Alibaba’s Singles’ Day shopping extravaganza is on track to surpass last year’s record, as consumers scooped up everything from consumer electronics, luxury items and even cars the moment the clock struck midnight.
This year’s Singles’ Day is expected to be Alibaba’s largest ever, as it hopes to achieve a record 1 billion orders at the end of the 24-hour event. As of 9:32 am on Sunday, 131 billion yuan (US$18.8 billion) worth of orders have been garnered, compared with 103 billion yuan at the same point last year.
In 2017, consumers spent 168.2 billion yuan during the one-day event, also known as Double 11, making it the world’s largest shopping festival.
For the first time, Alibaba is extending its Singles’ Day bonanza to Southeast Asia subsidiary Lazada, as well as subsidiaries Ele.me, Koubei, supermarket chain Hema as well as other business units.
The total gross merchandise volume (GMV) for this year’s Singles’ Day – or the value of total transactions on the platform – will be keenly watched as a barometer of consumer spending and retail health in the world’s second-biggest economy.
A trade war with the US has seen billions of dollars of tariffs slapped on goods, which has exacerbated a slowdown in China’s economy. Analysts expect the trade stand-off with the US to likely hit manufacturing numbers at the start of next year. A strong showing for Singles’ Day could help assuage concerns that consumer confidence has taken a big hit.
“If my conjecture is accurate and 11.11 is a success, I believe one conclusion is that bad news travels faster than good news and despite some warning signs there is a lot of strength in the consumer sector,” said Frank Lavin, Shanghai-based founder and chairman of Export Now and former US trade official and ambassador to Singapore.
He predicted that Alibaba will record 20 to 30 per cent growth over last year’s record GMV, resulting in a moderation of negative media coverage of a softening Chinese economy and consumer confidence, and that Alibaba will see over 1 billion packages delivered.
In advance, sales held by various merchants ahead of the Singles’ Day festival on November 11, 33 major brands have already achieved 100 million yuan in orders, including automobile company Buick, which tallied orders for 7,000 vehicles.
Within half an hour of Singles' Day, 30 brands including Nike, Uniqlo, Adidas, Procter & Gamble, Xiaomi and Apple had crossed 100 million yuan in sales. In just one second, 3,700 Singles' Day special edition MAC lipsticks were sold out.
Imported healthcare supplements remain the most popular items among Chinese consumers as brands like Swisse, GNC and MoveFree rank among the best-selling imported goods. Consumers bought the most imported goods from Japan, the US and South Korea.
Singles’ Day got its name from its date, November 11. Written numerically as 11/11, the date looks like “bare branches”, a Chinese expression for the single and unattached.
As a kind of antidote to the societal pressures of being in a relationship, many of China’s singles began splurging on themselves on Singles’ Day, which became seen as a type of anti-Valentine’s Day. To cater to these consumers, Alibaba held its first Singles’ Day shopping event in 2009 to serve these consumers.
Today, Singles’ Day has expanded to become a shopping festival for everyone, and Alibaba holds an annual Double 11 star-studded gala packed with celebrities and performances to entertain its millions of users as they shop. This year, stars including Mariah Carey and performers from the Cirque du Soleil entertained in a four-hour gala televised on Alibaba’s Youku video platform and other media partners.
With sales dwarfing those of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the festival has become the largest of its kind globally.
Each year, Alibaba uses the event as a test bed for new technologies that it has been exploring, such as New Retail – the integration of online and offline commerce – as well as artificial intelligence and augmented reality.
Other brands and e-commerce retailers like JD.com, Mogujie and VipShop have also jumped on the bandwagon, with campaigns and promotions to entice buyers to spend on their platforms.
“For its 10th anniversary, as a matter of course, we look forward to an even bigger Singles’ Day event than in previous years,” said Pascal Martin, partner at OC&C Strategy Consultants in a statement. The event “is not just about purchasing products, it’s also increasingly about purchasing a variety of services [within Alibaba’s ecosystem], from videos on Youku to mobile games on UC, theatre tickets on Taopiaopiao, music on Xiami music, travel on [Fliggy and so forth.]”
Alibaba is the owner of the South China Morning Post.
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