Singles Day 2020 as the measuring stick for the retail season


With Singles Day ahead it is the kick-off of the season for retail and Ecommerce. Where Singles Day did over $38 Billion dollars in revenue it is still much bigger than Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Thanksgiving combined!

What is Singles Day? It started in 1993 on 11-11 and it quickly grew out to the single largest Ecommerce event on the globe. The numbers are staggering!  

In 2019 Singles Day did $38 Billion dollars, the first Billion of Ecommerce happened in the first 68 seconds, it did over 800 Million transactions, which comes down to 350.000 transactions per second! Imagine the infrastructure behind that.  

I posted an article on the previous version before on my Linkedin that goes deeper into the product experience and the impact that incomplete or inaccurate product data can have.  

Commerce Experience 

Alibaba understood how to take a ‘modest’ consumer initiated self-proclaimed event and dial it all the way up to 11! Jack Ma took this opportunity to build it out to a mega experience. A yearly show, that puts the Olympics to shame, leads in the event and during an Ecommerce frenzy it goes all in on offering the best possible shopping experience.  

And it’s this experience that we can still improve upon outside of China.  

Referencing an older article by Accenture there are 5 lessons: 

  • Fast and frictionless payment experiences increase conversion and repeated purchases 
  • Optimized mobile ordering and payments experiences drive the majority of sales 
  • Omnichannel experience with seamless integration of online and offline is the new normal 
  • Online pre-sale orders notify customers about the sale in advance and heats up the interest 
  • Payment processing and traffic bandwidth should be able to stand the heat 

Although online is a key element, offline shops are trying to get in on the action as well by offering special Single Day discounts and a combination of on- and offline shopping. 

This Ecommerce holiday is moving into Europe. More and more organizations are taking learnings in China and start to apply this in their European stores. Global brands like H&M, Zara and Nike are taking to Europe in their attempt to export Singles Day and activate the European shopper. 

Local retailers also try to get into the action with special discounts and deep integrations into local and cross-border marketplaces. In addition, compared to big marketplaces and pure online players, local players are able to offer more options for shipping & pickup. According to this (Dutch) article by Sendcloud it is a good idea to consider the following: 

  • Offer multiple shipping options – around the holidays it’s an absolute peak to get everything delivered. By offering choice in deliver days the chance of getting your order delivered in the first attempt goes up. Good for everyone involved! 
  • Offer pickup points – often also a cheaper option and relieves the delivery services a bit during these overwhelming times.  
  • Offer ensured shipping – with the pressure up on delivering services, there is an increased chance things go wrong. Going with ensured shipping might be money well spend.  
  • Branded tracking and notifications – although the sale has happened, it is no moment to let go on the goal of offering the best possible experience. Offering a branded experience from start to finish is what sets the small shop apart from organizations that get that experience is what makes the difference in 2020! 

Modern Ecommerce  

The technology supporting Ecommerce frenzies like these is absolutely mindboggling, the infrastructure behind something like Alibaba’s Singles Day; heavy load balancing, Decoupled presentation layers, Content Delivery Networks, and more. Everything to handle this humongous peak pressure. 

In more normal Ecommerce situations, it is also important to have an integrated approach to handle your customer data and act upon explicit available information and use the implicit available data gathered on their click behavior.  

Both explicit and implicit data should be available to your Ecommerce environment so it can automatically act upon the available information. Triggered email automation based on available data will have a significant impact on revenue. The ability to use the gathered data combined with account manager provided information can allow the system to try and offer the best possible customer experience. 

Earlier I wrote another blog around the future of Ecommerce, which you can find here.  


While Singles Day was able to show well over 20% growth year over year, everyone in retail is keeping an eye out on how it will go this year. It will set the tone for all the other, following, retail days. Expectations are high, but uncertain. 

Asia seems to do pretty well under the current pandemic circumstances, where Europe and the USA are still struggling in getting a good handle on this.  

This calls for several possible scenarios: 

  • Ecommerce grows significant at the cost of brick and mortar traffic – due to the current circumstances everyone tries to move their holiday shopping to online as much as possible. Giving ecommerce a boost, but overall spending might be at a flattened growth or stagnant (or worse) trend.   
  • Ecommerce & commerce continue to see growth – growth all around, regardless of the economic situations there is growth everywhere in the attempt to hold on to what we presumed normal before.  
  • Ecommerce & commerce flatten or potentially declines – even though technology has allowed to bring many offline stores online in record times the overall situation might be that consumers will be careful with their spending which will have a direct result to the overall holiday season spending.  

In the next months we will learn which of the possible paths will happen, luckily most analyst and news-outlets are predicting another mega boost for Ecommerce while we come to the end of a year that was pivotal to say the least.  

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