Forget Black Friday: Singles’ Day is where you should be focusing

China’s largest shopping event 11/11, also known as Singles’ Day or 光棍节 (Guanggun Jie) is a day of celebration for people who are single.

For the millions of singletons out there, the day is celebrated as the exact opposite of Valentine’s Day. Instead of spending money on chocolates, flowers, and romantic gestures for a significant other, every year on 11th November, Chinese consumers are encouraged to treat themselves through online retail.

Success of Singles’ Day

Some say that Singles’ Day began in 2009 as a way to boost consumer spending during the shopping gap between two major Chinese holidays: the National Holiday in October and the Lunar New Year. Others believe that Alibaba – China’s largest e-Commerce company – picked this particular date as the ones in the date represent single people. Whatever its origin, one thing is certain; Chinese consumers spend big on this annual shopping day. Sales have grown each year, and in 2015, online  sales exceeding those of Black Friday – a similar retail sales day originating in the U.S.

International e-Commerce opportunity

Online retail in China is growing at a higher rate than that of the U.S., and an increasing amount of purchases are being made on mobile devices, and this will only rise in the future, as younger generations become more reliant on this technology.

Singles’ Day success isn’t limited to domestic brands. In 2015, it was estimated that one third of purchases from the event were made on international websites.

Many sources even attribute the 2015 success of Singles’ Day to the participation of Western brands. However, one size does not fit all, especially when it comes to marketing and selling in different markets and countries. So, what’s the best strategy for entering the Chinese market?

4 tips for business success in China

Tip 1 – Are you speaking Chinese?

It might sound obvious, but speaking your customer’s language is one of the best ways to build engagement, and in turn, a loyal following in a new market.

Only 1% of China’s population speak English, so if you aren’t translating product information, terms and conditions and marketing material into Chinese, you’re unlikely to see many online sales.

In some cases, you may want to consider website localisation – altering as many features of the website as necessary to conform to the needs and cultural expectations of the target audience, in order to strike the right chord. Essentially, anything from design to photography can be localised for a specific country or region, but the number one aspect of website localisation is language translation.

To go beyond translation and create a culturally appropriate and well-structured global site, it’s vital you ensure that native linguists – who know how to position your brand in China – translate your content. By getting native linguists to work on the content, you will be able to ensure your readers understand the content, which include nuances and idioms that local languages take on.

Tip 2 – Forget Google and Amazon

When optimising a website, most SEO professionals will focus on page results on Google. But in China, Baidu dominates the search engine market, claiming 80% of all advertising revenue in 2015.

With a significant proportion of potential online customers opting for the preferred search engine of your target market will play an important role in how successful your website is in China.

Having a great search ranking in Google will not help you in China, so you need to adapt your SEO strategy accordingly.

Whilst Amazon has a presence in China, its market share is quite low. Instead, explore other e-Commerce platforms, such as Tmall and

Tip 3 – Understand social

Just as all markets don’t have the same preference for search engines, social media trends and habits change from country to country. China’s social media landscape is very unique, with web censorship laws making it difficult to have a presence on certain platforms.

In order to localise your marketing strategy for the Chinese market, you’ll need to look at setting up profiles on sites such as Weibo, QQ and WeChat – alternatives to Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter.

Many brands use social media in the run up to Singles’ Day to generate engagement and promote discounts and vouchers.

Tip 4 – Payment methods

Making purchases via the Internet has become a way of life for many, but people are different, countries are different, and the way in which people choose to handle their money is different.

Whilst most countries prefer a traditional debit/credit payment method, Chinese consumers prefer Alipay, an alternative payment method which dominates 60% of the market share in China.

The remaining majority of customers opt for China UnionPay credit cards – a card scheme that’s already bigger than MasterCard and forecast to be bigger than Visa. So it’s worth offering different payment methods to satisfy your international customers.

Two of the most powerful business trends in the world today are the rise of Chinese consumers and the rise of eCommerce. With both of these going hand in hand on Singles’ Day, it is important to make sure everything is tailored towards your consumer’s online habit.


As well as being a self-confessed language geek and baking fanatic, Fiona is the Digital Marketing Manager at Capita Translation and Interpreting. When she's not writing blogs, she often dreams of touring France one patisserie at a time.

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