Singles Day 2020 Points to the Future of Commerce as Creative

Red Chinese lanterns hanging

Singles Day, the world’s largest online shopping event, takes on a new meaning in 2020. More commonly referred to as Double 11 in many parts of the world, this ecommerce bonanza has grown in size, reach and meaning beyond November 11th as it inspires a host of super shopping days across Asia. In fact, it’s been five years since Singles Day was officially rebranded by its creator and owner Alibaba as the ‘Global Shopping Festival’. This serves as proof of the e-Commerce giant’s ambition to see the event’s continued expansion beyond China.

Locally inspired shopping moments such as Double 10 (October 10), Double 11 (November 11) and Double 12 (December 12) in many other countries in Asia continue to lay the groundwork for the acceleration of ecommerce in the region. Offering benefits to both consumers and brand owners, this expansion has aided Southeast Asia’s internet growth expected to hit $100 billion in gross merchandize value (GMV) by end of year, with e-commerce registering a 63% growth. This has been boosted by the almost 40 million people across South East Asia countries that came online for the first time in 2020, giving a boost to China’s retail recovery. As commerce engagements become more creatively inspired and emotional-driven, the Western world continues to take notice.

Some have questioned whether these abundant shopping festivals will create fatigue, but the quick answer is not really. Although consumers are seeing through these festivals as brands just getting on the bandwagon to sell or get rid of stock, smart brands are still looking at not just an ultimate sale but measuring these festivals as potential brand moments that entrench buyers as loyalists and even future brand evangelists. In addition, most of the audience look forward to it as a getaway and reward themselves in these challenging times. While the pandemic has been a global full stop for doing business as usual, it has opened a whole lot of opportunities to thrive in a virtual and digital-centric way.

What Singles’ Day 2020 did offer is brands a chance to experiment and test technology and strategies on their road to recovery. The numbers so far have orders per second peaking at 583,000 and as of close of business on November 11th, the Festival pulled in 498.2 billion yuan ($74.1 billion) since the shopping promotion kicked off on November 1. This year more than 250,000 brands participated in Singles’ Day, and among them 2,600 joined the festival for the first time and 31,000+ are international brands. 470+ brands surpassed 100 million yuan ($14.9 million) in GMV, including Adidas, Nike, Estee Lauder and L'Oréal.

So who are the big winners?

Transparency on safety and hygiene wins big. At an operations level changes were implemented this year to take into account health and safety with respect to packing, collection, handlers, deliverers, etc. The less human contact, the less potential spread of the virus with a focus decreasing human touch points as well as reductions in packaging to protect our environment. Sadly, the latter has been a lower priority as Covid-19 takes center stage this year but sustainable commerce will offer brands who grab an advantage in the near future. Alibaba began its ‘green’ logistics last year when it set up recycling stations for unwanted shipping boxes and bags, and this year mobile lockers were employed to minimize human contact for item pickup.

Luxury sees a boost. In China where things are almost back to normal and consumer confidence has resumed, consumers showed us their readiness for some celebration and retail therapy. In recent months, Prada group’s China sales jumped 60% in June and 66% in July; and LVMH's revenue from China in its fashion and leather goods division jumped by more than 65% in Q2. A lot of Chinese shoppers kicked off the day with a “revenge spending” mindset, ensuring luxury brands felt this renewed hope with purchases of limited-edition collections and new products. Another reason that 2020 will be a boom for luxury brands is, ironically, the travel restrictions restricted those Chinese consumers who traditionally go overseas to buy high end goods. About 70% of those who bought luxury products on Tmall Luxury Pavilion this 11.11 were making their first luxury purchase there.

Home essentials prepare consumers for the new normal. On the other hand, in other parts of the world, spending trends highlighted the impact of the pandemic in countries where Covid-19 still looms large. More time at home and products related to health, safety and wellbeing saw increased interest. Other items like home electronics were big as consumers continue to cocoon, while splurging on the small luxuries that allow them to pamper themselves within the home. Items that relate to newly learnt home skills such as cooking, entertaining children and general life quality were more relevant this year. Brands were also mindful that times are hard for many people (low job security and/or many being made redundant. Here we saw people taking advantage of home essentials and if possible, stock-piling those items – central were hygiene and cleaning elements to safe-guard the home and family.

With its living streaming growth and robust digital infrastructure including Alibaba Cloud and smart logistics, the 2020 Global Shopping Festival has offered us a glimpse into what is the future, we call it Creative Commerce. Since its launch over 11 years ago, Double 11 has quickly evolved from a small ecommerce idea to an event that includes 100’s of thousands of brands harnessing creativity and technology to not only sell items cheaply but ensure the delivery of incredible brand experiences to gain new users while entrenching existing ones. The opportunities for innovation are endless. As commerce fast becomes the central to all consumer experiences, brands need to grab these moments to make them memorable, relevant and most important creative.

- Contributors: Kelvin Gin, Head of Strategy, Geometry Hong Kong and Taiwan & Gaurav Arora, General Manager of Geometry Indonesia