This year, Alibaba’s annual shopping event, Singles’ Day, showed no signs of slowing down, with the group smashing their sales record with a 27% year-on-year increase. Now in its 10th year, Singles’ Day racked up $30.8bn (£23.8bn) in sales in just 24 hours.
If you’re not familiar with the scale of Singles’ Day, to give some perspective, CNBC estimated that Amazon’s Prime Day in July 2018 generated around $4bn (£3bn) in sales. In addition, Singles’ Day surpassed the transaction volume of last year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday events combined.
Here are three things to take away from the event:
1. Big Win For Luxury Brands
For a long time, luxury brands were hesitant to participate in Singles’ Day due to the heavy emphasis on discounting and coupons to motivate consumption. Associating with Singles’ Day was seen as a mistake for luxury brands who valued their exclusivity.
However, as attitudes towards Singles’ Day have evolved and the Chinese luxury market has bloomed, the presence of, and approach taken by luxury brands has changed significantly.
A number of big-name luxury players unveiled special editions for this year’s Singles’ Day. Luxury label Burberry, for example, released a limited number of wool scarves with its signature logo ahead of the sales festival on its Tmall flagship store. All items were sold out on the first day of the pre-order period.
Meanwhile, French luxury powerhouse Chanel, initiated a WeChat push to promote its beauty line, falling in line with the shopping event. Other high-end Western brands, including Yves Saint Laurent, Lancôme, Ralph Lauren and Tiffany & Co., also took advantage of Singles’ Day to peak sales.
Alibaba, as usual, hosted a huge live-streamed fashion show at its Hangzhou HQ on the eve of Singles’ Day to entice Chinese consumers to gear up for the shopping event.
2. Global Opportunity
For the first time, Alibaba actively pursued Singles’ Day shoppers outside of China, with a number of other nationalities buying from China during the event – Russia took the top spot this year, as well as last year.
It seems the shopping event is also catching on in Southeast Asia, with Alibaba-owned online marketplace Lazada participating in this year’s event, helping spread the shopping day to consumers in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.
Daniel Zhang, CEO of Alibaba stated that “From day one, our dream was to create a global shopping day”. As Alibaba looks towards 11.11.19, continuing to increase efforts outside of China feels like a logical strategy for growth.
3. A Focus On Waste
Alibaba celebrated another big milestone this year: over one billion packages shipped throughout the event. With scale, the company is under mounting pressure to address its packaging waste problem.
Acknowledging the issue, Zhang states the company needs to “redefine packaging”. That means more than using recycled materials – the CEO wants items to travel at a closer distance, made possible by algorithms that optimize inventory management. There are suggestions that Alibaba could lean on Ele.me, which it acquired this year, to process neighbourhood orders which may require less or no packaging at all.
Singles’ Day was first popularised as an antidote to Valentines’ Day for the way the date is written numerically: 11.11, which represents four single people. Nearly a decade after Zhang first turned it into a sales promotion for Tmall, Alibaba’s online sales platform for brands, the one-day event has swollen into the world’s largest online shopping festival.
“We created this day for people who are lonely. Today, we totally redefined the day for how people shop,” said Zhang.
SEEN is compiled by LOVE’s Head of Culture, Kat Towers. Want to say hello, ask questions or challenge her cultural knowledge? Get in touch - firstname.lastname@example.org