Alibaba’s Singles Day sales up 26 per cent on last year

Alibaba’s Singles Day retail promotion is over for another year – and predictably a new record was set.

The Chinese internet behemoth says its gross merchandise volume (GMV) reached RMB268.4 billion (US$38.4 billion) when midnight fell, ending the 24-hour shopathon which engages with hundreds of millions of Chinese online and on TV.  That figure is 26 per cent ahead of last year’s GMV.

“Today we showed the world what the future of consumption looks like for brands and consumers,” said Fan Jiang, president of Taobao and Tmall, perhaps unaware of the real meaning of the word ‘consumption’, defined by Oxford dictionary as “the action of using up a resource”. 

“We are meeting the growing demand of Chinese consumers and helping them upgrade their lifestyles, while introducing new users to our digital economy from across China and around the world.”

While Alibaba’s Singles Day turnover figures seem to shock commentators with their predictable annual increase, a large proportion of the total sales are lined up well in advance of November 11, especially big-ticket items like motor vehicles and – for the first time this year – apartments. 

More than 200,000 brands participated in this year’s event which was launched via a televised countdown variety show on Sunday night headlined by American singer Taylor Swift. 

Of those brands, 299 achieved sales in excess of RMB100 million (US$14.3 million) and 15 of them surpassed RMB1 billion (US$143.0 million). Curiously, Alibaba listed just 14 of them: Apple, Bose, Estee Lauder, Gap, H&M, L’Oreal, Levi’s, Muji, Nestle, Nike, Philips, The North Face, Under Armour and Uniqlo.

It took 16 hours and 31 minutes this year to surpass last year’s total GMV of RMB213.5 billion. 

While Singles Day was launched by Alibaba in 2009, the retail frenzy has since extended across Asia’s retail industry with many independent online retail brands, platforms and marketplaces launching promotions to keep pace with Alibaba. 

In Singapore, for example, cashback platform ShopBack reported a 250-per-cent increase the number of unique users during the first hour of 11.11 compared with last year. Lazada, Shopee and Qoo10 were the most popular merchants, the Straits Times reported.

Pascal Martin, partner at OC&C Strategy Consultants, notes three trends that supported the growth of Alibaba’s Singles Day this year: New Retail, globalisation and diversification.

“This year’s Singles Day included even more partners than last year, not only online but also offline. For example, Tmall ‘s3000+ convenience stores, Hema and RT Mart supermarkets, Suning and Auchan, all members of the Alibaba New Retail ‘family’ have been part of the event.”

In terms of globalisation, he says Singles Day has expanded beyond China through Lazada, Alibaba’s Southeast Asia platform.

“Also, there is increasing participation by international brands that are taking advantage of the Tmall Global platform – number one by far among Chinese cross-border platforms – to get introduced to Chinese consumers without having to build a direct presence in China. The choice of an international celebrity like Taylor Swift as an anchor for the 11.11 Singles Day show is testimony to Alibaba’s global ambition.”

Diversification is highlighted by the expansion of the event beyond products to include a variety of services from food delivery on, videos on Youku to mobile games on UC, theatre tickets on Taopiaopiao, music on Xiami music and travel on Feizhu.

Photo: Taobao and Tmall president Fan Jiang at this year’s Alibaba Singles Day 11.11 Global Shopping Festival.

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