It’s that time of year again, can you hear it? Can you feel the excitement? Singles Day has reached new heights over the last few years, and in 2015 cemented its place as a genuine Sales Holiday, alongside Black Friday and Christmas (that’s right people, remember Christmas?).

Considering a year has passed, what did we learn from last year? And what are we expecting for Singles Day 2016 that will impact how marketers plan?

shopping online with credit card

Let’s Forget About Mr. Ma

This may be similar to saying forget about Santa on Christmas but we shouldn’t focus too much on Alibaba, who naturally steal the headlines. The numbers speak for themselves, with a staggering 14.3 billion USD in a single day. Although it’s difficult not to get dizzy at these numbers, Alibaba’s position in the market is different to most, and they are fortunate to have resources that allow them to even have Daniel Craig (007) make an appearance at what was a star-studded shopping event.

Pokémon Boomerang

Pokemon Go hasn’t died: it may not be as hot property as 2 months ago with it being reported last month of a decline from 45 million users to 35 million users. Particularly in Hong Kong, where offline retail is, despite recent numbers, still an extremely important channel, how will brands use Pokémon Go? I’m expecting to see a split between brands who completely avoid Pokémon Go and those who invest heavily in its ongoing caché. Imagine chasing a Pokémon through IFC to obtain a greater discount at Zara.

The Acronyms: AR/VR/AI

Augmented reality, virtual reality and artificial intelligence, very à la mode these days, is unlikely to make a wide-scale appearance this year. Alibaba (OK, this is really the last time!) have made investments in VR and AI through Buy+, but, disappointingly, I don’t foresee this playing a huge role this year. Customer uptake of the technology is still relatively low, and it would only be a distraction. AI though, particularly through customer support and keyword recognition, will play an important role amidst the frenzy to control the customer experience.

Big Data, Customer Intelligence, and the Customer Lifecycle

Most companies are understandably focusing on pushing their discounts. It will be interesting to see how companies utilize big data, and the understanding they have of their customers, to tailor the messages they send throughout the customer lifecycle. Saying “We know you love our shoes, so we’ve got a discount on shoes especially for you” is a much warmer and engaging message than saying “15% off EVERYTHING”.

Luxury Brands Go Head-to-Head with Bargains

With luxury brands initially feeling concern about associating with a discount-heavy holiday, the last few years have seen the rise of luxury brands across all categories, from cosmetics brands like Shiseido and Estee Lauder, to fashion leaders like Michael Kors, Prada, and Salvatore Ferragamo. What excited us the most in 2015 was the emergence of companies like ASOS, Zalora, and The Cambridge Satchel Company, with smart multi-channel campaigns. Whilst the breadth of companies is increasing each year, it would be interesting to see if some luxury brands take a break this year, as being too closely associated with sales and discounts could erode their prestige status.

Timing Is Everything

This isn’t just about the day itself; the buildup is vitally important, and creating an engaging strategy even more so. Customers must know before 11/11 what they can expect. Smart, automated campaigns that engage customers with a simple key message: “this is what you can expect from us on 11/11”. Five billion USD of all orders Alibaba received were in the first 90 minutes (that’s the last time I’ll refer to them, I promise!).

Social Shopping + Social Engagement

Creating campaigns on social channels is a fairly logical and obvious step. Last year, we saw consistent messaging strategies across channels, particularly from Xiaomi, who were the largest selling brand. This year, I’m excited to see if brands look at social shopping: encouraging customers to share with their friends for joint benefits and discounts. If brands can achieve this, they can secure two or more customers for the price of one.


From 2014 to 2015, there was a 72% increase in mobile orders. A mobile-first approach is essential for success, and customers won’t expect anything less. At Emarsys, we’ve been speaking with brands about integrating mobile behavior with eDMs, particularly important considering only 10% of app downloaders enable push messaging. Running abandoned basket eDMs from in-app behavior, with personalized recommendations, would be a simple example of an engaging and relevant multi-channel campaign.

Influencer Power

The importance of Key Opinion Leaders (KOL’s), particularly in China, cannot be overstated, and only increased in 2015. What impact will influencers have on Singles Day? How will brands engage them, not just to promote their brand, but to reflect their Singles Day branding and messaging? We are extremely excited to see this! From an influencer’s perspective, will they promote multiple brands, or will we see a Daniel Craig alignment to one company?

Final Thoughts

It’s always beneficial to reflect on past trends and successes to plan for the future. With these important lessons learned at hand, marketers can best prepare for the year at hand – as well as years to come.

Good luck, marketers: may the best campaign win!

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