How small retailers can drive growth on Singles’ Day

Singles’ Day, which falls on 11th November each year, has become an enormous celebration of singlehood in China. It is the perfect antidote to the chocolate boxes and red hearts typically associated with Valentine’s Day, and with it has come a wave of commercial opportunities. Brands like Nike, L’Oréal and Estée Lauder have gained a turnover of more than 100 million Chinese Yuan in just two hours past midnight on 11th November 2020. 

While that sounds like an easy win for larger brands, it’s a lot harder to make a splash in this ocean of retailers when you’re just a small minnow. This step-by-step guide will help smaller brands who have recently set up new Tmall stores succeed on Singles’ Day 2021 (and again in 2022).  

Have a logical event schedule in the run-up

Tmall, formerly known as Taobao Mall, is a Chinese online retail platform owned by Alibaba. Direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands who have a flagship store on Tmall often have a Tmall Partner (TP) that fulfills the marketing and operations for the store. Retailers should work closely with their TP to establish a fully comprehensive plan in preparation of Singles’ Day. It is important for the brand or territory manager to understand the key timings and milestones leading up to the 11th November, so brands should work closely with the TP to maximise their marketing efforts.

Check out this Tmall marketing timeline below for some key steps you should be taking leading up to Singles day 2021:

Get conversion-ready outside of Tmall

Although the Alibaba ecosystem provides sufficient marketing channels for its sellers, it has increasingly become crowded and competitive. With more small DTC brands launching on Tmall, everyone is bidding and competing for the limited traffic and consumer attention available within the Alibaba ecosystem.

That’s why it’s important to leverage influencer marketing outside of Tmall, particularly on social media and community platforms like Little Red Book and Weibo, to drum up the noise your brand is making.  

Get some sales going on those zero-sale listings

For the key stock keeping units (SKUs) brands would like to boost sales for during this year’s Singles’ Day, marketers should try to build up the sales records of these products during the period leading up to 11th November. A new product listing that has yet to make any sales can face a real struggle in the algorithm, even if you devote large amounts of budget towards advertising them via paid ads such as Paid Search (直通车) and Discovery Ads (超级推荐).

To ensure the key SKUs participating in this year’s seasonal promotions get listed early enough, encourage the sale of these products during the months of September and October. This will ensure your key products don’t have zero sales in the run-up to Singles’ Day. For small brands who are new to the Chinese market, any budget spent on social media influencers and live shopping is money well spent – it drives interest for the new listing. With even a relatively modest record of sales above zero, the listing can perform better when promoting via paid ads. It can also get a further boost by the algorithm, particularly when highlighted within organic pages. It all adds up to better sales potential during Singles’ Day.   

Build live streaming into your marketing channel

In 2020, Taobao Live, the live shopping function of Taobao and Tmall, generated a Gross Merchandise Value of more than 40 billion Yuan (equivalent to $6 billion) from users’ purchases during live shopping sessions. According to Alibaba, Taobao Live’s active users watch an average of six live shopping sessions every day, and place 10 orders per month at an average value of over ¥1500 (sources: CBN Data; Alibaba).

Online users in China, particularly Taobao and Tmall users, are accustomed to watching, being entertained, discovering new products and placing orders during live shopping sessions. Introducing frequent live shopping sessions on Taobao Live in preparation for Singles’ Day can work wonders. It offers another channel for your customers to discover releases of new products, thereby overcoming a zero sales records, and keep your business in mind for their Singles’ Day shopping. 

Take your learnings into 2022

For new brands entering Tmall this year, Singles’ Day learnings can be vital for next year’s success. It will also prepare you for the upcoming shopping moments in China such as Double 12 (also known as Couples’ Day) and, most importantly, Chinese New Year! Gather key learnings right after the Singles’ Day promotion, from the operations team to the marketing team, to see how your marketing and timing can improve for the next big event.

Be prepared: the single most important technique

If you’re new to the Chinese market but recognise the huge potential of events that are unique to the country, it might take a year or two to get up to speed and successfully compete against other established brands. However, by getting your timing right, recognising specific opportunities, and immersing yourself in China’s influential social media landscape, you could be building your brand up towards Singles’ Day success – if not this year, perhaps in 2022.

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