All You Need to Know About the 12:12 Sales

12:12 sales present a significant opportunity for online retailers.
12:12 sales present a significant opportunity for online retailers.

Many retailers will be familiar with Black Friday and Cyber Monday, two days across a long weekend in November where heavy discounts and special promotions whip consumers the world over into a spending frenzy. But many online merchants—especially those with independent brands—realize that the 12:12 sales present another significant opportunity in the Asian markets.

Sometimes known as Doubles Day or Couples day, 12:12 is officially held on December 12 every year and promotes shopping with small businesses. The event has taken off across Asia in recent years, and even retailers further afield are cashing in by reaching customers across the continent. But what exactly is Doubles Day, and how can retailers benefit from it? Here, we’ll answer all your questions so that you're ready to make the most of this significant sales event in December.

What are the 12:12 sales?

12:12 is an increasingly popular sales event that began in China and usually runs several days before and after December 12 each year. It was created in 2012 as a way for Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba to promote the smaller retailers on its many platforms—especially Taobao—allowing them another chance to woo consumers they might have missed during the 11:11 sales the month before. Initially, the sales were pushed through Alibaba’s e-wallet, AliPay, which is more accessible for small businesses. Now, though, many platforms and payment gateways are involved.

Much like Cyber Monday, online retailers use steep discounts and generous promotions to entice customers to participate in 12:12 shopping and make last-minute purchases in the lead-up to the holiday season.

Although Doubles Day shopping originated in China, many international markets have jumped on the bandwagon. Now, online retailers from Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand, Australia, France, and the US are seizing the opportunity to reach the over 500 million customers that now participate in the 12:12 sales each year.

Why is Doubles Day important?

For consumers and retailers alike, the rush of 12:12 shopping represents significant opportunities. Shoppers have the chance to score great deals just ahead of the Christmas and Chinese New Year holidays, both of which are peak periods for gift-giving.

Doubles Day is an excellent opportunity for online retailers to get rid of extra inventory and turn a healthy profit before the end of the year. Perhaps more importantly, it's a way for independent retailers and small businesses to reach customers who might not ordinarily come across their brands. Of course, since 12:12 happens online, it’s a major moment for digital retailers.

What are shoppers looking for in 12:12 sales?

Customers indulging in Double 12 shopping will be looking for more than just a great product and a good brand. They want to see big discounts and attractive promotions and will shop around for the best deal. This will mean different things to each merchant, so it’s important to consider who your customers are and what they want. For example, if your online store specializes in toys, then you might think about including a small gift and free shipping. On the other hand, if you specialize in high-value products—like jewelry, for example—a significant price drop might be a better strategy.

Because the 12:12 sales happen amidst the holiday rush, you might also consider offering things that customers might find valuable during this period. For example, expedited shipping will ensure they receive their orders in time for Christmas Day. Festive items might be more attractive for the season, and customers will appreciate gift wrapping for those purchases made as presents.

What deals are offered for Double 12 shopping?

Each merchant or ecommerce platform creates their own 12:12 offers in line with their goals for the event. Major retailers will, of course, have an advantage in being able to offer a good deal, but smaller, independent retailers can find plenty of ways to encourage conversions. Here are a few promotions different companies provided during the 2020 Doubles Day event.

  • Microsoft Singapore offered 25% off its Surface devices.
  • Zalora put together a series of flash sales and cashback deals, including 60% off specific lifestyle and beauty brands.
  • Singapore Airlines’ KrisShop offered up to 80% off over 500 products, as well as a digital advent calendar of daily promo codes and giveaways.
  • Sephora partnered with Estée Lauder brands to create a collection of multi-branded gift sets that were exclusively available from December 9 to 12.
  • Singaporean Fashion site Pomelo offered up to 90% off and hourly deals, along with 15% off for DBS cardholders.
  • Cat & The Fiddle, a popular Singaporean bakery, offered 20% off two of their special holiday cakes.
  • Singaporean homeware brand IUGIA issued promo codes for $5-$20 off and ran a 12-day Instagram giveaway campaign.

Which companies participate in 12:12?

The Doubles Day event has gained significant importance in recent years, and many retailers in Asia now participate to make more sales ahead of the holidays.

Major Asian ecommerce platforms do brisk business on December 12, including Lazada, Shopee, ShopBack, Taobao, Qoo10, and Zalora, all of which sell products from major brands and independent labels. However, many big international brands also cater to the local Asian markets with attractive offers. Harvey Norman, Microsoft, ASOS, and Sephora have all put out their own 12:12 offers in recent years.

How do I prepare for 12:12 sales?

Ready to capitalize on this unique pre-holiday shopping frenzy in Asia? You’ll need a carefully planned execution strategy to help you make the most of it. Here are a few tips.

  1. Check your inventory and current sales trends to see what customers might be interested in buying and what stock you’d like to clear.
  2. Come up with the deals and offers you want to use for the event.
  3. Figure out where you'll be selling your products. Will it be just on your online store, or will you try to list on other ecommerce platforms?
  4. Create a marketing strategy. Whether you prioritize social media like Facebook and Instagram, email marketing, influencer lifestreams, or ads on your website, your customers need to know about the deals you’re offering.
  5. Ensure your fulfillment process can cope with a rise in incoming orders.
  6. Make sure your local and international shipping strategies will get your orders to your customers in good time.
  7. Check that your online store works seamlessly—especially on mobile—and that your payment gateways are working correctly.

Frequently asked questions about ecommerce markets in Asia

Is 12:12 the most important holiday sales event in Asia?

Although it’s becoming increasingly important to merchants and consumers across Asia, 12:12 is not quite the most important digital retail event on the calendar. 11:11—Singles Day—Black Friday and Cyber Monday are still more important. In India, Flipkart's Big Billion Days and Amazon's Great India Festival are also significant events—they've usually been held around 10:10, though the dates are flexible. However, the seasonal frenzy begins with 9:9 Online Shopping Day, created by Shopee in 2016.

Who started Doubles Day?

Alibaba created the event. It was invented for small retailers in China, who don't often benefit from the major Singles Day sales on November 11, to reach customers through the company’s Alipay e-wallet.

Can all retailers participate in Doubles Day?

Yes. The sales event was developed specifically for small and independent retailers, so it’s particularly well-suited for online merchants who are still in the early stages of their ecommerce journey and trying to gain more brand awareness. However, many major retailers like ASOS and Microsoft create their own 12:12 shopping offers. And, although the campaign began in China, it is now widespread across Asia. Merchants from around the world are benefitting by reaching customers in these markets during this sales period.

What makes 12:12 different from other sales?

At its core, 12:12 isn’t very different from other promotional campaigns like 11:11, Black Friday, or the summer sales period. Retailers will have to go through a similar process of creating special offers and discounts and ensuring their inventory and shipping processes are ready to keep up with orders. However, because it’s mainly an Asian sales event, it will be most suitable for merchants targeting these markets.

End the year on a high with 12:12 sales

For retailers and consumers alike, 12:12: shopping represents the last major sales event of the year. Great offers and the pressing need for last-minute gift shopping means customers are primed to make purchases, giving merchants a revenue boost ahead of the holidays.

Shopify merchants can maximize the opportunities of Doubles Day with a series of useful features. Shopify stores come with functions that make selling seamless, including multiple points of sale and checkout options, various marketing tools, and cross-border commerce features. At the same time, the App Store has numerous products to help you manage your inventory, plan your marketing, and manage gift receipts. You’ll be all set to reap the benefits of this sales frenzy.


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