Why You May Want to Tap Into the Buying Power of Singles

The record-breaking sales on Singles Day in China reveals the huge potential buying power of singles. How can you target this powerful market in your area?
November 19, 2015

A Chinese e-commerce company may have the rest of the world rethinking the way it markets to single consumers, after the company  experienced record-breaking sales in a single day. 

Chinese consumers reportedly bought $14.3 billion worth of merchandise from Alibaba, as part of its online shopping holiday "Singles Day" (or Double 11™) on November 11. Alibaba created the shopping holiday in 2009 as an anti-Valentine's day for China's unattached consumers; it has since become China's answer to Black Friday and Cyber Monday for anyone looking for steep discounts and savings on everything from clothes to baby formula.

This year's shoppers blasted through last year's record-breaking $9 billion in sales in 12 hours. The final count of $14.3 billion spent in a single day has been compared to Facebook's 2014 revenue ($12.5 billion) and the GDP of Laos ($11.7 billion)—not an apples-to-apples comparison, but one that gives a sense of just how much buying power Alibaba has tapped into by courting China's affluent and unattached rising middle class. (Just to give you a sense of how massive the day's spending was, last year's Cyber Monday pulled in $2 billion in sales.) Other companies in China have wisely jumped in on the shopping holiday as well—online retailer JD.com reported that its orders increased by 130 percent.

While the massive sales holiday is indicative of the buying power of the world's most populous country, Singles Day's success also speaks to the buying power of singles, a demographic that some small-business owners are making more of an effort to reach here in the U.S. A look at the numbers reveal why: Now that there are more single people—more than 107 million singles—than married couples in the U.S., it just makes sense. According to a report by retail marketing agency TPN, a segment of that group (those 35 to 54 years old) has $567 billion in spending power

A Singular Opportunity

Small-business owners are finding opportunity in this new reality. David Arel, co-founder of Chefmade, a food delivery service in Chicago, sees opportunity for business growth by targeting singles.

"Singles make up half of the population in the U.S.," Arel says, "and more and more people are focusing primarily on their career rather than finding a partner. A lot of companies ignore singles when they require you to order two servings of the same meal. Our service is a great way to eat a quality home-cooked meal without all the hassle, so singles can stay focused on what matters to them."

As an estimated 40 to 50 percent of its customers are single customers, according to Arel, the company is making a big push to attract more of them in 2016.

"A major portion of our competition is focusing on couples, [so] we're taking the opportunity to target a different group of people who are seeking better eating habits," he says. "We'd like to build more brand awareness about our single serving options and convenient meals. We're looking to create strategic partnerships with companies that market toward singles: Airbnb hosts, recreational leagues [and] dating sites."

Single Subsets

Just as with any demographic, you should look beyond just one segmentation factor. If you want to target this robust market, drill down and figure out a more specific subset of singles to target your service to, as relationship and life strategist Tracy Ready has done with her coaching business.

Single women have power in the market that is unique to them. They can make buying decisions pretty quickly without the need to consult a spouse or other family members.

"My ideal client is a female single-preneur, age 30 to 39, who is juggling dating and escaping her 9-5 to pursue her passions," Ready says. "I've studied this woman, her needs and her pain points—the things that keep her up at night."

In focusing on this segment of singles, Ready claims she's seen marked growth in her business.

"One of the biggest differences I see in targeting single women versus other populations—married women, families, students, etc.—is the action that they're able to take immediately," Ready says. "Often when we think of singles, we think about products and services that appeal to changing their marital status to married. But single women have power in the market that is unique to them. They can make buying decisions pretty quickly without the need to consult a spouse or other family members. They are also pretty straightforward. I've even added services based on their feedback and succinct honesty. In short, marketing to single women has grown my business in far beyond what I experienced when I targeted other markets."

Read more articles on niche markets.

Photo: Getty Images