November 5, 2018
Singles’ Day, celebrated on November 11, is now the world’s biggest online shopping event—so much so that a countdown clock on the website shows the days, hours, minutes and seconds until shoppers in China and worldwide can claim their discounts (some of them, up to 95%) from a variety of retailers.
In less than a decade since Singles Day was first celebrated in China in 2009, Alibaba Group Holding has turned a quirky celebration for unmarried young adults into a global extravaganza drawing in thousands of retailers and hundreds of millions of shoppers of all ages—hitched or otherwise, according to a November 1 report by Bloomberg.
Just how big is this shoppers’ holiday? More than twice as much merchandise is sold over the 24-hour period as during the entire five-day U.S. holiday-buying spree that begins on Thanksgiving, runs through Black Friday and ends on Cyber Monday. Every year has exceeded the one before, with last year’s sales climbing 39% to 168.2 billion yuan ($24.2 billion). That’s on par with the gross domestic product of some smaller European nations. Most of the buying was via Taobao and Tmall, Alibaba’s main shopping sites.
This year, the shopping experience has spread to other e-commerce operators and will include more brick-and-mortar stores than ever before, the organizers claim. But Bloomberg says there is one, big unknown: To what extent, if any, the brewing U.S.-China trade war will cut into Singles’ Day sales.
It remains to be seen whether a depressed Chinese stock market and higher import tariffs resulting from U.S.-China trade tensions will curb consumers’ enthusiasm. On the other hand, Alibaba has significantly boosted the brick-and-mortar element of Singles’ Day by accelerating its investments in malls, convenience stores and food delivery services — part of what it calls its “new retail” initiative.
Essentially, Bloomberg reports, any transaction made via payment service Alipay will count. The initiative involves equipping traditional retailers with new technology to manage inventory and to serve as distribution centers for online shoppers, as well as connecting mom-and-pop stores to its platform. There are also 200,000 so-called smart stores that seek to combine the online and offline retail experience
While the Chinese mainland continues to dominate sales, according to the Bloomberg report, Alibaba continues to make it more global. That means getting foreign brands involved in selling to the Chinese. It’s also working to promote its English-language websites.
Research contact: @luluyilun