What Will It Take for UK Brands to Adopt Singles’ Day?

Alibaba may be champion when it comes to owning the retail mega-sale that is Singles’ Day, but UK retailers need to be questioning whether there’s an opportunity for their brand. Other brands are certainly rising up the ranks – take JD.com, which also participates in Singles’ Day activity, just had its biggest year yet (£17.98bn). As such, marketers need to make sure they aren’t missing out on an opportunity. In this piece for RetailTechNews, Mark Byrne (pictured below), director, paid media performance, Greenlight Digital, discusses what it’s going to take for retailers to get in on the action.

The UK public certainly isn’t averse to jumping on retail bandwagons. Take Black Friday, the UK’s most recognised and invested in retail day. Having originally started in the U.S., Black Friday in the UK produces enviable sales volume, which continues to grow year-on-year.

Look at John Lewis, which reported record sales for 2018, with an increase of 7.7%. It was a similar story for retail kingpin Amazon, which sold more than 13 million fashion items alone and had the biggest shopping day in its 24-year history.

The question is whether this gives the British public their sales fill. Arguably yes, with brands executing retail and marketing strategies well ahead of the day to maximise traffic and get the wheels in motion for a successful day. And consider the fact that the British public plan their Christmas shopping around the day and save larger purchases specifically in the hope of a good deal. The whole weekend has become synonymous with mainstream retail success across most of the industry, whether that’s fashion, technology, beauty, travel, or home brands.

Mark Byrne, Director, Paid Media Performance, Greenlight Digital

However, it would be short-sighted to ignore the opportunity Singles’ Day provides UK retailers. There’s an opportunity for large brands to bring Singles’ Day from the peripheries to the mainstream consumer consciousness. Those who look to incite large-scale discounts over the same period will be amongst the first in the UK; and that in itself can incite intrigue, generate traffic, and result in sales.

This year, the sales bonanza was covered in the UK media, but very much from an observer’s viewpoint. The impact and prevalence of Singles’ Day in the UK is relatively muted. Conversations on social media over the past three years show how the Chinese retail mega-sale is permeating in the UK. However, data shows that, in fact, it isn’t. With a 48% decrease in social mentions from 2016 to 2018 and brands posting about it, there’s still a disconnect between UK retailers and consumers.

The brands that were engaging with Singles’ Day on social media aren’t the retail giants that dominate in other parts of the world. Those brands have seemingly steered clear up to this point.

The top five brands that mentioned Singles’ Day on social in 2018 are:

  1. GoCompare
  2. Plus500
  4. TechAdvisor
  5. EMP UK

(source: netbase)

So, what it’s going to take for retailers to get in on the action? A structured marketing campaign that can give consumers a good enough offer that will mean Singles’ Day is seen as more than just an Asian retailer extravaganza. It needs to slot in as part of a wider, seasonal push. Timing wise, it provides a key retail window where retailers can, again, maximise the captive audience in the run up to Christmas.

Whilst there’s an opportunity, it needs to be more than a ‘let’s discount some of our stock’ approach. There’s work to be done for UK retailers to market Singles’ Day as a day that could offer them something in addition to Black Friday.

A big part of that is audience insights. Knowing what products your consumers seek this time of year, which channels are contributing to their purchasing decisions, and where they seek information on deals is vital. To achieve this, brands need to invest in audience insight tools to ensure that wider efforts aren’t wasted. Brands need to know that their Singles’ Day efforts target their key audiences on the right platform, at the right time, with the right content.

Looking at the success of Black Friday and Amazon Prime Day, it’s clear consumers want deals at seasonal points in the year. Using detailed audience analytics and tools that can help pinpoint the products consumers demand most at certain points of the year will enable retailers to use Singles’ Day as another engagement point with consumers. This insight also helps inform web teams on how their site can be best optimised to maximise chances of turning intent into conversions.

There’s nothing stopping UK brands getting involved; and it’s going to take one big brand to jump on the bandwagon, and no doubt others will follow. The question is who that brand will be and whether it will emulate some of the successes seen in China. Time will tell if any of the big retailers take the jump and own it from a UK perspective. The opportunity is there and it’s up to retailers to make it their own.