Kayla Marci

October 31, 2021

Learnings from super Singles Day sales

US and UK retailers are competing for a sliver of the $56B profits Singles Day made this year. Discover how the event fared last year and direction for the upcoming promotion.

Continuing its record-breaking streak, Alibaba’s Singles Day extravaganza exceeded $56 billion in sales with offers across four days resulting in 16 times as many orders as Amazon Prime Day.

Ahead of this year's event, we've broken down the key insights into the performance of the biggest shopping event on the planet and included fresh direction to inform future strategies.

Want to measure the promotions your competitors took on Singles Day? Reach out for a demo to see EDITED’s discounting tools in action.

Product & promotional opportunities for 2021

Extended discounts

From Cyber sales to Prime events, discount "days" are no longer limited to 24 hours. Last year, Singles' Day spread across four days and this year, we can expect retailers to offer pre and post-sale promotions to kickstart festive trading, putting another "Cyber November" on the cards. However, similar to Black Friday, retailers may pare back their offers after taking such deep cuts last year.

Celebrate sexy dressing

Singles' Day is the perfect occasion to celebrate self-love, complimenting one of the hottest fashion trends for 2021. Promoting shopping edits featuring risqué party trends such as cut-outs and corsets is an optimal alternative to get involved in the hype without specifically marking down products.

singles dayFashion Nova US Email - Nov 11, 2020

Treat yourself, care for others

Self-indulgence is a key message within this event. 2021 should be no different, with hedonism at an all-time high following the Hot Vax Summer. Wellness essentials across beauty and home should be prioritized. Additionally, with Alibaba embroiled in a sexual assault scandal, we can expect reparations to be made on its most profitable day ever. Retailers riding this wave should also look to support women's charities and social causes.

Experiment with livestreaming

Already synonymous with Singles Day, it's becoming a more popular tool with Western retailers. Encourage consumers to sign up early and ensure a seamless experience, as shoppers could be dissuaded from purchasing if they have to leave the stream to checkout.ASOS Email UK - Nov 11, 2020

2020 Key learnings

  • Sales started earlier. Not to be outdone by Amazon’s 48 hour Prime Days, Alibaba spread Singles Day promotions across four days, adding the 1st-3rd as a warm-up to the main event on the 11th, causing November to be rebranded as “Cyber Month.”

  • Discount depths were higher than advertised. Retailers that responded to the Alibaba event stuck to the traditional theme of promotions in multiples of 11 in communications, while 30% off was a popular offer. EDITED data reveals the average advertised discount of products on the 11th was 43% in the US and 38% in the UK.

  • Dresses and shirting were targeted. As mirrored in communications, product-specific promotions were activated to churn through hard-to-sell styles. Shirts, dresses, jeans and trousers were exposed to discounts of 60% off or higher – all categories impacted by work from home culture.

  • Self-indulgence was encouraged. With 2020 going down in modern history as one of the most chaotic years to date, retailers used the sale as an opportunity for customers to treat themselves as a reward for their struggles.

The extra days

With Alibaba expanding Singles Day to include November 1st-3rd, retailers were inspired to kick-start sales with early offers of their own. Across the three initial days, discounted products at UK retailers were advertised at an average of 37%, while the US cranked it up to 42%.

Data from past months showed retailers were more conservative than usual with first discounts due to the aggressive markdowns taken earlier in the year when COVID-19 broke out. However, this is starting to change with the end of 2020 in sight. From November 1st-11th, products discounted for the first time across both regions increased by 5% YoY as retailers gear up for Black Friday sales.

US market analysis

  • Last year, US retailers focused on discount breadth over depth, advertising 45% of products on sale with an average reduction of 41%. The strategy flipped this year with the proportion pulled back to 40% and the average discount depth deeper at 43%.
  • For menswear categories, retailers concentrated on clearing tops, outerwear and bottoms. Breaking this down at a style level, shirts, trousers, jeans and coats were the top items warranting a reduction of 60% or higher.
  • In 2019, women’s accessories were one of the top categories targeted for steep markdowns. This year, US retailers prioritized dresses, which have been a problem area due to lockdown and events on pause. T-shirts, blouses and shirts made up the majority of tops discounted at this interval.
  • Since November 1st, the number of products selling out of the majority of SKUs increased by 17% YoY. 40-50% was the most popular bracket and tops, bottoms and accessories were the highest selling categories.
singles day

UK market analysis

  • There was little change in the UK’s top-level strategy YoY. On November 11th for both years, the average advertised discount sat at 38%. The proportion of products reduced was slightly lower than 2019 – 53% vs. 54%, yet higher than the US.
  • Dresses saw the most products reduced at this high level, reflective of the category’s challenging year. In comparison, sweatpants equaled less than 2% of bottoms discounted at 60% or above, indicating their continued demand. In contrast to the US, more women’s swimwear was lined up for a heavy reduction.
  • The aggressive discounts applied to dresses didn’t translate to high sell outs. Despite fewer products reduced at 60% off or more, women’s tops, bottoms and outerwear all outsold dresses on Singles Day. Overall, 30%-40% off was the most popular discount bracket, proving deeper reductions don’t always resonate with this region as it does in the US.
  • For menswear, outerwear wasn’t reduced as heavily as in the US. However, steep markdowns for shirts, shorts, trousers and jeans resulted in tops and bottoms as the categories with the deepest discounts.
singles day

Promotional messages

  • Multiples of 11 remained a standout theme. Most retailers opted for 11% or 22% off. Nasty Gal ran with 55%, slightly lower than the 60% off sale it’s promoted for the past two years.
  • In light of the pandemic and the mood of 2020, upbeat angles focused on celebrating and treating yourself was emphasized. The usual girl power focus, as executed in Missy Empire’s marketing, was still apparent while a more inclusive tone was set by Weekday and Lindex affirming Singles Day is for everyone.
  • Following on from Alibaba, promotions started earlier and ran longer. Puma was one of the first retailers to kick off Singles Day communications on November 3rd and Hugo Boss has advertised its sales will run until November 15th.

Early bird deals






50% and higher

Mystery deals

Treat yourself


And, of course, look to data to help plan an airtight discounting strategy. Talk to your dedicated EDITED Retail Strategist today and get an edge on the competition. 

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