Key Takeaways from China’s 2017 Singles Day

In our previous article, we gave a quick rundown of China’s Singles Day and how we see it as a great opportunity for Australian businesses to expand their sales horizons.

But now that Singles Day is over for the year, it is a good idea to take a step back and see what took place. From our perspective, there are three key takeaways.

1.       The Market is Huge

This year, Singles Day posted a record high of AUD$33.58b in sales, which is 39% higher than last year’s figure. AUD$1.32b was spent within two minutes, and last year’s entire sales numbers were reached within 13 hours [1]. It wasn’t just Alibaba either, there is so much activity this time of year that all e-commerce sees a spike in sales. Even Alibaba’s major competitor generated AUD$25.34b in the lead up to and including Singles Day [2].

We touched on this in the previous article, but this year’s Singles Day has obviously set a new bar and reaffirms just how big this day is as a standalone market. Due to the growth from last year to now, Singles Day alone is now the size of the entire annual Australian E-commerce market [3].

2.       Mobile is Everything

We’ve now mentioned mobile penetration in China a few times, but this Singles Day really hammered home how real this is. 90% of purchases came from mobile devices, mostly through Alipay (Alibaba’s payment platform) [4].

Companies need to take note of this and make sure that all marketing material, online stores and any relevant content is mobile friendly. Attention also needs to be paid to the key social media channels, which often dominate people mobile phone usage in China (see our Wechat article for further information on this).

3.       Australia’s Brand is Very Strong

Of the international markets, Australia was the third ranked selling country, behind the US and Japan [5]. This solidifies Australia as one of the premier sellers to the Chinese market and is one of the best pieces of evidence that Chinese consumers carry a very strong demand for high quality Australian products.

But it paints an even stronger picture when you compare Australia to the other major sellers. 

Much of the American products that were bought came from big brands like Apple, Nike, Gap and Estee Lauder. Although these are certainly American companies, they are also very much global brands with a strong sales presence in most developed markets, so you would expect them to dominate any country wide consumer sales event.

The same can be said for Japan, whose large companies like UNIQLO achieved strong sales during Singles Day, and Japan’s location next to China makes timely cross border E-commerce easier than most countries.

One must also take into consideration the fact that the US and Japan are the two biggest economies in the world (excluding China), and they are China’s two biggest trading partners (excluding Hong Kong).

For Australia (and most other countries), being smaller than both these countries in economic size and trading value with China, it really says something about what we are offering to be the third largest seller on Singles Day. It is not the quantity of goods we provide to China that is driving sales values, but the quality of these goods. Many Australian products are bought simply because they are Australian. This is a fundamental advantage that companies within Australia have over their international competitors.

On the back of a successful 2016 Singles Day, Chemist Warehouse again did very well this year, reaching its previous year sales of $17m in just seven hours [6]. Just one example of an Australian company taking advantage of the market opportunity.

Overall, this year’s Singles Day’s affirms Australia’s position as a dominant player in a huge market. Fully understanding the dynamics of Singles Day can allow Australian companies to gain brand awareness and use the buzz to develop consistent business in China throughout the rest of the year.

[1] Markets: Retail, ‘“Singles Day” China shopping festival smashes record with $25 billion haul’, CNBC, 11 Nov 2017

[2] Reuters, ‘It's Not Just Alibaba. Generated $19 Billion in Sales at its Rival Event’, Fortune, 13 Nov 2017

[3] Worldwide Retail Ecommerce Sales: eMarketer’s Updated Estimates and Forecast Through 2019

[4] Kaplan, Marcia, ‘Sales on China’s 2017 Singles’ Day Dwarf U.S. Black Friday, Cyber Monday’ Practical Ecommerce, 19 Nov 2017

[5] Yeo, Melissa, ‘Chinese scramble for Aussie-made in world’s biggest shopping day’, Stockhead, 15 Nov 2017

[6] Tan, Su-Lin, ‘Aptamil and Bio Island win at Alibaba's $25 billion Singles Day’, Australian Financial Review, 12 Nov 2017