Over the years, Adweek has published multiple stories detailing why Singles Day—the biggest shopping day in the world—would ever gain traction in the U.S.
The latest ran in 2021.
The experts we consulted cited multiple reasons:
- Singles Day is too close to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which is part of the reason Amazon scheduled Prime Day for July;
- It lacks name recognition among U.S. consumers without ties to China;
- Alibaba, the platform that transformed Singles Day into a shopping phenomenon, is not a prominent player in the U.S.;
- American retailers can simply start their holiday promotions early under different names (like Amazon’s early Black Friday deals or Walmart’s Black Friday Deals for Days);
- And Nov. 11 is already a U.S. holiday, so retailers have the option to host Veterans Day sales instead.
Despite these headwinds, Alibaba-owned marketplace AliExpress has started promoting Singles Day to U.S. consumers for the first time this year via a social campaign that encourages consumers to “get aboard the AliExpress.”
Did we get it wrong? No, not at all. But the shopping landscape has changed, and AliExpress is making a big push with U.S. consumers.
First, let’s look at what AliExpress is doing.
The campaign kicked off Nov. 1 on platforms like TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube. It showcases “massive deals” in “high-energy ads with a funk-inspired sing-song rhyme,” as a company statement put it.
AliExpress also recruited hundreds of U.S.-based TikTok micro-influencers focused on beauty, tech, outdoors and home décor to push #AllAboardTheAliExpress. Per the platform’s figures, these influencers generated 17 million impressions as of Nov. 3.
An AliExpress spokesperson noted the platform “melds shopping [and] fun.”
“As a world leader with little visibility in the U.S., this is a big push for them,” she said.
Tom O’Keefe, CEO of ad agency OKRP, added, “This new initiative is fun and playful and was designed to bring to life the shopper-tainment experience of finding great deals and unique products on the AliExpress platform.”
Coming to America
But Singles Day has been an excuse to buy stuff since 2009. Why is there suddenly interest in the U.S. market?
In a statement, Briza Roche Bueno, who works in marketing and business development for AliExpress in America, pointed to supply chain challenges and inflation.
In addition, she said AliExpress has seen growing demand after operating in the U.S. for more than 12 years.
“Our challenge is to contextualize for American consumers the importance of this date and show them the opportunity to anticipate their end-of-year purchases with the lowest prices of the year,” she added.
The only constant is change
So does AliExpress have a chance? Maybe.
Kassi Socha, director analyst at research firm Gartner, said Singles Day 2022 comes at a time “when Chinese consumers are facing a lot around continued Covid-19 restrictions … that’s impacting the ability of Chinese consumers to spend at the same pace they have in the past.”
Indeed, in 2021, Singles Day sales grew just 8.5%, which Reuters reported was its “slowest rate ever.”
“I think Alibaba is strategic and expanding their advertising beyond their consumer market,” Socha added.
What’s more, a lot has changed since November 2021, when Singles Day in the U.S. was still a long shot.
First, Amazon introduced a second Prime Day in October. This helped to “energize retailers just talking about holiday earlier than in the past,” Socha said.
Zach Weinberg, vp of ecommerce at performance marketing firm Reprise Commerce, added, “The advantage of Singles Day is it’s a full month closer to holiday shopping than this past Prime Day was, and so consumers have gotten a little more comfortable thinking about holiday shopping now that Halloween has passed.”
Second, consumers are worried about supply chain bottlenecks again.
“U.S. consumers are shifting their winter holiday shopping behavior earlier this year because of the experience they had in 2021, when they went to buy their holiday gifts later in the season and the shelves were empty,” Socha said.
The addition of inflation is also pushing consumers to shop earlier to find the best deals.
New kid in town
The $100,000 (or more) question is whether Alibaba can take market share from U.S. players.
According to Socha, consumers are not as brand or store loyal as they have been in the past because of inflation—and so they will respond to price and value in 2022.
“That provides an opportunity for Alibaba to acquire some customers that would typically shop other retailers,” she added. “I don’t think Singles Day as a term has the same impact that some of the key holiday shopping moments do to U.S. consumers. But I think awareness has definitely been created and it will build over time.”
That could bode well for future Singles Days when it is “synonymous with great discounts similar to Black Friday and Cyber Month, as we’re now calling it,” Socha added.
Weinberg agreed, noting Alibaba may not have predicted consumer interest in discounts would be so high when they planned to launch in the U.S., but “it certainly makes 2022 a fantastic year to get started.”
He agreed that brand recognition is growing.
“U.S. consumers have been hearing about Singles Day for a couple years now—at least the ones who are already high adopters of online commerce,” Weinberg added. “These consumers are likely the ones who will be very engaged this year.”