China’s annual holiday that acts as an anti-Valentine. On November 11 – a date chosen specifically for the connection between singles and the number 1 – singles in China celebrate their single-dom by organizing parties, singing karaoke, and now shopping online! Shopping online? How absurd, right? Wrong. For those not in the know, Singles’ Day is globally the biggest shopping holiday, with billions of dollars spent by consumers every year, and it keeps growing year after year.
At the time of writing it’s still November 11th in Toronto, however the record breaking day has ended in China, leaving me with headline after headline of commerce news covering the sales numbers. Last year the holiday’s sales totalled $9 billion. To put that figure in perspective, cyber Monday in the U.S. last year generated $2 billion in sales. In only 18 seconds sales on China’s largest and most well-known marketplace Alibaba reached $16 million USD (100 million yuan). I think it’s safe to say that even though the day has yet to end here in North America, it’s a record-breaker.
Recording Smashing Sales
At 12:32pm China time, sales on Alibaba had surpassed the $9.2 billion made last year. This speaks volumes to the importance of digital retail in China, and where commerce is headed for the rest of the world. More than 40,000 merchants and 30,000 brands were selling from 25 countries on Alibaba’s platform. Companies like JD.com and Alibaba saw huge year-over-year growth on Singles’ Day 2014, so it really shouldn’t comes as any surprise that sales in 2015 would be so high. In 24-hours Alibaba self-reported that they’ve hit $14 billion in sales.
Beyond the impressive sales facts one can glean from news out of Asia, it’s important to note that this holiday is revealing major trends in commerce. In 2014 40% of revenue during the sale on Alibaba came from customers shopping on a mobile device, this year that percentage hit 68%. Chinese mobile messaging app WeChat partnered with JD.com to place specific advertisements in the application and offer its user exclusive coupons (totalling $394 million USD in value) on products.
Furthermore, outside of the astounding mobile stats, Singles’ Day also reveals advances in the capabilities of logistics. Fulfillment and logistics is typically a sticking point for merchants selling online, with it being too complex or too costly or both. It took only 14 minutes for a shopper in Beijing to receive their TV ordered during Singles’ Day. Over 100 million shipping orders were processed within the first 43 minutes of the sale. Last year it took Alibaba’s logistics provider Cainiao Network Technology 9 hours to process the same amount. China’s rural town and cities, were the fastest growing segment according to the marketplace.
China has over 1 billion connected users, all of whom were offered amazing deals on Singles’ Day, however Alibaba remained the main contender by offering attractive marketing campaigns starting as early as October. This acceleration in retail is working to combat China’s slowest economic growth in 25 years. This Singles’ Day follows a roller coaster year for the online marketplace, which had a record-breaking IPO last Fall but then saw shares drop alarmingly. Despite all of this, Alibaba remains the number player in eCommerce. Thankfully one of their newest sales channels, Suning Commerce Group Co, will have its sales count towards Alibaba’s total gross merchandise volume. Founder Jack Ma anticipates that annual growth should be over 50%.
Although many of my North American friends who aren’t involved in the world of eCommerce haven’t heard of Singles’ Days doesn’t mean it isn’t slowly going global. The record-breakings sales of this online shopping holiday can be attributed in part to the emphasis placed on cross-border shopping. Chinese eCommerce giants wanted consumers to bring more international brands into the country, including Apple, Macy’s and Estee Lauder.
In turn Chinese consumers are more trusting of foreign brands and use the sales day to re-stock on home essentials, and hot items from abroad. This year in India, Singles’ Day celebration synced up with the holiday of Diwali to increase sales on FlipKart, Amazon, and Snapdeal. Singles’ Day is as much about increasing sales as it is about getting new users to hop onboard. Globalization was one of the themes of the four-hour gala that kicked off Alibaba’s record-breaking sale day. During the gala there was even a promotional video starring Kevin Spacey in character as Frank Underwood from Netflix’s “House of Cards”.