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November 22nd, 2022

What Black Friday Marketers can learn from Singles’ Day

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When you think about the retail calendar, Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Boxing Day sales all instantly come to mind. But the one events very few in the UK know about is Singles’ Day, which takes place each year on 11th November. It also happens to be the world’s biggest shopping event with sales that often dwarf the combined sales of both Black Friday and Cyber Monday!

Last year alone it attracted 900 million shoppers. This year 290,000 brands from over 90 countries, across 7,000 product categories participated in the super retail event.

Singles’ Day is a massive opportunity for global brands, including luxury, beauty, fashion, fitness and technology. 

11.11 is China’s anti-valentine’s day event, also known as Singles’ Day. The day revolves around encouraging shoppers to spoil and spend on just themselves. The day and lead-up to this event is a huge indication of the most influential trends and latest innovation in retail.

Alibaba is essentially the Chinese equivalent to Amazon and by far the largest sale channel during this event.

Notably this year they didn’t share sales data for the event, most likely due to the challenging retail climate and the ongoing Covid restrictions in China. But what they did share is some insight into the goods that have had a massive surge in sales!

These included high-tech beauty devices, such as gadgets to cool and lift facial skin – surging 5,570% from last year.

Smart kitchen appliances were also hugely popular. As well as strong growth in sports & outdoors, pet products, collectible toys and jewellery categories.

Alibaba has defined ‘shoppertainment’ as combining live selling and entertainment to create massive buzz and demand.

Often featuring the biggest global celebrities and K-pop bands, Taylor Swift, David Beckham, Daniel Craig have all featured in previous years. This level of spectacle has driven sales and contributed to its massive popularity.



Alibaba dispatched over 700 autonomous delivery robots called ‘Little Donkey’ to help fulfil shoppers deliveries during the event.


A combination of social commerce and live streaming has continued to grow in popularity. ‘Douyin’ the sister app of TikTok, which has 700 million daily users, saw a surge in sales for health and wellness, pet, outdoor and sports categories.

Live selling features major celebrities, live giveaways, exclusive discounts, and 24-hour streaming across the whole Singles’ Day sales period. For example, Benedict Cumberbatch participated in last years live stream to give clues about a mystery box on social.


Alibaba’s hyper-realistic digital influencers, Ayayi and Noah, helped promote retailers such as Tommy Hilfiger and other luxury brands.

These influencers known as digital idols attracted a more digitally-native younger generation. Tmall Luxury Pavilion also launched a virtual influencer called Timo to showcase digital collectibles from luxury brands.


A virtual shopping mall was created on singles’ day to replicate the physical experience of a brick-and-mortar store, where customizable avatars could view 700 products and checked out purchases in virtual shopping carts.

Cosmetics label, Maybelline, unveiled its metaverse debut on Alibaba’s e-commerce arm, Tmall, with the city of Rhythm, a musical journey incorporating virtual makeup to try on. In each of the four zones, shoppers could discover virtual live streamers sharing the latest beauty trends.


Instead of chasing growth through discounting, Alibaba has different tiers of loyalty schemes including an 88VIP club for shoppers spending over $8,000.

Its most loyal customers get access to one-on-one dedicated customer service, personalised vouchers and loyalty gifts, as well as memberships to other services. Merchants are also able to market directly to VIP members. For example, Mars made a special gift box of chocolate bars exclusively for its VIP members.


Many new products were exclusively available on Alibaba’s marketplaces for Singles’ Day and brands released a series of limited-editions, brand collaborations and capsule collections. Burberry launched a wool scarf emblazoned with a mounted knight, exclusively for Tmall shoppers. While skateboarding brand, Vans, released limited-edition shoes and The North Face partnered with artist KAWS on a jacket line.


During peak moments, Alibaba reported processing 583,000 orders per second! A crash even for a few minutes could cost the company millions. The massive computing power required has a big impact on the environment, so Alibaba has it’s own dedicated ecommerce cloud servers that run on sustainable clean energy to offset this impact.

Paul Sheldon, Senior Creative in Leeds is strategic and conceptual, with expert knowledge of creative disciplines, design & retail trends, and digital and emerging technology. Specialising in Retail, his background is focussed on creating seamless customer journeys and solutions based on insight & behaviour. Whether it’s shopper marketing, point of sale or retailtainment.

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