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Singles Day signals a strong holiday season for ecommerce

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The halo effect of Alibaba’s fabulously successful Singles Day and the turning of the calendar to November appear to have kick-started the 2020 holiday shopping season broadly across ecommerce sites.

Online sales on Wednesday — Singles Day — were up 65% globally over the previous Wednesday, according to data from Signifyd’s Commerce Network. Increases in verticals associated with the day — such as fashion, beauty and cosmetics, and luxury — all showed strong performances.

What you need to know
  • Overall ecommerce sales soared on Singles Day, a good sign for retailers this holiday season.
  • Signifyd’s data showed a 65% increase in sales on Nov. 11, compared to the week before.
  • Fashion, beauty and cosmetics, luxury and electronics were all strong performers.

The increased spending on sites not directly affiliated with Alibaba is a good sign for the coming holiday period. It’s a strong sign that an October in which online sales were up, but fell short of predictions of an early holiday rush, was not a harbinger.

Singles Day haul is a good sign for holiday sales

The spending increase also should lend retailers some reassurance that despite consumers’ concerns about the economy and their personal finances, they are still willing to spend for special occasions. That’s welcome news given that more than 50% of consumers surveyed in the U.S. and the UK said they are worried about losing all or some of their income in the next year.

Alibaba started offering Singles Day promotions in China in 2009 to spark commerce and it remains a day for serious shopping in the country. It consistently brings in more in ecommerce sales than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined in the United States. This year sales on Alibaba alone reached at least $75 billion, according to several sources.

As has been the case with Amazon Prime Day, the Singles Day celebration soon spread beyond its original sponsor. Held on November 11, (no date says single more than 11/11) Singles Day falls close to the traditional start of the holiday shopping season and coincides with the Veterans Day holiday in the United States.

While disheartening to some because of the solemnity of the day, Veterans Day has been a traditional day for shopping promotions in the U.S. for years. Adding Singles Day to the existing shopping trend just brings it all to the next level. 

Is Singles Day the new Black Friday?

“For a few years now, we’ve seen that Nov. 11, is the new Black Friday. And while COVID and concerns about online fulfillment have redefined the holiday shopping calendar in 2020, we’re seeing a familiar pattern this week,” said Stefan Nandzik, Signifyd vice president for product and brand marketing. “The combination of a national holiday in the U.S. and the spill over of Alibaba’s Singles Day appears to have jump-started the season. Our data shows ecommerce spending on Singles Day up more than 60% compared to the previous week.”

A look at the verticals that saw the biggest bounce on Wednesday is another indication that Singles Day was on the minds of a significant segment of online shoppers. It’s become primarily a day to purchase wants as opposed to needs, whether for a loved one or oneself. As Jacques Penhirin, a partner at Oliver Wyman, told CNN, consumers are looking to pamper themselves, particularly in the year of the pandemic. 

“So shoppers are approaching Singles Day with an indulgent mindset,” Penhirin told CNN. “For example, a shopper who usually buys Maybelline makeup might instead spend a bit more to buy stuff from Yves Saint Laurent on sale. Now it’s time to be indulgent.”

Fashion sees a monster Singles Day

It’s no surprise, then, that Signifyd’s data showed that spending in the Health, Beauty & Cosmetics vertical was up 43% on Singles Day compared to the Wednesday the week before.

The biggest uptick came in the Apparel, Accessories & Footwear category, which saw sales soar by 118% week over week. That could be an indication of pent-up demand, given that the category has seen hot-and-cold sales during the pandemic

Other categories associated with indulging and gift-giving include Electronics, where sales climbed 60%, Luxury Goods, which saw a 36% rise and Collectibles, up 38%. Grocery & Household Goods also put in a strong performance, rising 42%, because, what’s a shopping holiday without something good to eat and drink?

And while it’s true that focusing on one day of hearty ecommerce sales can lead to false hope, November’s numbers in general give retailers reason to celebrate. After a slow start to the month, daily sales figures turned upward in the run-up to Singles Day.

It will be interesting now to see if that trajectory keeps up or whether sales cool before their next big November moment: Cyber Week. 

Photo by Getty Images 


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Mike Cassidy

Mike is lead storyteller at Signifyd. A former journalist and a retail geek, he covers ecommerce and the way technology is transforming digital commerce. Contact him at mike.cassidy@signifyd.com; follow him on Twitter at @mikecassidy.