Retailers and customers gear up for the world’s largest online shopping event, driven by Alibaba’s Tmall.
Singles’ Day, the world’s largest one-day online sales event, starts at midnight on Friday and runs for 24 hours. It’s the Asian version of Black Friday and Cyber Monday – but far larger than the two combined.
Originally Singles’ Day was an ‘anti-Valentine’s Day’, a chance for Chinese students to celebrate being single. It started in 1993 at Nanjing University. The date 11:11 was chosen as it resembles four solitary sticks.
However in 2009, Alibaba’s founder, Jack Ma, transformed the holiday into a global shopping spree.
The event is driven by the main Alibaba platform Tmall. It offers steep discounts on over 15 million products from over 140,000 brands. Although the event is Asian-led, overseas stores also cash in on the action. Last year sales from overseas stores hit $15.5 billion. US retailers were the second-largest demographic, trailing Japan.
Alongside Tmall, other platforms, such as JD.com, are now key competitors. JD.Com has teamed up with Walmart to simplify deliveries.
Everything is up for grabs with shoppers buying home appliances, electronics and even cars in the event. Alibaba has opened its first robot-managed automated warehouse to deal with the immense volume of deliveries.
This year the focus is heavily on the luxury sector. Alibaba has created strategic partnerships with international luxury fashion brands (such as Jason Wu, Opening Ceremony and Robert Geller). JD.com is also appealing to high-end consumers with the launch of its new luxury e-commerce site, TOPLIFE.
The 11/11 gala event will be held in Shanghai. Tmall are hosting a four-hour countdown gala including performances by Pharrell Williams and Chinese celebrities. Last year’s show attracted over 400 million viewers.
“We want to make this a global holiday, a global festival for every consumer… We want [to] help global small business…” Ma told CNN back in 2016.
Blurring the lines between offline and online shopping
Alibaba’s ‘New Retail’ strategy launched a year ago. The phrase was coined by Ma to depict the increasingly blurred lines between offline and online shopping.
Alibaba has set up partnerships with 52 shopping malls, setting up 60 pop-up stores across 12 cities in China. In addition, 100,000 stores will become ‘smart stores’ offering a variety of tech features that range from facial recognition-powered payment solutions, scan-and-deliver O2O shopping features and AR beauty tutorials. The aim is to create a much more immersive experience.
Alibaba dominates online ticketing
Recent mergers mean that the online ticketing market is now dominated by Alibaba and Tencent. Variety reports that the merger of China’s online ticketing systems and their ventures into other parts of the value chain will contribute to what is being called “pan-entertainment”.