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Singles Day is big in Asia – let’s keep it that way

Nobody is going to benefit from another sale.

Anyone slightly interested in what is going on in the world of e-commerce knows that Singles Day took place last weekend. I spent parts of my Saturday monitoring the big online retailers, trying to pick up on what was trending in the Nordics, Europe and Asia. My conclusion: Singles Day is a great concept, and it works for Alibaba, but I don’t see it catching on here.

In the week leading up to Singles Day, consumer electronics chain Elkjøp/Elgiganten teamed up with with Instagram star The Fat Jewish in what I suspect was a failed attempt to create a buzz around Singles Day in the Nordics. And despite a handful of local players following suit, the big European names – Zalando, Asos, Zara, Amazon.co.uk, Boohoo – were all conspicuous by their absence.

From a mobile perspective Singles Day is unique. A staggering 90% of sales were made on phones, a clear sign that for younger consumers at least the future is mobile. (Only 30% of shoppers made mobile payments on Black Friday last year.) The best-selling products also took me by surprise, with everyday necessities such as multivitamins, milk powder and nappies in huge demand. As I touched on in my last blog more of us will want to shop for our groceries online, but the Chinese are obviously way ahead of us already.

So why aren’t I convinced that Singles Day can become a thing here in Europe?

First of all, timing. Unlike Asia, where Christmas is a non-event, we have the holidays to look forward to in 1.5 months and all the sales that go with it, beginning with Black Friday on November 24. Different marketing triggers create different opportunities. We simply don’t have room for Singles Day in the calendar – and I doubt retailers have the margins to make a proper go of it either.

Second, you have to go big or go home. When Black Friday came to Norway five or six years ago, everyone went all in with offers of up to 70%, and sales rocketed. Now you have Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Singles Day and more. If retailers spread themselves too thinly, the most they can offer consumers is up to 20% or 25% off in any one sale. For me as a consumer that’s just not that good a deal.

Either we all jump on Singles Day and Black Friday disappears or vice-versa. Or to put it another way if there’s nothing really in it for the consumer, why bother? And that’s why I’m banking on remaining an armchair spectator.

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