Leveraging the Singles’ Day surge in online retail

Photo by bruce mars

Criteo, an international commerce marketing company, released on 5 November seasonal data which showed that Singles’ Day is still Singapore’s biggest shopping festival. Originating in China during the 1990s as celebration for single people, it has grown into a mainstream event and one of the most popular shopping days.

While Singles Day is still the most “celebrated” for other Asian markets such as Malaysia and Taiwan. 12.12 remains the largest shopping festival in Indonesia compared to Singles Day. For Vietnam, Singles Day still has significance, but Black Friday was seen to have the highest surge.

Criteo’s data, based on the analysis of over 465 million retail shopping transactions across desktops, smartphones, tablets, and apps from 340 major advertisers in South East Asia, reiterates Singles’ Day as a key opportunity retailers can tap on to enhance their shopper engagement. Aside from this standalone festival, other shopping events, mainly 10.10, Black Friday, Cyber Friday and 12.12, are also allowing retailers to creatively engage their target audiences.

Singles Day saw a 368% increase in online retail sales and 255% increase in online retail traffic in 2018. Online retail traffic peaked at around noon time and 9 to 11pm on 11 November. Out of all the key shopping seasons, Singles Day had the highest conversion rate with an increase of 61%. Top performing product verticals were Fashion/Luxury (743%) and Home Improvement/ Gardening/ Interior Design (376%), based on sales uplift figures.

By comparison, Black Friday saw a 114% increase in online retail sales and 83% increase in online retail traffic, while 12.12 saw increases of 92% and 102% respectively. Cyber Monday’s Online retail sales and traffic increases were 77% and 39% while those for 10.10 were smaller, at 18% and 24%.

Leveraging the Singles Day retail surge

Pauline Lemaire, Director of Account Strategy – Large Customers, Criteo SEA, Taiwan and Hong Kong, said that retail sales for Singles Day increase greatly every year. According to the company’s “Why We Buy” survey, consumers are not only attracted to lower, affordable prices, but significant numbers also consider the brands with the best value for money (75%) and look out for a wide product selection (55%).

“As Singles Day is still the biggest shopping season, retailers should look at doing something new to stand out from the numerous promotion deals. This could involve introducing a new product line and expanding their inventory for instance to attract new audiences,” she continued.

Noting the real challenges retailers face in differentiating themselves, she suggested that this could be overcome “with the power of data – by being able to identify top selling categories amidst millions of products, predict shopping behavior and integrate online and offline shopping data.” 

Lemaire also shared insights into the year-end shopping season, stating that it usually commences with 10.10 sales. “Singles Day remains the key shopping festival and post-Singles Day sales ride on the festivity’s traction.”

“As we approach the year-end holidays, there is also a spike in online retail as part of the celebration. This sustained sales season presents retailers more opportunities to engage their audiences,” she continued.

Given the momentum from Singles Day to the remainder of the year, Criteo’s advice is that retailers who are looking to expand in these countries should consider prolonging their promotional efforts until December. This can help drive sales when shoppers have a level of interest due to year-end festivities and are most engaged.

Retailing in the “shopping experience of the future”

Consumers in Singapore shop on mobile just as much as, or even more than, on desktop to take advantage of any deals that may come up. Retail sales on mobile web comprised 53% of overall online retail sales. This is a 547% increase compared to 453% for desktop.

With higher mobile traction, in-app sales and traffic are also experiencing significant surges in Singapore. Singles Day noted a 539% increase in in-app retail sales and 300% increase in in-app traffic sales.

Judith Loh, Head of Relationship Management, APAC, Sales at Wirecard, shared that “Singles Day has evolved from online sales to an annual event that provides a glimpse into the shopping experience of the future. It has spurred new thinking in the retail sector, as brands compete to draw customers into exciting new experiences.”

Core to this transformation is a shift towards Unified Commerce – a flexible, continuous and consistent approach to bridge online and offline for a superior shopping experience,” she continued.

Pointing out how retailers increasingly tapped into new technologies like location-based mobile services, VR, AR and the use of entertainment to engage with consumers, she predicted “more seamless phygital integration, including the use of new innovations like ‘smart mirrors’, allowing consumers to get personalized recommendations and shop online while in-store”.

Phygital integration refers to efforts that take the best from both online and offline environments to create a much more complete and satisfying customer experience. In such an environment, she notes, systems of payment become crucial. “Not only do retailers need to cater for incredible payments volumes, but they must cater for a wide variety of different payment preferences – from online shopping, to in-store shopping, through to the likes of mobile wallets,” she said.

She also predicted new ways of payments, such as the use of biometrics, becoming more popular and widely adopted in the future.