Shaun Broughton, APAC Director of Shopify Plus.
by Shaun Broughton, APAC Director of Shopify Plus

Last year’s Singles Day delivered a whopping $43 billion in sales in a mere 24 hours, breaking all previous records and setting a new standard for online shopping events. Every year, the landmark ecommerce event gets bigger and more disruptive to the retail industry, and with the pandemic further accelerating the e-commerce boom this year, Singles Day is no doubt going to be the event to watch for 2020.

Already, we’re seeing brands around the world start to innovate and develop bespoke products specifically for Singles Day 2020. With only a couple of hours left until this momentous industry occasion, it will be critical for marketers to play their cards right leading up to, during and after the event.

Over-communicate in targeted ways

The pandemic has highlighted the value of over-communicating to your customer base during constant change. Whether it’s through eDM content, social media channels, or regular website updates, consumers have normalised the pattern of going online to check whether retailers are open, offering discounts, or changing their sales approaches. More than ever, retailers need to be over-communicating on what they will and will not be doing on Singles Day and how this will impact customers.

Customers will also be looking for transparency, and any overly optimistic and unkept promises will result in a rapid and negative word-of-mouth effect. If shipping is likely to take longer, say so. If there is limited stock available, say so. Retailers will be rewarded for their honesty as consumers are looking for reliability during a time when almost everything else in their routines is uncertain.

While taking this proactive approach to customer communication and engagement, make sure it remains targeted, and over-communication strategies aren’t applied to the masses for the sake of it. Throughout November and the holiday shopping seasons, consumers will quickly become overwhelmed with information overload, and the brands that speak directly to them on their preferred channels will be the most likely to break through the noise.

Be prepared for traffic peaks, don’t hope for the best

If 2020 has seemed like a rollercoaster for the retail industry, get ready for the wildest part of the ride. Singles Day could be the financial game-changer of retailers’ 2020 journey. It’s make or break – either the business is ready to make record sales and round out a disruptive year, or the site could crash and all the hype to date could be for nought.

Now is the time to be checking and re-checking that the back-end technology in place is ready to scale as traffic comes and goes throughout Singles Day and will deliver a smooth customer experience regardless of where customers are, how much they are buying, and how many pages they want to visit across the site. In the past, complex software was customised for months at a time to prepare businesses for a major sales peak, but today there are agile and cloud-based technology platforms that deliver faster and more streamlined customer experiences off the shelf. When Singles Day is over, no one wants to be the one saying they had the most expensive technology in place, but its complexity led to the highest volume of abandoned carts in the business’ history – keep it simple.

Singles Day is just the beginning

Shortly after Singles Day will be Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and then Christmas and Boxing Day sales. It won’t be a matter of switching retail engines on and off in between each major event – this year, the sales season will be one long, customer-centric, and experience-driven ecommerce festival.

Marketers need to ensure their customer data and analytics are set up in advance to provide insight into what is selling well, to whom, to where, and why. Then, after each event, be prepared to proactively action these findings to ensure the next sales milestone is even bigger than the last, delivered with more efficiency.

Retailers and marketers have shown enormous agility and resilience this year, and this will be tested yet again throughout the upcoming sales season. If Singles Day does not go according to plan, be ready to make significant changes based on the data to get customers and sales where you want them to close off the year. There won’t be much margin for error this year as consumers nervously plan for Christmas presents earlier than ever, so ensure that any mistakes are actioned quickly and with transparency.

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