Flowers, chocolates, perfume, and bottles of champagne – Valentine's Day is the perfect occasion for people to splurge a little on their romantic partners.
With revenues from Valentine's Day purchases reaching $20.1 billion in 2018, it also represents a major opportunity for e-commerce companies in industries such as cosmetics, jewelry, clothing, and food and drink.
Yet unlike other e-commerce holidays, Valentine's Day has a big problem: nearly half of the population isn't married. 45 percent of U.S. adults, some 109 million people, are either single, divorced, or widowed.
With so many people not in a relationship, Valentine's Day retailers are missing out on a significant portion of their audience.
Enter Singles' Day: a relatively new holiday that's a sort of "anti-Valentine's Day" for people without a romantic partner. But what exactly is Singles' Day, and how can your e-commerce business best take advantage of this unusual celebration?
What is Singles' Day, Anyway?
Don't be surprised if you've never heard of Singles' Day; the holiday originated in China and has yet to hit the mainstream in most places beyond Asia.
According to popular theories, Singles' Day was first celebrated at Nanjing University in 1993 and soon spread to other Chinese universities by the end of the decade.
Singles' Day falls on November 11 of every year. The day was chosen because the digit "1" resembles a person standing alone. (All hope is not lost, however; when written down, the date 11/11 appears to suggest that these solitary "1"s have begun to pair off in "11"s.)
There are a variety of ways for people to observe Singles' Day, including parties and other social gatherings for fellow singles to meet each other. Singles' Day also serves as an occasion for people to express their pride or frustration in being single.
In recent years, however, Singles' Day has grown to become not only a celebration of singlehood, but also the biggest shopping day in the world for both e-commerce and physical retail.
The holiday serves as an opportunity for single people to buy themselves gifts that they might otherwise receive from a romantic partner.
Over a 24-hour period in 2017, Singles' Day shoppers spent a record $38.2 billion, including $25 billion alone on the website of Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba. This is far more than the revenue from both Black Friday ($2.4 billion) and Cyber Monday ($6.6 billion) combined.
Perhaps most incredibly, $1 billion of Singles' Day 2017 revenue was generated in the two minutes between midnight and 12:02 a.m.
Much of the recent surge in popularity for Singles' Day can be traced back to Jack Ma, the co-founder and executive chairman of Alibaba. Every year, Alibaba hosts a "Singles' Day Eve" televised party in Shanghai with performers including Nicole Kidman, Pharrell Williams, and David and Victoria Beckham.
As the world's largest shopping event, Singles' Day has already spread to other countries in Southeast Asia such as Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, and Indonesia. Still, the holiday remains relatively unknown outside the region, which represents a highly lucrative opening for e-commerce businesses who can appeal to Asian audiences.
Singles' Day and E-Commerce Businesses
Singles' Day shoppers are on the hunt for good deals, and they'll purchase everything from home appliances and clothes to cars and electronics. However, certain types of goods, such as fashion and luxury brands, are seeing especially high growth rates.
For example, China's largest online retailer JD.com launched its new luxury e-commerce platform Toplife on Singles' Day 2017.
In general, the holiday is an excellent opportunity for any e-commerce company selling items for a special occasion, such as travel, personal care, and electronics. On Singles' Day, shoppers are looking to "treat themselves" to exciting gifts, especially at a discount.
If you sell fast-moving consumer goods without a lot of markup, for example, then Singles' Day may not be the right holiday for you.
Because the holiday is most popular among shoppers in China and Southeast Asia, appealing to customers in these markets will be critical in order to launch a successful Singles' Day ad campaign.
Consider working with designers and marketers from Asia who can create advertisements that tap into the pulse of their local audience.
The good news is that Chinese consumers are not only willing, but eager to buy foreign brands. More than 40 percent of companies participating in Singles' Day 2017 came from outside China, and brands such as Nike, Estée Lauder, and American Tourister were among the top sellers in 2017.
Mobile marketing should be a part of any e-commerce company's strategy, but it's particularly important for Singles' Day participants.
In 2017, 90 percent of Singles' Day sales on Alibaba were made on a mobile device. Making your site responsive and mobile-friendly will be essential in order to best capitalize on your Singles' Day selling potential.
Finally, note that Singles' Day is much more than a one-day event for e-commerce retailers. The holiday is usually broken down into three periods: the "pre-sale" period in late October, the "pre-heat" period in early November, and Singles' Day itself.
During these first two periods, shoppers can view promotions and even make down payments before the purchases are actually processed on November 11. This means that your e-commerce business will need to strategize well in advance – some companies start planning for the next Singles' Day as soon as the last one is over!