This year, Singles Day turned out to be four times bigger than Black Friday and Cyber Monday, with Alibaba Group alone generating 25.3 billion USD in sales – up 40% from last year. We took a look at aggregated data from some of the UK’s largest retailers to see how UK ecommerce benefitted from spend-happy online shoppers in China, and how they may have missed out. 

Our analysis showed us that this day is of increasing significance to the UK trading calendar, and that retail brands can win big if they participate. Read o
n to get four key findings of our analysis, along with some tips for next year. 

How it all began


Singles Day was started in 1991 as a way for college and university students to celebrate their singledom. It is often described as an ‘anti-Valentine’s Day’ of sorts, and was reportedly set for 11.11 because the number “1” refers to a single individual.

The first shopping promotion activities catering specifically to Singles’ Day started in 2009 and soared to new heights in 2011 – on 11.11.11, the “Singles Day of the Century” due to the date’s six “1” s. The online revenue generated on Singles Day has been growing massively ever since, and it’s becoming increasingly well-known overseas as well.

The analysis 

Working with some of the industry’s largest retailers means we have access to vast quantities of online shopping data. Clients from the retail sector include the likes of Arcadia, Farfetch, Net-a-Porter and Wolf & Badger. In a nutshell, we aggregated data from a plethora of these clients and analysed the behaviour of online shoppers located in China, that visited these retailers’ UK websites on Singles Day, Saturday 11 November 2017.

To make sense of the resulting findings, we also calculated what an average Saturday in 2017 looked like in retail, and checked results from last year’s Singles Day - all filtered just for shoppers located in China. It’s important to note that not all of the retailers in our sample offered up promotions catered specifically to Singles’ Day, and that this analysis therefore gives us a nice cross-sectional view.

The learnings

1. Chinese shoppers are crossing borders

This year’s Singles Day drew over three times (236%) more CN visitors to UK retail websites than on last year’s Singles Day. This also represents a near sevenfold (563%) increase in CN visitors compared to an average Saturday.

UK retailers have a growing customer demographic to cater to here, and we can expect the crowds to be even larger next year.

One key cultural clash is that 11 November coincides with Armistice Day in Britain and Veterans Day in the US. The idea of running promotions that encourage people to treat themselves on such a day may not resonate well with some customers. But it can be tackled by running weekend-long promotions, rather than focusing on just one day.

Alternatively, if you don’t do discounting, make sure to serve up other relevant messaging or experiences around Singles Day - but only to visitors who are located in China. For instance, by setting up product category pages curated specifically for Singles Day shoppers. It will set you apart from the crowd.

2. Mobile web will make or break you in the eyes of the Asian consumer

This year, the majority (59%) of visitors to UK retail sites from China came from mobile. That’s a 61% increase in mobile traffic share over last year’s Singles’ Day, when just over a third (37%) of visitors came from mobile devices.

This phenomenal growth in mobile traffic from China indicates to what a large extent Chinese shoppers are now using their phones to shop. But although just 40% of Chinese visitors came from desktop devices, the overwhelming majority share (82%) of CN revenue was generated on desktop.

In fact, only 16% of revenue generated through Chinese shoppers came from mobile. That’s a massive - if not to say shocking - missed opportunity.

It’s a known fact that mobile web is a challenge for all retailers. If mobile is on your roadmap, remember: you’re competing not only against other retailers, but also against the likes of Instagram and Pinterest.





3. Focus on converting new visitors

Though the average order value of a CN customer was 63% higher than on an average Saturday, it was only 3% higher than Singles’ Day last year. This shows that - as is the case in many sales periods - the quicker win for retailers is probably to convert more visitors to buyers, instead of focusing on upselling existing customers.

This approach also makes sense when taking into account that 86% of CN online shoppers on Singles Day were new to the UK sites they were visiting – that’s 35% more new shoppers than on an average Saturday.

A good way to make sure you get these people coming back, is by putting in place smart notifications or promotions that are triggered through abandonment behaviour. Use these notifications to capture email addresses or to provide further incentives for purchasing.

4. Get up early

We took a look at what the average retailer would have seen in terms of hourly revenue and traffic across Singles Day. The highest amount of visitors came to UK sites around 5am GMT, but the biggest revenue spike took place at noon. This indicates a big opportunity to get more visitors to make a purchase in the early hours, and provides yet another reason to kick off sales or communications a day or even two days early. The eight-hour time difference means that you may wish to segment the messaging on your site according to the visitor’s time.



The bottom line

Whether you decide to put in place promotions or communication catered purely to your Chinese audience or not, there are some basic adjustments you can consider making to ensure that you will see better results next year. Make sure that your payment methods cater to Chinese shoppers, and that your mobile web checkout works flawlessly. If you decide to become an early adopter and run an extensive campaign dedicated to Singles Day, make sure that you really blow the competition away with your mobile experience.

Want more insights around 2017 peak trading and mobile? Tune in to our webinar with IMRG Strategy and Insight Director Andy Mulcahy on December 12, where we will review how retailer activity unfolded over the crucial pre-Christmas peak trading weeks.

Watch the webinar 








Anna Abrell

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