The priority for most brands as Q3 draws to a close is ensuring that plans have been finalised and locked in for Singles’ Day, including making sure stock and logistics are prepared write Ryan Molloy and Frank Ren from RedFern Digital
After 618 came to an end a couple of months ago, overseas brands selling on cross-border e-commerce platforms in China started shifting their attention to the next major promotional festival in China, Single’s Day (also known as 11.11 or Double 11).
As one of the most competitive e-commerce markets in the world, China has a variety of requirements for both the e-commerce platforms and the merchants who sell on them, all of which are essential for achieving ongoing growth and consumer satisfaction. Therefore, the preparation work for Single’s Day, one of the biggest online shopping festivals in China, starts in July even though the actual event does not take place until November. Even if you are too late for this year’s event, this article should serve as a guide for when to start preparing in future years.
Most people know that traffic and sales on e-commerce platforms in China peaks in November, which makes inventory planning and logistics preparations crucial to ensuring that there is sufficient stock replenished and ready for the expected large sales volume.
There are two main models of cross-border e-commerce logistics in China: bonded import and direct shipment. Regardless of which model a brand is using, there are key timings for inventory preparation.
Take Tmall Global. For Single’s Day 2021, brands selling through bonded warehouses and working with Cainiao as their logistics partner were required to do the following:
- Submit their replenishment plan before 27 August
- Get the products delivered to the port (by air, freight, or railway) before 27 September
- Get their products to the warehouse before 13 October
The process from inventory planning to getting products listed on an online store can be challenging for brands that are new to this journey. Many brands are new to preparing for such a largescale sales promotion and are unfamiliar with all the documents and communication needed for each step, including commercial invoices, packing specifications, shipment bookings, and arranging for land transportation from port to warehouse.
It is suggested that brands liaise closely with their contact from the e-commerce platform and obtain clear to-do lists regarding the information or details that are required in the preparation phase. Although brands can choose whether to handle the whole or any part of the transportation journey themselves (such as only international freight), working with one provider that can deal with every step is often the best choice when it comes to investment of time and effort.
One particular aspect that brands should consider is the unpredictability brought about by Covid-19. On the one hand, international freight shipments might be delayed from the country of origin; on the other hand, it may take a longer time for ports in China to release goods for domestic delivery due to the combination of the large volumes that need to be handled during the peak seasons and possible stricter Covid-19 inspections. It is suggested for brands to get ready to use other measures to bypass these potential hurdles, such as considering air freight or a global fulfilment centre (GFC).
Preparing store operations
In addition to inventory, preparation is also needed when it comes to store operations. The whole point of getting products ready to sell by the time the sales promotion arrives is to hold a successful campaign.
Usually, the portal for the Single’s Day campaign will open in September, which is also the time when brands can look at the requirements set by the platform for merchants to participate. These requirements can include store rating, years of store operation and base sales volume.
Merchants should also check the e-commerce platform they are using to determine if there are any new initiatives that they or their brands can take part in, such as category-specific promotional tools or specific advertising resources. If a brand submits a significant enough promotional budget for the planned festival, there is a chance that the platform contact for that category will reach out to the brand personally and negotiate cooperation opportunities.
A suggestion for overseas brands is to try to leverage possible opportunities with the goal of maximising exposure, store visits and sales, especially because these huge promotions are a crucial opportunity to receive substantial return on ad spend and investment. In addition, it is also very important to prepare for out-of-app promotions in order to preheat and build up hype, thereby boosting the store’s performance during Single’s Day.
Examples of pre-heat activities include paid media promotions and live streaming sessions prior to the shopping festival, which can be significant channels through which to bring in a tremendous amount of exposure, encouraging more potential customers to make purchases during the actual festival. All of this helps to create the busy and sales heavy atmosphere across China during October and November.