How to market for Singles’ Day and beyond
4 min read

How to market for Singles’ Day and beyond

Singles’ Day, or 11.11, is known across East-Asia as the day to celebrate singletons as well as incredible discounts. In 2009 Alibaba began a campaign to focus on the fictional holiday and as a result, its sales have skyrocketed year on year. For the latest Singles’ Day, they raked in an astonishing $1 billion in the first five minutes.

Until recently, it was predominantly Asian brands that were cashing in on this event. Now Western brands are starting to recognise the revenue potential behind Singles’ Day and have started to include it in their Q4 plans.  

Though that isn’t to say Singles’ Day should be the only focus for your brand. In fact, China has become a hub for ecommerce events in recent years, with each day presenting different opportunities for brands.

We’re here to tell you how.

So how does Singles’ day work?

Primarily an online event, the sales process can be likened to Amazon Prime Day in the West…but on steroids. With websites, apps, and even a variety show all dedicated to building hype around Singles’ Day across Alibaba’s platforms.

Indeed, the latest Singles’ Day four-hour live show featured big celebrity names such as Nicole Kidman, Pharrell Williams, and Maria Sharapova. While local Chinese superstars Jet Li and Donnie Yen also made an appearance.

In 2017 over 600,000 different brands took part both online and offline. In an effort to promote the event still further Alibaba set up pop-up shops across 50 shopping malls in 12 cities across China. 

Since its beginning, other retailers have bought into the event, with Suning, and Secoo, as well as many more competitors offering massive discounts across their sites. And as if this wasn’t enough for Alibaba, its since introduced ‘Double Twelve’ as a leftover sales event to Singles’ Day. 

But wait, there’s more… 

Alibaba isn’t the only retailer to capitalise. As the second largest retailer in China, went one step further and created its own ‘Anniversary Festival’ over 18 days in June. It’s no small competitor to Singles Day either, with sales totalling $24.7 billion for 2018’s event.

And it doesn’t end there. In fact, if you type ‘shopping events in China’ into Google you will soon realise that discount shopping has become somewhat of a national pastime. From ‘99 Wine Fest’ to ‘Red Day’, among many others… as a brand unfamiliar with China’s calendar it can seem an insurmountable task to market to all. 

And we’re not saying you should. Pick the events that are most relevant to your business. For instance, events such as Girl’s Day (March 7th & 8th), Mother’s Day (Second Sunday in May), I Love You Day (May 20th), or Red Day (late November) are popular with beauty brands. 

The joy of advertising in China is in the opportunities it presents for each and every type of product. High Fashion? Sorted. Children’s clothing? Sorted. Granny Smiths? Sorted.

How are Western brands interacting with Chinese shopping days?

In Europe and the rest of the world, Singles’ Day has yet to take off as the huge shopping extravaganza that it has become in the East-Asia. Although there has been some slight stirring; with some brands across Sweden offering up to 17% discount and a 39% uplift in sales across the UK.

Unfortunately, Singles’ Day, coincides with Remembrance Day for much of Europe – a sombre occasion to commemorate the war dead. Certainly not the platform for mass shopping events.   

Instead, certain brands have had greater success marketing their products in East-Asian markets. Many have found success by advertising and selling through existing ecommerce networks in China. 

Whereas some have experimented with launching their own .cn domains. ASOS launched its own .cn site but stock issues and their position as a middle-of-the-road fashion brand failed to appeal to Chinese consumers; ultimately leading it to pull out of China in 2016. 

In comparison, Estee Lauder has been far more successful. China is now its third largest consumer market. Its success can be attributed to a number of things. First, it had a pre-existing brand image as a luxury of western consumerism – something that is seen as incredibly desirable to the rising middle-class in China. But most importantly, it adopted an entirely different marketing strategy for China and catered to cultural differences as well as shopping events

What’s our advice?

For those looking to venture into the Chinese market, it’s essential you consider cultural differences in your marketing strategy. Failing to tailor your advertising practices to this audience will only end with you running from China with your tail between your legs. 

Translate your language, currency, and discounts

The very first being the importance of translating your advertising to East-Asian audiences. Not just languages, but avoid buyer hesitation by adjusting creative for their currency too. Currently, only 26% of retailers in the UK offer the ability to pay in Yuan. Don’t be guilty of the same failing. 

Google translate won’t hack it for East-Asia either. Consult local translators to make sure you’re not making an embarrassing gaffe with your translation. For instance, something as innocuous as the discount you add to your product can deter buyers – such as the number 4 signifying death. Avoid cultural pitfalls such as these and do your translations right!

Consider local government

In a similar sense, when advertising in a one-party state it is important to consider government restrictions. In fact, the latest regulations include a total of 75 clauses that must be adhered to in order to avoid heavy fines. One such clause is a ban on ‘extreme words’ i.e. ‘most’ or ‘the best’. Read this guide to find out more.

Think mobile-first

And we really mean it this time. Compared to China, the Western world’s mobile phone usage doesn’t even seem worth mentioning (not to say you should ignore our previous advice). In fact, on Singles’ Day, last year mobile accounted for a staggering 90% of transactions. Therefore it’s essential to optimise your website and your ads for mobile.

Adjust your design and copy

Tailor your design to China. East-Asian audiences typically appreciate value-led advertising and of course, colours represent different emotions to consumers out East.

Another interesting thing to consider is the collective sense of self-worth over the individual identity. Herbal Essences made this mistake in their first campaign in the region, before they realised their error and instead marketed to China’s collective mantra of “stand out by fitting in”.

Social is key

The importance of social in advertising is rising globally. Nowhere is this more applicable than in China. In fact, it’s predicted that by 2022 there will be 725 million users of social networks in the region.

Make sure to get your adverts in front of the right consumers. Implement a strategy for China that is tailored to their own social channels and create a seamless omnichannel experience.

There are many nuances to advertising in China that cannot and should not be covered in this article. By all means, give your designers and copywriters a headstart with this short guide to East-Asian advertising. But we cannot stress enough the importance of collaborating with a local expert on advertising in this region.


To conclude, Singles’ Day is an incredible opportunity that you shouldn’t be missing out on. Brands worldwide have already started to capitalise and the consumers’ attention is there for the taking. Whether that be on Singles’ Day or for one of the many shopping festivals across the country.

Learn how you can advertise easily worldwide, and collaborate with translators, using our creative management platform (CMP)

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