October has come to an end and Singles’ Day 2016 is now almost officially upon us. In just the last 7 years, this Chinese holiday has changed from anti-Valentine’s Day into shopping extravaganza. Singles’ Day is at the forefront of the development of e-commerce and the Chinese consumer market
Alibaba’s 2016 11.11 Shopping Festival
Singles’ Day in its current form was created by Alibaba founder Jack Ma. In 2009 Ma started Singles’ Day on e-commerce platform Tmall. Only 27 merchants cooperated, compared to over 30,000 nowadays. Singles’ Day 2015 was in every aspect record-breaking. The 2015 holiday was larger than ever, and made headlines worldwide. Revenue was up more than 50% from the year before and Alibaba, the company that organizes Singles’ Day, broke 9 Guinness World Records.
So what can we expect from Singles’ Day 2016, in order to answer this question we will look at Singles’ Day last year, Alibaba’s marketing strategy and recent development in e-commerce. So here is what to expect.
Singles’ Day 2015 saw a large increase in the number of orders made from smartphones. For the first time, sales made on mobile outnumbered sales made from desktop. This trend has been on going in Chinese e-commerce for several years, and we expect to see its continuation in this year’s Singles’ Day. There are several reasons why mobile has become more and more important.
Firstly, a very large part of the Chinese population possesses a smartphone, compared to desktop and laptop computers. Therefore the number of people that can shop from their mobile phones is simply larger, there are many consumers that can only be reached by smartphone.Those who do have a computer also have a smartphone. Furthermore consumers are very mobile, they won’t always have their computer with them. but they will bring their smartphone everywhere. Through mobile you can reach more potential shoppers, no matter where they are.
Alibaba has seen the possibilities of mobile and has heavily invested in it by building better apps and improving mobile payment systems and connections with other apps. The large number of mobile orders in 2015 is partially thanks to this strategy. The Singles’ Day 2016 strategy once again shows a large focus on mobile and integrating it into the shopping experience. Because of this strategy and the large number of mobile-only shoppers we expect the number of mobile transactions to be at least as high last year’s.
A core part of Alibaba’s development strategy is internationalization; this is reflected in Singles’ Day, both on the side of the vendors, and of the consumers. Alibaba hopes to turn 11.11 into a global phenomenon in the next few years. On Singles’ Day 2015, Alibaba gave large discounts on its international e-commerce site Aliexpress. At the same more than 16,000 foreign brands sold products during 11.11. Alibaba helped foreign brands create a strong presence during Singles’ Day.
This year the eleventh of November will be even more international. Alibaba will not only try expand the amount of foreign brands participating, but for the first time shoppers outside of mainland China will be able to participate. Alibaba launched 11.11 in Hong Kong and Taiwan this year. Alibaba expects the expansion to be successful, as it already has plans to expand 11.11 to South-East Asia in the near future.
Alibaba has promised that Singles’ Day 2016 will be the most interactive yet. In 2015, Alibaba started with the Singles’ Day Gala, shown on TV and livestreamed online. The Gala featured performances of international stars, and ended with a countdown to the official start of the sales. This was a successful strategy to engage the shoppers more and integrate e-commerce and media channels. More customer interaction, media integration, and the gamification of online shopping have had positive effects on revenue in the last few years. Therefore Alibaba is also heavily investing in it this year.
This year, Alibaba’s is focussing on engaging the customers and creating the most interactive shopping experience possible, by using all the different channels possible to make the consumer experience more pleasant. This can be seen in all of Alibaba’s recent marketing activities. Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Online games are all part of the massive 11.11 campaign.
In the lead-up to 11.11 Tmall organized a star-studded 8-hour fashion show with global brands. The show was livestreamed on several media platforms where viewers could preorder all the items directly from their screen.
Alibaba is trying to harness the power of Virtual reality to promote sales. Consumers can buy cardboard VR headsets for 1 RMB, which they can then use with their smartphone to visit and shop in virtual reality Tmall stores.
The recent success of Augmented Reality game Pokemon Go has also served as inspiration. Tmall has created and AR video game for smartphones where gamers can follow Tmall’s cat mascot through their city in order to win discounts from Tmall vendors.
This year 11.11 will not only be online, but also very much offline. A trend we can see at this year’s Singles’ Day is the integration of offline and online shopping experiences, and creating omni-channel marketing. Alibaba wants to connect online commerce to offline commerce in order to improve service, marketing, and customer experience.
In 2015 online to offline, or O2O, already played a role in 11.11. last year O2O could be seen in cooperation with offline stores for logistics and customer service. This year, O2O is an even more important part of the strategy. Consumers can now also try out Tmall exclusive goods at local stores where they can then order them on Tmall. Logistics and consumer services are even more integrated than last year. If a product is sold out on Tmall, offline stores can check their stock to refill Tmall’s inventory. Offline stores can help deliver the goods as fast as possible, and even provide customer services if needed.
The integration of online and offline can significantly help improve the customer service and experience, and even help spur more purchases because of better services. O2O
Singles’ Day 2016 will without a doubt be a day to remember. 11.11 will be at the forefront of new technologies and developments in e-commerce and shopping. Certain industry insiders expect sales to increase as much as 40% compared to 2015. Whatever happens, we should prepare ourselves for an exciting day full of sales and surprises. And when 11.11 is over, there is no need for buyers remorse, you can just start saving up for next year.