Antoine Gross
Nov 13, 2019

This Singles Day, two was better than one

Despite its origins celebrating 'being alone', this year 11.11 said far more about partnerships and collaborations than staying single.

Two handlers carry a delivery box in Alibaba's official 11.11 recap video. Source: Alizilla
Two handlers carry a delivery box in Alibaba's official 11.11 recap video. Source: Alizilla

Steeped in the history of celebrating being single, over the years Singles Day has morphed into an online and offline retail frenzy that goes far beyond its 1993 origins.

This year’s Singles Day didn’t disappoint with $38 billion in sales generated for brands. The world’s biggest shopping holiday dwarfs online retail extravaganzas such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, with this year’s sales reaching a staggering US$800 million in the first minute.

With the relationships between US brands and Chinese consumers on rocky ground amidst trade tension and a recent survey that said nearly 80% of Chinese shoppers planned on avoiding buying American brands and instead opting for Chinese products, the opportunity was clear for savvy brands across South East Asia who made the most of the big day this week.

Lazada said it received a record 3 million orders in the first hour, whilst Shopee indicated its order volume tripled in the first hour, compared to 2018.

Despite having its anti-Valentine’s Day roots, it’s ironic that when it comes to marketing, the day actually reinforces the strength of how two is better than one; at least when it comes to partnerships.


This year alone has seen Kim Kardashian live streaming for Alibaba’s TMall, Taylor Swift performing for Alibaba and Cristiano Ronaldo teaming up with Shopee for its Singles Day ads—not to mention the vast number of brands who have teamed up with influencers to spruik exclusive shopping offers in the run up to the event. Doing it alone is no longer en vogue as the opportunities for collaboration are proving to be so fruitful.

The rush to embrace partnerships on Singles Day reflects a wider trend that we are seeing across Southeast Asia as more and more brands are embracing the power of two—and getting more and more adventurous with the kind of partnerships they are seeking out.

Take historic Shanghai-based pen and ink producer Hero which this year released an ink-themed cocktail together with alcopop beverage brand Rio. Pens and booze? Not a partnership that would have rolled off the tongue? But brands are getting braver at exploring new collaborations in their quest to stay relevant, boost sales and lure in the elusive consumer.

Just the year before, 120-year-old cosmetics brand Jahwa also teamed up with Rio to launch a cocktail featuring its fragrance of Six God Floral Water—one of China's most popular mosquito repellents.

This year Shanghai-based White Rabbit milk-flavoured candy made headlines after partnering up with domestic fragrance specialist Scent Library to launch a range of skin care products infused with the essence of olives and sweet almonds (and apparently saw more than 14,000 themed items snapped up in the first 10 seconds after the skin care range debuted on Tmall).

Be it distribution, cachet, or a case of young and old brands needing to leverage history or contemporary culture, brands are increasingly becoming more open minded to forming strong business partnerships, particularly when they understand just how profitable they can be.

According to a Forrester Consulting study commissioned by Impact in June, there is a major correlation between a businesses’ partnership program maturity and their ability to meet and exceed revenue and growth goals.

Results showed that companies with the most mature partnership programs are driving revenue growth nearly twice as fast as companies with less mature programs and 77% of those surveyed said partnership development was central to their 2019 sales and marketing strategy.

As it becomes tougher to lure in new audiences via traditional sales and marketing channels, businesses are having to step outside of their comfort zones to exploit new ideas and ventures, regardless of competition and past brand rivalries.

The focus on partnerships is also echoed in the rise of Chinese influencers, otherwise known as Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs), who vary from socialites and photo bloggers to video producers, fashion icons and more.

According to big data firm CBNData, in 2016, China’s KOL economy was valued at about RMB 58 billion (US$8.6 billion) which shows the sheer power of collaboration and why brands should develop a robust network of high-quality and authentic influencers to diversify their marketing efforts and expand their partnerships.

Technology has been a big driver in the partnership economy, particularly when it comes to monitoring influencer impact across social-media platforms such as Weibo, WeChat and increasingly TikTok.

And now technology is becoming a significant driver of managing and optimising these burgeoning partnerships. We are seeing a real upswing in the number of South East Asian brands turning to partnership automation software to ensure that they are getting the most out of their partnership activities with the data they need to show how much incremental revenue this channel can drive.

It is going to be interesting to see just how valuable this year’s Singles Day partnerships will prove to be—and how brands will continue to maximise their big-ticket partnership investments. Whilst we’re waiting on these stats, it’s a great time to start thinking about the incremental value increased collaboration and partnerships can bring to your own brand.


Antoine Gross is country manager, Southeast Asia at Impact, which makes automation technology for marketing partnerships.

 

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