Most UK marketers failing to capitalise on lucrative Singles’ Day sales opportunities

Research shows that three fourths of all UK marketers are missing global opportunities, especially when it comes to Singles’ Day. Is yours one of them?

The marketing experts at Rakuten Marketing reached this surprising conclusion using research carried out by Morar Consulting, and it points to a tremendous missed opportunity on the part of many UK businesses. Singles’ Day is just around the corner, and Rakuten reports that 74 per cent of UK marketers are only focused on their local market, even as many acknowledge the potential of Asia Pacific shoppers.

Singles’ Day was started as a day for students to celebrate being single by buying themselves gifts. It takes place on November 11, or 11/11, as the date resembles four solitary sticks. It has since evolved, however, into the Chinese equivalent of Black Friday and Cyber Monday with steep discounts that attract all types of buyers, with one big difference: the sales on Singles’ Day put both record-breaking Western shopping days to shame.

Last year, online shoppers in 225 countries and regions spent over $25 billion across the various Alibaba platforms on Singles’ Day. That’s more money than consumer spend on Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined. More than 140,000 brands, 60,000 of which were international, offered discounts on Alibaba’s T-mall on more than 15 million products on the day – and that’s just one of the platforms that participated. Why is it, then, that just 13 per cent of UK marketers focus on this profitable day?

Short-sighted approach leaving profits on the table

According to Rakuten, 56 per cent of marketers report keeping their marketing campaigns constant all year in response to the behaviour of local consumers and the growing preference for starting holiday shopping early. In fact, the recent Unwrapping the Global Holiday Gift Shopper Report shows two dominant shopper profiles in the UK: the early bird shopper, who plans as far as a year ahead (18 per cent of shoppers), and the sporadic shopper, who buys gifts here and there all year long (23 per cent).

While it certainly pays to account for local trends, retailers and marketers could be leaving a lot of money on the table by ignoring huge regional events like Singles’ Day. Rakuten’s Managing Director of Europe, Anthony Capano, said: “In Britain alone, as many as 35% of transactions driven for Rakuten Marketing clients are now taking place overseas. Marketing teams must start focusing on these demographics and carrying out thorough research into local consumer behaviour and trends to inform campaigns.”

Rakuten’s New Horizons: A Guide to Reaching Consumers in High-Growth Global Markets report revealed that only 11 per cent of marketers have put local marketing teams in place to roll out international campaigns in overseas markets. It’s particularly surprising when you consider the fact that almost two thirds of marketers in the UK say they think their non-UK target customers are younger, wealthier, and digitally savvier than their Western counterparts. In fact, 82 per cent of markets targeting the Asia Pacific region say they view their customer base as being composed of “premium buyers”.

Small businesses also have a big opportunity

According to Capano, research shows that APAC shoppers are a lot more likely than their UK counterparts to visit a brand’s site directly. This gives teams a chance to start out small and then adapt their strategy according to the response they receive. He feels that UK marketers need to get over their hesitation to take the international plunge and start investing in seasonal marketing campaigns. Singles’ Day in particular can yield great rewards for those who get it right.

Some UK marketers are starting to make inroads in the Chinese market. Thirty-six percent now say they’ve used the WeChat messaging app, while 30 per cent have used microblogging site Weibo and 18 per cent have used the social network Renren. However, there is still a lot of progress to be made when it comes to tapping the market.

Attracting Singles’ Day shoppers

Although Singles’ Day is essentially a one-day shopping event, there is a period running from 5th to 15th November that marketers need to hone in on. James Coggles, the Director of Client Partnerships at Dealmoon, a top social shopping community that serves Chinese expats, says that brands must come up with very compelling offers if they want to attract these shoppers.

One popular option is offering a fixed percentage-off discount across an entire site, but he also reports this audience is quite fond of “spend and save” tiered promotions and gifts with purchase that are paired with free shipping offers.

Some of the products that perform particularly well on Singles’ Day include electronics, home appliances, and even cars. There is also a strong focus on luxury products, especially when it comes to fashion and beauty, and retailers in these sectors simply can’t afford to overlook this lucrative day.