Singles Day Is Going Global – Here is How Online Retailer SmartBuyGlasses Is Adapting

Industry: Eyewear

Shanghai, China (PRUnderground) November 8th, 2019

Singles Day is said to be the largest shopping event globally, outgrowing Black Friday and Cyber Monday together. How does a conceptual shopping holiday arise and what is next? How do e-commerce businesses adapt to this growing shopping event? What started as a demand for an anti-valentines day and celebration of self-love has rapidly turned into the world’s largest shopping event.

Singles day originated in China as an antipole to Valentine’s day to instead celebrate singlehood. The holiday is celebrated on November 11th which numerically marks 11.11 that is said to symbolize four single ones. Singles Day started at Nanjing University in the 1990s as a celebration of being single and spread to other Chinese universities and was mostly celebrated by single men and went under the name “Bachelors Day”. Soon it developed into an event for both men and women, both couples and singles and was regarded as a celebration of self-love. Today, it embraces this spirit as the day is all about treating yourself and shopping for something for yourself. 

This tradition is what led Chinese giant e-retailer Alibaba to step in and create a campaign and event around the celebration. Through their platform Tmall, they created a shopping event much larger than Black Friday or Cyber Monday. In the mid-2010s the shopping event had grown from a campaign to a gala-like televised celebration with celebrities and entertainment. Since 2015 Alibaba has continued to arrange these annual extravagant galas, seen by an audience of around 200 million people. The galas often include games and contests, performers and prominent guests. Alibaba’s main competitor and e-retailer JD.com hosts an eleven-day shopping festival to take part in the celebration. On their first Singles Day campaign in 2009, Alibaba grossed circa $7 million which can be compared to last year’s $30.8 billion in a 24 hour period.

Global adaptation and challenges

In recent years the Singles Day phenomenon has spread globally. In Southeast Asia the event has mainly been spread through Alibaba owned e-commerce platform Lazada. European retailers have also begun to adapt to the shopping event, offering discounts and deals on November 11th, both online and offline. Many global actors feature offers for their Chinese customers but are also creating campaigns and offers in their own domains, hence the evolution of Singles Day on an international market.

One company looking to adapt to the shopping craze is eyewear retailer SmartBuyGlasses who operate from Shanghai but offer their products on a global scale. For companies mainly operating in the realm of e-commerce, it becomes essential to engage in these shopping events. “With our HQ based here in Shanghai, and China being one of our key markets, Singles Day has been critical to our growth here in recent years,” said Arvin Mahanta, Senior Marketing Manager at SmartBuyGlasses Optical Group. “But equally, we have seen increases in traffic and revenue on Singles Day in many of our major English speaking markets – the data shows clearly that Singles Day is establishing itself as a global e-commerce event in much the same way as Black Friday or Cyber Monday has done before”.

In the volatile environment of e-commerce, it is crucial for actors of all sizes to keep up with current marketing trends and campaigns. Competition is fierce and there is little chance to outflank the really big players. However, it is essential for small or medium-sized companies to make the most of these opportunities as they spring up and stay on top of consumer trends all over the world to keep a competitive edge. “What is also interesting about this trend is that it is not simply confined to the Chinese diaspora anymore, it is being embraced by the wider population,” says Arvin Mahanta. The company has offices, distributors and partners in various locations worldwide, that together with an international team gives the company valuable insights into the many markets they operate in.

Less Homogenous as the concept expands

Much like Black Friday, Singles Day is not celebrated as a commemoration day but is focused mainly on sales. The success in sales on Singles Day in comparison to Black Friday could certainly be attributed to the simple fact that the Chinese population is 4 times greater than the American. But it also has to do with the successful strategies of Chinese retailers. Where Black Friday heavily focuses on sales and discounts, Singles Day is being marketed far more conceptually with a heavy focus on games, contests and entertainment. 

“In China, the landscape is dominated by Alibaba, JD and one or two others, but as the concept becomes more global, I believe that it offers more opportunities for creativity, for e-commerce companies to interpret the event their own way,” adds David Menning, CEO and co-founder of SmartBuyGlasses Optical Group.

This relatively new groundbreaking campaign concept of “retailtainment” is now to be fully adapted internationally. How companies will adapt to this marketing concept and to Singles Day is yet to be seen but given the success of the campaign in China, it provides huge opportunities for actors in other markets.

About SmartBuyGlasses

The SmartBuyGlasses Optical Group is a world leading designer eyewear e-retailer, with websites in over 30 countries. The company was an early adopter to the online eyewear market, starting VisionDirect.com.au in 2006, selling prescription eyewear, sunglasses and contact lenses in Australia before expanding globally. Today, SmartBuyGlasses is the one stop shop for all eyewear needs, giving customers the power to shop their style. With over 180 brands and 80,000 products available, customers get their perfect unique look at amazing value. SmartBuyGlasses are the eyewear fashion experts offering big name designers along with the most exciting niche brands.

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Constanze Fristensky
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