November 11th was Singles Day in China. This is a holiday to celebrate pride in being single, but more importantly for retailers, there is a tradition of treating yourself to gifts on this day. This year was bigger than ever, with $17.8 billion in sales in a single day for the Alibaba Group alone.
To put that in context, the UK has Black Friday coming up at the end of this week. Last year UK Black Friday sales just tipped over the £1bn mark, with retail sales for the entire weekend at £3bn. This was up 35% on the figures in 2014 and analysts are predicting that we will see another record year in 2016. Many retailers have already started offering Black Friday discounts and some are spreading the sale over most of November, rather than just focusing on a single day.
As I was reading about Black Friday predictions and the success of Singles Day, I started wondering why Europe and the USA don’t make more of an effort to learn about the customer experience in China. There are over 800 million smartphone users in China and over 430 million of them regularly shop online using Alibaba – retail on this scale is unheard of in any single European market.
What struck me too, was how much the Chinese have adopted live streaming video as a part of the retail customer experience. In a recent Forbes magazine feature, Alibaba executive vice chairman Joe Tsai said: “Live-streaming is the biggest internet trend in China today.” Product communications in China increasingly favour an infomercial format featuring internet celebrities or narrative storylines. Danielle Bailey of digital intelligence firm L2 noted that of the leading cosmetic brands they monitor, 70% regularly use live streaming.
Black Friday is going to be huge this week, but it’s clear that if we really want to learn more about the customer experience of huge retail events then Singles Day in China is where to focus.
What do you think we can learn by comparing these events and what we could learn about trends like live streaming video? Leave a comment below or get in touch on LinkedIn and let me know.