Singles’ Day marketing in Asia: winning strategies from 8 major agencies

With Singles' Day just around the corner, we asked performance marketers from leading agencies in Asia-Pacific how they are preparing for the world's largest online shopping frenzy, from discovery-led KPIs to 3D livestreaming...

It’s a buying bonanza like no other. 11th November, known as Singles’ Day or Double 11, is the world’s largest online shopping festival. What started as a day to celebrate singledom in China, known as 'anti-Valentine's Day', morphed into a shopping event in 2009, when e-commerce giant Alibaba chose the date to promote its new Tmall platform with a day of big discounts, and it is now, in its 13th year, a huge commercial phenomenon.

Every year there is pressure to beat the previous year's sales record. In 2020, with the pandemic moving more shoppers online than ever, Singles' Day achieved record breaking sales of US$115 billion. This year, brands and the major online marketplaces like Tmall Global and will no doubt be looking to match if not better those figures. 

We asked performance marketing experts from MediaCom, Publicis, Mindshare, dentsu, Reprise, M&C Saatchi Performance, Control vs Exposed and Mintel to share more about the strategies they will be employing this year to ensure maximum success for brands and to help drive consumers from discovery to purchase.

Q: Will you be trying any different marketing strategies this year?

Gosia Rzymska-Rakowska, Head of eCommerce, SEA, Publicis Groupe:

"This year we’ll be focusing heavily on social commerce, especially with TikTok launching their products and Facebook enhancing their offerings. It may not sound like something new, but looking at its potential growth, it’s obviously a massive opportunity for brands and we don’t want them to sit on the sidelines and miss out on the benefit from this continually growing market. 

With store shelves becoming less relevant due to COVID, and social channels driving product discovery, it’s time for us to re-assess our legacy media behaviours, change the way we look at performance marketing, add new discovery related KPIs and integrate strategies that in the past we may not have touched."

David Ketchum, Head of Asia Pacific, Control vs Exposed:

“Our focus this year for our clients is on Xiahongshu (Little Red Book). Campaigns on the platform are a great way to drive consumer brand awareness, and ultimately increase sales during Singles’ Day. Little Red Book is essentially a content-sharing site, rather than an e-commerce platform, and we’re pursuing a number of strategies. 

"First, we are working with Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) to educate consumers and build credible word of mouth. We are working with a mixture of Tier 1 and Tier 2&3 KOLs to reach both wide audiences and also appeal to specific segments. And we are also using paid media to promote the KOLs’ posts to help break through the clutter in the highly competitive Singles’ Day marketing environment. We’re opening and building Little Red Book Brand Accounts, supported by a combination of always-on and campaign support such as native ads.”

Prerna Mehrotra, CEO Media APAC and MD Media Singapore, dentsu:

"This year, while the main objective is still conversions, it is imperative we reach out to consumers throughout the funnel and be present throughout our audience’s journey, right from discovery to conversion with the relevant message to drive them down the funnel and convert them. 

"We will also be leveraging the right KOL’s with high reach and relevance for campaign amplification and increase in the organic brand share of voice on social channels. Apart from this, one of the most integral part of our Singles' Day strategy is to work closely with our platform partners like Lazada and Shopee for collaborative campaigns, offsite and onsite to drive awareness in the initial phase and higher conversions in the final phase."

Victoria Li, Mintel Senior Trends analyst APAC:

"We anticipate a shift away from complex promotions, and more of a move towards simplicity. We expect to see brands offer more effortless and entertaining marketing strategies that help shoppers enjoy the experience, rather than fret about the technicalities, gain traction. For instance, brands and retailers would do better to highlight selection-assistance tools that help consumers make better choices in a shorter time.

"Turning the process into entertainment also works to prevent consumer fatigue. For instance, the top livestream influencer Li Jiaqi launched a variety show ‘Offer for Every Girl’  (所有女生的offer) that takes consumers behind the scenes. Each 1-3 min episode recorded an interesting story of the bargaining process between his team and beauty brands for products to be sold during Singles’ Day. The show inspires demand by demonstrating what good ‘offers’ – good-quality products at a good price – consumers can get during the promotions."

Josh Gallagher, Chief Product & Growth Officer, MediaCom APAC:

"Rather than focusing only on one day, we are constantly running ‘sprints’ to improve sales performance in an ever competitive space. Over the past few years we have developed a bank of learnings on the principles of how to enter a sale period. In particular we have developed benchmarks on the right time to start advertising to build momentum at the lowest cost, while managing the mix of prospecting new audiences and retargeting previous buyers. Once we get in to the final stages of a sale is where we see the greatest returns. The ability of our teams to perform near-real time optimisation, where we use business intelligence to dynamically shift investment across biddable channels, or markets, has led to our clients overachieving sales targets year-on-year."

Q: Live Shopping has been a big trend in recent years for sales days. Do you think we are likely to see any new innovations this year in personalisation / AI / mobile AR etc?

Nathalie Pellegrini, Chief Performance Officer, Mindshare APAC:

"For most brands, live shopping will remain (mostly in China for the time being) the primary step for brand entry to e-commerce, but is still a nascent activity elsewhere (SEA and SA). Most brands are expected to stream live via social media and marketplace platforms simultaneously. On the flipside, thinking from a non-brand perspective: we may notice a trend in affiliates proactively using live streams that have good conversion rates, if marketplaces can make it easier for KOLs who aren't store owners to share their affiliate links.

"AR and VR make the shopping experience even more immersive and we expect to see a greater use of filters relating to livestreaming, but we can also see that livestreaming environments are intensely dependent on how well livestreamers engage their audiences, so it is important to maintain engagement. VR and AR have been explored outside of SEA markets, but tracking has proven challenging. A better tracking method is needed for effective monitoring and measuring the impact of events and customer behaviour in this area in order to see more innovation."

Priyanka Raman, Head of Ecommerce Malaysia, Reprise: 

"Mobile AR has got to be the next logical step towards personalising the shopping experience. Our survey shows that people still wish to visit the store to try and get the look & feel of products. AR has the ability to solve some of these customer pain points by offering virtual try-ons, interactive manuals and previewing placements. We are still in the nascent stage of live commerce and this is also an area we believe will explode in the near future."

Roshat Adnani, Growth Director, APAC, M&C Saatchi Performance:

"I think the focus this year for brands will be on increasing their presence for live shopping across both owned and rented channels. The focus on innovation would be carried by few as the infrastructure for such innovation is a challenge. Brands are currently dependent on platform features but this will change soon as brands invest in developing capabilities.

"Brands need to focus on either hopping on or creating new trending topics (e.g. What TikTok made me buy, This-one-my-Shopee-haul etc) to boost engagement during sales day. Getting consumers excited about upcoming best-priced products prior to sale days, hyping up the anticipation for flash deals on trending products would capture consumers that are already looking to participate and shop."


"Brands and retailers have already utilised technologies such as AI and AR in livestream shopping, to increase engagement with consumers and better understand their needs. 

"Top livestream influencer Li Jiaqi introduced the XR (extended reality) technology in his live broadcast room for the first time on October 13th. Through multiple virtual camera positions, consumers can watch the broadcaster present the livestream in a real-time 3D virtual scene – for example, above the clouds – instead of in a normal live broadcast room. The fancy visual impact provides consumers with more engaging and playful live shopping experiences. We might also see more virtual influencers like Ayayi and Luo Tianyi appear in livestream shopping to spark the interest of young consumers."


"AI driven chatbots will play an important role in overall customer experience. With conversational commerce on the rise, every customer is now expecting a personalised and a tailored shopping experience. It will be an interesting space to watch – whether one of the larger players can build a conversational chatbot that will double up as a personalised shopping assistant in time for the Singles' Day.

"The AR space has seen some action in the previous years on ecommerce platforms, but it can still be considered in its infancy and apart from a few brand activations, it will still need more thought for a seamless platform integration on most of the ecommerce sites. 

"Finally, metaverse is something that brands and suppliers will start looking at with a curious eye. The audience is here, question will be more how to engage with them."


"In their bid to stand out, we expect to see brands push past using AR for virtual try-ons of fashion items to real time conversations with the KOLs doing the selling. In many ways livestreaming will become more and more like a technology-enabled in-store experience, but with the advantages of the scale and immediate gratification (for both buyer and seller!) That e-commerce offers.”


"Innovations will happen, but in the backend more than the front. Things like predictive analytics for better insights, segmentation, dynamic content, which will eventually allow for more personalisation and highly indulgent new formats."

Q: Are you planning any innovations on how you will use data / attribution, optimise for the customer journey and unify offline and online / mobile data?


"Our focus is mobile-first and data driven. We are big believers in test-and-learn (our company is called Control vs Exposed for a reason!) And we deploy multiple versions of creatives, calls to action, media choices, audience targeting and more in rapid succession and let the analytics shape the campaign in near real-time as our planners and traders optimise on the fly."


"Our team has designed a full-funnel framework so we can measure impact of upper funnel activities on lower funnel conversions and investigate how online activities can be linked to offline conversions. This involves exploring data sources from the retail environment and those available to online planners. We’re also seeing an increase in affiliates promoting online service based client apps using QR codes in their walk-in retail stores, magazines, in-flight entertainment systems, and exhibitions to generate revenue."


"With our ID stitching technology, we can create a single view of the user, right from the first time when a user is exposed to our communication, to a final conversion online or offline. In addition to providing us the true ROI, this also enables us to make better informed decisions and provides us with deeper insights on the user’s path to purchase and making data driven decisions, which always leads to better performance. Essentially, we are not looking at any marketing or conversion channels in a silo but taking a more comprehensive approach to measure the impact of each channel."


"We see the boundaries of online and offline customers slowly blurring and customers even choosing to engage both digital and at physical stores at various points in their journey. The role of attribution and data then is not just that of studying customer behaviour but also leading the customer to their desired goal. For instance, for a customer looking to experience a product after researching about it, our goal is to be able to point the customer to the nearest outlet and perhaps even indicate the stock status. Similarly, for a customer inside a physical store, looking up the product on the mobile phone, our goal would be to lead them to the online store for smooth purchase & delivery. All of these are areas we are working closely with brands to enable."


"With the recent changes in the ecosystem done by Apple and Google, to improve user privacy, it is becoming increasingly difficult to get access to user data. With the help of our planning process and available data points, we are focusing on building hypotheses for various customer profiles and where they are in their journey to develop strong marketing strategies. Also, personalised messaging based on a user’s actual digital footprint is difficult, thus we are looking for broader signals to determine the messages served to the user.  

"To enhance the efficiency of offline efforts, we are working with ad tech partners for our retargeting strategy to capture users who have been to offline sites and subsequently retargeting these users with ads on their mobile devices with a related message."


"One of the big areas we are focused on is using technology to optimise creative performance. With a new stream of messages coming each sale period, and competition increasing, understanding what resonates with consumers is critical. While media investment on platforms play a significant role, we have found that we can unlock the potential for our clients with up to 25% increased digital effectiveness when they optimise both creative and media together.  Using custom attention metrics, our Creative Analytics product gives us a real insight in to what creative elements perform best across formats and platforms.  It is increasingly more important in performance creative to do away with proxy measures and implement more deterministic analytics for success."


"As a Groupe offering we can integrate our media, experience, data and commerce services working together in having a full view of customer journey. In this way, we allow clients to gain control and ownership over the type of relationship to create for their shoppers.

"We are constantly developing new frameworks and piloting tools to connect and online/offline/mobile experience, but in essence the idea is to understand our customers better to deliver a more personalised shopping experience based on data."