Singles' Day

Authored by:
Riccardo Ragonese, Brand Protection Analyst | INCOPRO
Marie-Claire Trinh Van Hi, Brand Protection Analyst | INCOPRO

Being celebrated for more than two decades, Singles’ Day is probably the youngest cultural phenomenon to have gained widespread observance and recognition.

If Mandarin is not your first language however, there is a high chance that you are unaware of how this festivity came into being and how it affects millions of consumers and business enterprises all over the globe.

The event was started in 1993 as an anti-Valentines’ Day celebration within the university community of Nanjing, to the east of China. It rapidly spread outside of the university as Chinese citizens, who knew about the event, moved to other parts of the world.

The meaning of the date chosen for the celebration lies in the solitary digit ‘1’. The ultimate solitary day is therefore 11 November (11/11) and students decided to brighten their day by choosing to derive happiness from buying things instead.

Adoption at a commercial-scale

Businesses were quick to take the hint with Alibaba on the lead and encouraged the trend by offering huge discounts for the occasion. This made the Singles’ Day the Chinese equivalent of the Black Friday shopping event in the US.

The scale of the event is huge if we consider that last year Chinese shoppers spent $17.8bn (£14.2bn) in 24 hours. Alibaba alone accounted for $12bn of this revenue, and the figure is predicted to grow further this year due to an unprecedented participation of more than 140,000 brands, 40,000 more than last year. International brands make up 60,000 of those taking part1.

Where there is demand of this scale, counterfeits are equally expected to flood the market on this occasion, as Singles’ Day is also renown as China’s biggest day for fake goods.

Since 2013, the rate of complaints regarding faulty merchandise, registered by the State Administration for Industry and Commerce in China, has increased by an astounding 356 per cent. The regulator reported that two in every five products purchased online in China are either low quality or counterfeited1.

The main marketplaces that stand out during Singles’ Day are usually Alibaba, Taobao and Tmall (which are both owned by Alibaba). This year JD.com has also appeared as a new competitor.

Opportunity for counterfeiters

How do counterfeiters benefit from Singles’ Day? As online purchases will be booming, new websites will pop up specifically for this particular event. Counterfeiters are able to justify their incredible discounts to consumers as large discounts are expected for the holiday.

There are a lot of complaints about goods purchased during Singles’ Day but as returning goods for a refund may be difficult, consumers usually accept the loss. This gives another incentive for counterfeiters to generate revenue at the expense of the brands, trademark owners or their authorised dealers by producing mass low quality products at a bargain price.

What can be done by brands?

There are many ways for brands to help protect themselves but here are three ways to ensure happiness for brands on Singles’ Day.

  1. Ensure that you have your intellectual property rights in place. This is probably the most obvious tip but having a strong rights portfolio in the right territories, will make it easier to takedown offenders, especially if the brand is registered internationally. Alibaba has established cooperative relationships with more than 1,000 major brand owners and several industry associations to enhance the effectiveness of the company’s take down procedures and anti-counterfeiting measures2.
  2. Consider other ways of tackling infringement such as investing in search engine optimization as part of a marketing strategy, using the delisting function that search engines offer to report infringing websites to remove them from the search results and monitor social media for hashtag abuse.
  3. Last but not least, brands can raise awareness among customers regarding the quality of the products they are purchasing. In fact, although online retailers offer deep discounts, figures have shown that customers have lately been more focused on the quality of the products rather than price3.

Happy Singles’ Day!

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1. https://www.forbes.com/sites/deborahweinswig/2017/11/02/singles-day-2017-preview/#773218d240a5

2. http://www.alizila.com/the-facts-about-alibaba-group-and-ipr-2/

3. https://www.ft.com/content/c2e47ddc-846a-11e5-8e80-1574112844fd

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