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How to sell to China on Singles' Day
Vivien Christel Vella
Vivien Christel Vella
Vivien is an international marketing expert who advises customers on the best way to reach new markets.
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Is China’s Singles’ Day highlighted in your e-commerce calendar? It should be – it’s the biggest online shopping day in the world. Here’s everything you need to know about Singles’ Day on November 11 – and how to cash in.

WHAT IS SINGLES' DAY?

Move over Valentine’s Day, the singles want some fun, too! China’s Singles’ Day on 11 November (11/11 – all the singles!) was originally conceived by a group of college bachelors who wanted a dedicated holiday to celebrate their singledom. Then in 2009, spotting an opportunity, China’s leading e-commerce marketplace Alibaba began marketing Singles’ Day as a special sales event. Since then, it's become an annual shopping bonanza where it’s not unusual for sales to reach ten times that of an average shopping day in China.

So, how can your e-commerce business take a slice of this very lucrative pie?

Perhaps you’re already selling to Chinese buyers through an online marketplace such as Amazon or Alibaba, or maybe you ship internationally to customers there via your own e-commerce website. Either way, now is the time to prepare. Here’s how…

SINGLES’ DAY 2023: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

It’s the world’s biggest shopping day

Singles’ Day sales are bigger than Amazon’s Prime Day and Black Friday combined!(1) In 2021, online sales on JD.com and Alibaba – the country’s leading e-commerce sites – reached US$139 billion(2), setting a new record.

It’s not just restricted to China

The shopping bonanza is gaining momentum across the world. One analysis tracked 290,000 brands from over 90 countries and regions participating in Tmall’s Singles’ Day sales in 2022(3). Of those, 70,000 were doing so for the first time. Will your business join them this year?

Tmall Global is your gateway to the Chinese market

As the largest e-commerce platform in China, you’ve probably heard of Alibaba4, a B2B business connecting wholesale exporters in China with countries around the world. The bit you should know about is Tmall Global5, Alibaba’s dedicated B2C platform specifically set up for foreign businesses. It allows cross-border sellers to build virtual storefronts and ship products to Chinese customers without the need for a physical entity in the country or a Chinese business license. You can also accept payments in your local currency. 

There’s room for everyone

Singles’ Day isn’t just for the big retailers. In the first 28 hours of 2022’s sales, the transaction volumes of 50k small-to-medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and 70k SME merchants increased 100%(6).

Chinese shoppers like to buy from overseas brands

According to a survey of Tmall Global shoppers7, the leading reasons they buy from cross-border brands are:

Important information to consider when you’re planning your Singles’ Day marketing campaign!

Livestreaming is BIG business

Though relatively new in the West, livestreaming has been hugely popular in China for years. Customers enjoy being able to learn about a product in-depth, whilst for businesses, this engagement leads to greater conversions.  

The challenge for overseas brands is to find a video hosting platform with the relevant clearance in China. Instead, they could focus on ensuring their product listings feature plenty of high-res photos, video tutorials and how-to guides, whilst being quick to respond to customer queries on social media.

Sustainability is entering the conversation

Despite Singles’ Day being associated with excessive consumption, in 2021, Alibaba turned its focus towards sustainability by partnering with 14 brands to promote greener production.

Consumers are embracing more considered choices, too: over 33 million of them purchased eco-friendly products on Tmall and Taobao during the 2022 Singles’ Day sales8. Meanwhile, keyword searches for green topics including “energy-saving” and “low carbon” surged on JD.com9.

Singles’ Day Strategies to Focus on This Year

  • Do your research

To appeal to Chinese consumers, you need to know their buying behaviors and preferences. Luckily, we’ve done the research for you: dive into our dedicated China country guide for all the local insights you’ll need.

  • Optimize your e-commerce website for mobile

Mobile commerce dominates Singles’ Day, so ensure your customers have an easy, fast and intuitive experience – otherwise they’ll abandon their carts.

  • Translate your content

Ensure your website copy and marketing messaging is converted into the local language for foreign browsers.

  • Offer payment in Yuan

Provide payment options and gateways where transactions can be done in the Chinese currency.

  • Use the number 11 as a hook

Offering a 11% discount on sale items, for example, will show your brand is joining in the fun!

  • Offer fast shipping

Chinese consumers may be deterred from buying from overseas brands as they think their orders will be delayed. By partnering with DHL, you can offer customers Express international delivery. Just be sure to highlight it on your homepage to incentivize shoppers.

  • Monitor your inventory closely

If something sells out, you need to be ready to quickly pivot to promote another item instead.

The fun doesn’t stop after Singles’ Day! Peak Season is upon us, with Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas still to come too. For advice to help you prepare, check out our dedicated holiday shipping tips.

1 – Forbes , November 2022

2 – CNBC, November 2021

3 - Queue.it, September 2023

4 - Alibaba

5 - Tmall Global

6 - Queue.it, September 2023

7 - Digital Commerce, June 2022  

8 & 9 - Queue.it, September 2023