at this year’s event will smash all previous records4, fuelled, in part, by a wave of new buyers who discovered online shopping for the first time during the pandemic.  

So, how can your e-commerce business make the most of this lucrative opportunity?

Perhaps you’re already selling to Chinese buyers through an online marketplace such as Amazon, Alibaba or eBay, or maybe you ship internationally to customers there via your own e-commerce website. Either way, now is the time to prepare and get everything ready to ensure you're ready to sell worldwide.

Entering the Chinese market: how to get started

A good way to reach Chinese customers is through one of the country’s leading e-commerce platforms:

Alibaba’s Tmall Global5

This e-commerce marketplace is specifically set up for foreign businesses – you don’t have to have a physical entity in China or a Chinese business license to sell on the platform, and you can accept payments in your local currency. Learn more here.

WeChat Store6

The country’s most popular messaging app has a dedicated e-commerce channel. Sellers can connect their e-commerce mobile website to a WeChat Official Account, and they’re ready to go. Customers pay via WeChat Pay7, a mobile payment service incorporated on the platform. Learn more here.

Top Tips to prepare for Singles’ Day

Beyond marketplaces, if your e-commerce business sells to China independently, the secret to success is preparation. Here are some of the essential points you should consider: 

- Know your peaks – map out the traffic peaks in advance and then work backwards to ensure your e-commerce store can cope with increased shipping demands.

- Optimize your website – there’s nothing more off-putting for customers than a slow or overly complicated website. Act now to improve the customer experience so your visitors will be buying instead of just browsing. Have a look through our guide to optimize your search bar for your e-commerce site.

- Know what’s in your inventory – at all times. If something sells out, you need to be able to update the information on your website immediately. 

- Keep enough staff on hand to deal with a possible surge – whether within customer service, order fulfillment or dispatch. 

- Fulfillment is the engine of your business, so make sure it’s perfectly tuned. From picking, packing and labeling, to knowing the price of a shipment to almost anywhere in the world, your fulfillment must be best-in-class. Disappointed customers won’t return.

- One of the biggest hassles when shipping cross-border is customs rules and regulations. The paperwork involved can be timely and complicated, and errors can cause your customers’ orders to be delayed. As international shipping experts, we can take care of tariffs, taxes and duty payments for you.

- Be ready for returns – e-commerce returns rates are around 30% worldwide9, so you’re likely to have some, no matter how great your product is. Have a good returns policy in place and state it clearly on your e-commerce website – 67% of shoppers check a business’ returns policy before committing to a purchase.10

We’re here

Alternatively, you could simply turn to DHL Express,  the experts in helping businesses cope with sudden increases in demand. We offer a door-to-door service, from website-integration to last-mile fulfillment, and deliver to and from almost every country in the world, so we can help you reach new markets easily and seamlessly. Partner with DHL Express and watch your sales grow.