Singles’ Day, the world’s biggest online shopping event, is taking place across Asia this weekend. Here are some eye watering numbers for you…Alibaba has posted a running sales counter on its Alizila news website, showing the “gross merchandise volume” that it is fulfilling orders for. At the time of writing, the company had surpassed last year’s sales with over USD$20 billion in merchandise flying out the door, about $7 billion of which happened in the first 30 minutes of the day.
The event, which gets its name because it is numerically written as 11.11, started out as a take on Valentine’s Day for singletons until Alibaba took the wheel in 2009 and turned it into an orgy of consumerism. On Singles’ Day 2016, Alibaba reported sales totalling US$17.8 billion – $11 billion more than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined. This year, more than 15 million products were available from 140,000 brands, with JD.com also taking part in the festival, which had a more international flavour than previously.
“The opportunity is no longer just for domestic companies,” comments Shirley Zhu, Programme Director at IGD Singapore. “Last year, leading retailers such as Alibaba reported a big uptick in shoppers buying from international brands or merchants during Singles’ Day. And this year, Alibaba was targeting the 100 million Chinese people who live overseas by making brands available outside China, while JD announced free shipping to customers in Macau, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.”
There was also more offline activity. JD rolled out campaigns in its own physical stores as well as Walmart’s 400 bricks and mortar stores in China. Meanwhile, Alibaba made more ‘new retail’ experiences accessible. Facial recognition payment was available in converted 'smart stores' across nearly 100,000 stores in 31 provinces and 334 cities in China. Pop-up stores for cosmetics, for example, offered experiences through augmented reality for make-up and lipstick trials.
Zhu adds: “The Singles’ Day festival has essentially grown into a two-month opportunity for brand owners. This year many brands started their marketing campaigns weeks before the official kick-off of the event on 31st October. To fully take advantage of the festival, instead of simply offering coupons to shoppers, many brands have designed their product offering, promotions and social content specifically for Singles’ Day, giving them a better opportunity to stand out from the crowd and grab shoppers’ attention.”