A week before November 11, 2016, on Wechat（the most popular social media/ messaging app in Asia）articles that mentioned “Double 11” (aka “Singles Day Promotion”) already exceeded 41,000 within that week according to Isentia’s social listening reports. During last year’s event, Chinese consumers spent a record 91.2bn yuan (USD$14.3bn, AUD$17.5bn) online during the 24 hours of Singles Day, more than double compared with American consumers’ spending on last year’s Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined (USD$5.8bn) according to comScore, making the e-commerce extravaganza the biggest day for internet shopping on the global retail calendar.
Starting in 2009, Chinese tech giant Alibaba initiated the online shopping event/consumer holiday on their e-commerce site Taobao later on including T-mall on Singles day, and promoted special discounts to lure in more customers. People who are single in Chinese are also called “bare sticks”, as the date looks numerically, with students starting to celebrate their singledom on that day. The event became more popular through the internet and attract more people’s attention. In the gap between China’s national holiday and the Christmas season, also ahead of Black Friday in the US, November 11 became a great opportunity to boost sales.
Back in 2014， 1 bn yuan (USD$148m) was spent by Chinese consumers on Singles day sales within three minutes, and last year online shoppers in China splashed out five times that amount in five minutes and 45 seconds. Alibaba reported that in 2015, about 5,000 international brands from 25 countries offered Singles’ Day promotions. As a result, more than 33% consumers bought products from international brands, and many ranked the bestselling products in their category including Apple, Nike, Lancôme, Uniqlo, Jack Jones Audi, Kia and so on.
What’s new for the 2016 Double 11 celebration
More global brands join the promotion
Toward international brands, Alibaba is pitching itself as a shortcut to the world’s most populous market. Many new international brands sell through Alibaba’s cross-border e-commerce marketplace Tmall Global, which helps more than 6,000 international brands sell in China without having to set up operations in the country. Alibaba mentioned this year’s Double 11 will include over 98,000 sellers and more than 10 million products. There will be 20 global retailers joining the promotion including Macy’s, Costco, Woolworths, Sainsburys, and Countdown. Costco became the number one seller among Tmall’s international brands’ online shop in the Double 11 presale event in 2014. This year, America’s iconic retailer Target has announced its first time participation in the event. Since Target’s Tmall online shop opened in September this year, it attracted over 40,000 fans, and their live stream orientation held in their American headquarters achieved more than 2.2 million likes from consumers in China.
Apart from retail brands, the luxury industry’s digital marketing pioneer Burberry, Italian luxury vehicle manufacturer Maserati, French cosmetic brand Guerlain and Apple are all debuting their products in this year’s Double 11 shopping festival.
VR shopping + Live streaming
According to Alibaba, In March a VR research laboratory named GnomeMagic lab has opened and aims to help sellers on Alibaba platforms to build their own 3D product inventories, by developing VR and AR technologies, with a long-term goal of helping businesses set up entire VR stores. In August, Taobao Maker Fair Alibaba released its Buy+ virtual and augmented reality technology. The headset allowed shoppers to view products such as clothing and fashion accessories on a model, with a 360-degree view, as well as look at the products in more detail than possible on a regular PC. In this year’s Double 11, “Consumers will be able to shop at Macy’s, Target, Chemist Warehouse and other virtual stores on Tmall via cardboard (but fully functional) VR headsets they can buy on Taobao for 1 yuan (about 15 cents),” reported by Alizila.com.
Despite the cutting edge VR technology, Alibaba also kicked off the Double 11 promotion by organizing an eight-hour fashion show “See Now, Buy Now” in Shanghai at the end of October, with 50 international brands which include Burberry, Paul Smith, and Trussardi. U.S. fashion icon Nick Woosterwill served as image consultant for the event, while Chinese Victoria’s Secret model Sui He made an appearance with other 160 models. The show was streamed live via the Tmall and Taobao mobile apps, during which viewers were pre-order items as they appear on the catwalk. Additionally, more than 600 international brands will stream live broadcast on Tmall on November 11 to introduce their brands, products and Singles day promotions to consumers.
Globalization 2.0: The Alibaba’s Ambitious of forming a real global retail festival
At the eight years of Double 11 shopping festival, Alibaba initiates it’s “Global 2.0” strategy, first time launching the event in Hong Kong and Taiwan, aiming over 30 million local consumers with support of expanding its infrastructure, including logistics and payments. Alibaba says consumers can use major credit cards such as Visa and Mastercard and such local payment methods as Octopus in Hong Kong to pay. Products will be shipped directly from the brand’s own stock and delivered to consumers through Cainiao, the e-commerce distribution network for Alibaba. Customer and refund services will be available in Hong Kong and Taiwan as well.
As Alibaba emphasized, Alibaba has upgraded its Alipay payment system to support "Global Payment", allowing consumers to pay in 18 currencies, in dollars, pounds, euros and yen. Alipay is also accepted by more than 80,000 merchants in 70 countries, according to Ant. It has set a goal of one million merchants in three years. According to Alibaba’s CEO Zhang Yong the next step is to introduce the Double 11 to South East Asia consumers and then global consumers.
The Double 11 / Singles Day Global Shopping Festival is one of the key milestone for Alibaba to expand their global retail landmark. Although what works in China many not works in other markets, even for consumers in Hong Kong and Tai Wan which are culturally related, to get them use to the Taobao model is going to take a long time. However the enormous sales achieved by Double 11 had definitely raised the global market attention and may accelerate the progress for Jacket Ma’s plans, which are according to the Financial Times “A target of 2bn consumers in the next decade. In other words, come 2026, he expects roughly one in four people in the world to shop through Alibaba’s ecommerce platforms including Taobao and Tmall.”