Singles Day 2017, the “Global Shopping Festival”
From a tongue in cheek celebration by students at Nanjing University to the most anticipated shopping day in human history, Singles days growth has been as explosive as the Chinese ecommerce industry that feeds it. As consumers and analysts from around the world eagerly wait for this year’s event and its mind blowing sales figures, we look into how this festival has gained so much attention and who’s buying what where.
In 2009, the e-commerce giant Alibaba first started promoting the festival as a shopping event that offered discounts and benefits under the banner of singles day. Across the Alibaba platforms, Jack Ma and his team encouraged all sellers to sell at near cost levels to encourage buyers to buy more and more. The sellers obliged in order to stay competitive and the festival grew into the bonanza we see today with rock bottom prices. In 2016 Alibaba has reached a turnover of 18 billion during the 24 hrs of the Singles Day, those who don’t discount risk missing out on this desirable traffic. The draw of the Singles Day isn’t just limited to the huge discounts offered online. Alibaba has used a variety of offline strategies to give visibility and appeal to Singles Day 2017. A clear example is the Global Shopping Festival Countdown Gala that take places on 10th of November, an annual TV show started in 2015 that entertains shoppers of in the hours running up to midnight when deals go live. 10s of Millions watch on TV, enjoying entertainment and learning about new products available online. This year’s Gala’s edition will be held at The Mercedes Benz Arena in Shanghai featuring stars such as Pharrell Williams who will launch, an exclusive new collection of G-Star jeans.
Alibaba’s goal is to combine both experiences and entertainment and thanks to this interactive event, spectators can buy everything shown on their displays with the function of “see now, buy now”, and direct and influence the events on stage too.” In order to stimulate long term growth and increase its overseas charm offensive, Alibaba has tried to increase the awareness of the Singles Day outside of China. The event is now known as “Global Shopping Festival” and involves more and more International Brands that sell into Chinese market. Alibaba estimate that 60,000 of the 140,000 participating brands will be international brands in Singles Day 2017.
In line with this new awareness of foreign brands, shoppers are also demanding higher quality products. According to the Fung Global Retail & Tech survey of the planned purchases, 81% of participants are more influenced by purchases rather than prices. Western products are recognised as higher quality products, especially for users born from the ‘90s onwards. Whilst Alibaba started singles day and sees the most traffic and sales, the other major marketplaces including JD.com, Amazon China, Suning and VIP all scrap to increase sales and encourage users to shop on their platform long term. For foreign brands, JD.com is of interest due to its proximity to China’s super app, WeChat, which enjoys a third of all time spent on mobile in China. As JD.com can be integrated into WeChat, where international brands are able to release content to its 1billion Chinese users, it offers a seamless experience for users to discover products, shop and pay in one app. So whilst, Alibaba will see huge sales and engagement across their e-commerce and offline channels this singles day, going forward it’s on WeChat and JD that long term brand building will happen.
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