20 July 2019
A file picture shows Alibaba employees working on computers while a monitor displays live updates of sales figures during the Nov. 11 online shopping event in 2016. Alibaba has said the Singles’ Day event will be bigger than ever this year. Photo: Bloombe
A file picture shows Alibaba employees working on computers while a monitor displays live updates of sales figures during the Nov. 11 online shopping event in 2016. Alibaba has said the Singles’ Day event will be bigger than ever this year. Photo: Bloombe

Why ‘Double 11′ is important, and not just for Alibaba

As Singles’ Day nears, all eyes are once again on the mega online shopping festival of Chinese tech behemoth Alibaba Group. The e-commerce firm hasn’t given any specific number for the expected sales during the November 11, or Double 11, campaign, but said the event will be bigger than ever. 

The company has enough reason to hope that the shopping festival, which is marking its 10th anniversary this year, will notch a new high in gross merchandise value (GMV).

That is because more merchants and brands are participating in the promotions, offering attractive discounts on a wide array of products, and also because the campaign has been extended to new markets beside China. 

Last year, Alibaba reaped a record US$25.3 billion in GMV during Singles’ Day, more than double the total online sales recorded by US retailers during the Black Friday-Cyber Monday weekend.

The 2018 edition promises to be even larger and more successful, consolidating the festival’s status as the world’s biggest one-day shopping event. 

Consumers looking for bargain deals are expected to flock in greater numbers to Alibaba’s Taobao and TMall platforms, as well as other Chinese online marketplaces.

This year, 180,000 brands from China and around the world will participate in Alibaba’s Double 11 event.

Around 200,000 smart stores in China across the apparel, fast-moving consumer goods, beauty products, automobile and home decor industries will help boost traffic to offline and online shopping destinations, according to the company.

Tmall Global provides 3,700 categories of imported goods from 75 countries and regions on its platform.

In addition to serving the mainland consumers, Alibaba Group has expanded its shopping festival to overseas markets through its ecosystem, which includes Tmall World, AliExpress and Lazada.

The platforms will bring the event to hundreds of millions of overseas users. For the first time, Alibaba unit Lazada will host the Double 11 shopping festival across six countries in Southeast Asia: Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam. 

Alibaba’s Double 11 event was given shape by Daniel Zhang, currently the group CEO, when he was responsible for the Taobao business in the past. Launched in 2009, the shopping festival has emerged as a boon to Alibaba as well as other retailers, which, too, have latched on to the concept.

Singles’ Day has now become the high point of the year for most entities aiming to tap Chinese consumers, and many brands and retailers use the event to achieve their annual business targets.

Alibaba Group has pointed out that the shopping festival has encouraged all Chinese retailers to upgrade themselves every year in order to meet customer needs.

Leveraging on its huge user base and technology, Alibaba has begun to transform Double 11 from a pure marketing event to a global retail parade that prompts brand owners to showcase their latest products to online shoppers.

Alibaba says it is proud of the digital transformation it is helping bring about in the retail sector, which will lead to an upgrade of the industry as a whole. Merchants will be prompted to roll out more high-quality products to serve consumers better and enhance people’s daily lives.

Determined to stay ahead of rivals, Alibaba now wants to showcase its online and offline integration capability to promote a “new retail” business model.

Among the initiatives, the company’s rural outlets would offer coupons to its customers in 800 counties in 29 provinces to encourage them to shop online during the Double 11 festival.

As part of its “new retail” initiative, Alibaba has helped traditional stores upgrade their systems, enabling them to better manage their inventory and establish an online presence.

Seeing the success of Alibaba, other Chinese retailers have stepped into the Singles’ Day game, making the event crucial for China’s retail industry. It is no longer just about Alibaba. 

Taking the industry as a whole, Double 11 yielded sales of US$38 billion for Chinese retailers within a 24-hour period last year, marking a jump of about 45 percent from a year ago.

The sales growth is testament to the growing popularity of online shopping in the country and increased spending via digital outlets.

According to Double 11 sales data, 2012 marked the first time a single brand recorded more than 100 million yuan sales during the shopping event. Last year, as many as 167 brands are said to have achieved the 100 million yuan sales mark during Singles’ Day.

It is worth noting that the list of brands and products that are deriving a big sales boost during the shopping festival has become more diverse.

In addition to traditional categories such as mobile phones and apparel, benefiting entities such as Huawei, Xiaomi, Apple and Nike, players such as Ecovacs and Dyson from smart small appliances, beauty skin care brands such as Estee Lauder and L’oreal, as well as home improvement brands are said to have performed well.

Returning to Alibaba specifically, as Double 11 this year will be the last one under the chairmanship of Jack Ma, there is no doubt the group will go all out to make it a record-breaking event.

If that indeed happens, it will prove that macro concerns — such as a slowing economy, Sino-US trade war and renminbi currency slide — aren’t really deterring Chinese shoppers.

Now, let’s just wait for the retail figures post November 11.

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EJ Insight writer

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