China’s Singles Day (anti-Valentine’s Day) to break records yet again

01 November 2021 Consultancy.asia 5 min. read

China’s Singles Day – dubbed anti-Valentine’s Day by many – is yet again poised to break records this year, with over 8 out of 10 Chinese consumers intending to spend the same or more in 2021 compared to last year. 

What originated as a small idea back in 1993 by a group of students that wanted to celebrate a person’s singledom and introduce a sort of anti-Valentine’s Day movement, has since grown into the world’s biggest shopping event. Last year, total Singles Day sales exceeded $74 billion (nearly 50 billion Yuan) – that’s more than Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Prime Day combined.

Growth in Singles Day sales has grown astronomically over the past years (in 2015 total sales was round $10 billion), and according to a new survey by AlixPartners, this year will be no different. The management consultancy canvassed the views of over 2,000 consumers from all regions in China, finding that the majority of Chinese expect to buy their way to another record. 

CONSUMERS CONTINUE TO RELY ON ONLINE CHANNELS FOR CONVENIENCE AND SAFETY REASONS

The online channel will see a further increase in uptake, particularly in Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities, where many consumers said they find it both safer and more convenient to buy online and would prefer that channel on Singles Day to limit their physical interactions. However, consumers in Tier 3 and Tier 4 cities (which have less mature e-commerce logistics networks) are more likely to visit stores in person in search of deals. 

On average, consumers intend to spend over RMB 3,000 this year. A group of around 12% more wealthy Chinese (mostly based in tier-1 and new tier-1 cities such as Hangzhou and Chengdu) plan to spend over RMB 10,000 on Singles Day.

Made in China

In a reversal of a pre-pandemic trend, AlixPartners noted that consumers are demonstrating a growing preference for national brands over foreign brands. Surveyed consumers are planning to make 73% of their Singles Day purchases on local brands, a 3% increase from 2020. In particular, 55% cited national loyalty as the key reason. 

QUALITY AND PRODUCT DESIGN ARE KEY CONSIDERATIONS FOR SHOPPERS OF FOREIGN BRAND ELECTRONICS AND SKINCARE

Kenny Yao, a Director at AlixPartners in China, said, “Younger Chinese shoppers are gradually growing a sense of national pride. Chinese Gen Z no longer seek high-end foreign brand names purely for social status. They are looking for products that can truly represent their identity.” 

Consumers who do choose to buy a foreign brand (AlixPartners’ analysis zoomed in on two segments: electronics and skincare) regard quality and better design as the top selection criteria, followed by the inability to find a local substitute. 

Livestreams

Notably, livestream-based shopping is popping as a key driver of sales this year in the e-commerce segment. Only 17% of the survey respondents said they have no plans to spend via livestreaming on Singles Day.

THE PERCENTAGE OF CONSUMERS NOT PLANNING TO SPEND

Consumers typically watch livestreams as a warmup to plan their purchases ahead of time. Doing so helps them better understand detailed product information of items they are considering purchasing, which is particularly important for beauty and skincare shoppers. Meanwhile, livestreams also offers consumers access to personalised and exclusive discount offers – as brands leverage the channel to build a fanbase. 

Overall, 32% of the Chinese respondents said they would spend half or above of their budget via livestreams, an increase of 14% compared to last year. Among Gen Z shoppers, as many as 94% claimed they would spend via livestreaming.

76% SAID THEY WOULD START PARTICIPATING IN LIVESTREAMING BEFORE THE ACTUAL DATE TO PREVIEW PRODUCTS AND RESEARCH AHEAD OF TIME

Britton Russell, a Director at AlixPartners in Hong Kong, commented, “Chinese consumers have become more price and quality conscious after Covid-19. Livestreaming is a key channel for them to get a full download on product information before making shopping decisions. In a time where the idea of live commerce is so widely accepted across the country, a successful Singles Day campaign likely will depend on how successful the pre-event livestreaming activities are.”

AlixPartners is a global strategy and management consulting firm with offices in more than 20 cities around the world. In Asia, the consultancy has four offices: in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Seoul, and Tokyo. The firm’s Singles Day study is conducted annually ahead of the November 11 shopping feast.